North Korea Asks U.N. to Force Defectors Home While Refusing to Return Abducted Japanese

Colleagues of 12 North Korean waitresses are presented to the media in Pyongyang, North Korea, Tuesday, May 3, 2016. North Korea is stepping up its calls for South Korea to return 12 waitresses it says were tricked into going to the South. Seoul says the waitresses willingly defected. (AP Photo/Kim …
AP Photo/Kim Kwang Hyon

According to North Korean media, the Communist dictatorship submitted a formal request to the United Nations on May 30 asking for help with the repatriation of 13 women who defected from a restaurant in China in 2016. North Korea continues to resist returning a dozen Japanese citizens abducted in the 70s and 80s.

Chosun Ilbo portrays North Korea’s bizarre demand for repatriation, which boils down to asking the U.N. Human Rights Commission for help recovering women who are basically escaped slaves as part of Pyongyang’s latest round of pre-summit antics:

The bizarre tactical swerve come just after the two Koreas held high-level talks to discuss ways to implement the joint declaration made at the historic inter-Korean summit in April.

North Korea accuses Seoul of abducting the 13 women, who were indentured laborers in a restaurant in Ningbo. The restaurant manager has since claimed on TV that he tricked the women into defecting at the behest of South Korea’s National Intelligence Service.

Several of the women have debunked the story since it aired, but it gained some traction in the international press, which seems to have encouraged the North to try and use it as ammunition.

Pyongyang also claimed that South Korea’s participation in the RIMPAC multinational military drills runs counter to the joint declaration, which envisages a peaceful Korean Peninsula through denuclearization and a peace treaty.

The state-run Rodong Sinmun daily on Sunday slammed South Korea’s participation as a “confrontation to the atmosphere of improving North-South relations.”

“The South Korean authorities should admit the unheard-of atrocity of the former Park Geun-hye regime, severely punish those involved in the case, send our women citizens to their families without delay and thus show the will to improve the inter-Korean relations,” thundered the press release from North Korea, referring to the previous president of South Korea, under whose auspices refuge was granted to the defectors.

The Korea Herald notes that talks were held between North and South Korean officials on Friday to discuss the fate of six South Koreans detained by the North and the subject of the 13 escaped restaurant workers did not come up. South Korean Unification Minister Cho Myoung-gyon stated that he believes repatriation of the restaurant workers was suddenly demanded by North Korea as a response to the South’s inquiries about its detained citizens.

The Korea Herald adds that there are some South Koreans who think the defection of the restaurant workers was orchestrated by South Korean intelligence under President Park as a political stunt and want the matter investigated more thoroughly.

Even as it demands the return of its own citizens, North Korea has been downright contemptuous of Japan’s focus on the return of a dozen Japanese citizens kidnapped 30 to 40 years ago for reasons that have never been made clear.

The Japanese government worries these abductees will be forgotten as North Korea enters historic denuclearization talks with the United States. Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe has repeatedly insisted the abductees must be a non-negotiable element of any settlement with North Korea.

North Korea’s KCNA news service callously mocked Japan’s obsession with the abductees in an editorial on Monday. The Japanese were accused of “egotism” and nervous “anxiety” that they will be frozen out of negotiations on the Korean peninsula:

The point is that Japan is bound to be ridiculed by the international community and driven out of history if it persists in escalating confrontation with the DPRK under the pretext of the already resolved “abduction issue”, failing to acclimatize itself to the new situation.

Japan had better do everything with good intent, instead of hanging about with bad intent.

It should make a right choice, though belatedly, if it doesn’t want to add to its past crimes.

It should drop its wild ambition and redress its past crimes committed against the Korean nation before doing anything else

Other North Korean publications and the official Committee for the Peaceful Reunification of the Fatherland – Pyongyang’s version of South Korea’s Unification Ministry – hammered the same argument that Japan should be silent until it atones for “past sins” and insisted the abduction issue was settled with agreements reached a decade ago. However, the agreement in question merely called on North Korea to investigate the disappearance of the Japanese citizens, and they suspended whatever inquiry they were making in 2016 after Japan began tightening sanctions on North Korea’s nuclear program.

“In a snap their politicians will wail about the abduction of Japanese citizens,” the reunification committee sneered. “It is a treacherous ploy to bury the sinful history of bloodshed, and avoid settling the past.”

The Japan Times reported on Monday that U.S. Secretary of State Mike Pompeo raised the abduction issue when he met with North Korean dictator Kim Jong-un in early May, and also in April when Pompeo was director of the CIA. Kim replied he was “well aware” of the issue.

Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe is expected to once again ask Trump to press for information about the abductees when Abe and Trump meet this Thursday.

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