Amnesty International: North Korean defectors have no lawyers, no contact with families

SEOUL, July 12 (UPI) — Amnesty International called on the South Korean government to disclose more information about the 13 North Koreans who fled a state-run restaurant in China.

The defectors, a man and 12 women, left the Chinese city of Ningbo in April and arrived in South Korea on April 7.

Amnesty International said Tuesday that while there is a lot of speculation about the North Korean workers, their voices have yet to be heard, Radio Free Asia reported.

The organization also said the North Koreans have been unable to access lawyers and that it is debatable whether their rights are being respected.

In May, a progressive South Korean legal organization was denied access to the defectors.

Lawyers for a Democratic Society had requested interviews with the North Korean waitresses and their manager. They were rejected at the defector custody center.

A South Korean intelligence official had said at the time that access was not allowed because the “North Korean workers had entered South Korea out of their own free will.”

But Amnesty called on Seoul to create a framework in which the defectors can obtain legal counsel and talk with their families in the North, according to RFA.

South Korea has previously stated the identities of the defectors are not being disclosed out of concern for their personal safety and the safety of their families.

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