By Alex Jensen
SEOUL (AA) – South Korea's unification ministry confirmed Wednesday the defection of more "North Korean restaurant employees”, after local media reported that three waitresses had completed their escape to the South from a posting in China.
The development has caught more attention than the thousands of other North-South defections in recent years because Seoul saw April's mass escape of 13 North Korean restaurant staff from China as a sign that strengthened sanctions against Pyongyang were working.
South Korea's reclusive neighbor supposedly only allows loyal subjects to take up overseas posts as a way of raising hard currency.
Despite being hit with new United Nations punitive measures for its nuclear weapons development earlier this year, North Korea accused the South of kidnapping the previous group.
That charge was denied by Seoul as it has long offered refuge and a new life to resettlers from the North.
Since the 1990s, around 30,000 North Koreans have defied their authoritarian government and risked their lives by making the journey to South Korea through China and other nations.
According to a unification ministry official cited by news agency Yonhap, the latest arrivals had indeed been "working in a third country", but further sources revealed that the trio of waitresses in their 20s traveled to South Korea via Thailand in the last day or two.