A group of 13 North Korean restaurant staff who moved to the South in 2016 were forced to defect by South Korean intelligence, their manager says.
Ho Kang-il told South Korea’s Yonhap news agency he had been blackmailed and that his 12 female employees did not know where they were being taken to when they left for Seoul.
The UN has called for a “thorough” investigation into the case.
South Korea had previously said that the group defected voluntarily.
The restaurant employees were working at a state-run North Korean establishment in the Chinese city of Ningbo in 2016 when they left for the South.
At the time, a government official in Seoul said the group had started to distrust North Korean propaganda after watching South Korean television dramas.
But in an interview published by Yonhap on Sunday, restaurant manager Ho Kang-il said he had been working with South Korea’s National Intelligence Service (NIS), who promised him that he could open a restaurant if he defected to the South.
He said that when he hesitated, the NIS began to blackmail him.
“They threatened that unless I come to the South with the employees, they would divulge to the North Korean embassy that I had co-operated with the NIS until then. I had no choice but to do what they told me to,” he said.