South Korea is warning its citizens to be on guard against possible North Korean attempts to kidnap South Koreans overseas.
South Korea’s Foreign Ministry made the warning after the group defection of 13 North Koreans in China last month.
North Korea has accused South Korean spies of kidnapping the 13 individuals, all women, who were working at a restaurant in eastern China.
The North has demanded the return of its citizens and threatened to take action.
South Korea has directed its foreign embassies around the world to be cautious about possible kidnappings or terror attacks.
Go Myong-hyun is a research fellow at the Asan Institute for Policy Studies in Seoul. He told VOA that, in the past, many South Korean fishermen were kidnapped, usually for propaganda purposes.
“Often times what happens with South Koreans, first when they arrive, they have a major press conference announcing their defection to North Korea.”
Go Myong-hyun said that the North Korean media then makes it appear that the South Koreans defected to the North voluntarily.
He added that some South Koreans kidnapped by North Korea are later trained as spies to go out and capture other South Koreans.
Go Myong-hyun said the kidnappers often are North Korean spies who appear to be South Koreans. The spies try to lure people with promises of jobs or learning opportunities, he said.
Nearly 30,000 North Koreans are estimated to have sought asylum in South Korea since the signing of an armistice agreement. The treaty ended fighting in the 1950-1953 Korean War.
Tens of thousands of South Koreans were abducted by North Korea during the war. South Korean officials believe several hundred are still being held in the North.
Tensions between the two sides have risen since North Korea carried out an underground nuclear weapons test at the beginning of the year.
North Korea plans to hold a rare meeting of the North Korean Workers’ Party later this week in Pyongyang. It will be the first party congress in nearly 40 years.
Go Myong-hyun said he does not believe South Korea’s warning is directly related to the start of the meeting.
I’m Bryan Lynn.
Victor Beattie reported this story for VOANews.com. Bryan Lynn adapted his report for Learning English. George Grow was the editor.
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Words in This Story
defect – v. to leave a country or group you belong to
cautious – adj. to be careful about avoiding danger or risk
lure – v. to attract, entice or tempt someone to do something
opportunity – n. a situation that makes it possible to do something you want to do or need to do
abduct – v. to take a person away by force, to kidnap