SEOUL, South Korea (AP) — The United Nations' independent investigator on human rights in North Korea said Thursday he plans to examine North Korean claims that South Korea abducted 12 North Korean women.
Tomas Ojea Quintana said he raised the issue in a meeting with South Korea's vice foreign minister and requested that his government set up a meeting with the women, who had worked at a North Korean-run restaurant in China before coming to the South in April last year.
While North Korea regularly accuses South Korea of abducting or enticing its citizens to defect, Quintana said he was obliged to look into the case because his office has been gathering what seemed to be conflicting accounts of what happened. He didn't elaborate on the accounts.
He said he needed to be "exactly precise" about the women's situation and whether they decided to come to South Korea "according to their own will."
"Parents of these women living in North Korea are claiming that their daughters were abducted, so all these factors oblige me to pay attention to the case and understand exactly what happened," Quintana said at a news conference in Seoul as he wrapped up a four-day visit to South Korea.
South Korea's Foreign Ministry didn't immediately respond to Quintana's comments.
North Korea, which often makes extreme claims about defectors, insists that the workers were abducted by the South. South Korea denies the accusation, saying the workers chose to resettle in South Korea on their own.
It was the largest group defection by North Koreans to the South since North Korean leader Kim Jong Un took power in 2011, according to South Korea's government.