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(3rd LD) P'yang says defectors found in Laos were kidnapped by South Koreans

All Headlines 23:31 June 05, 2013

(ATTN: ADDS Seoul's reaction in 4th para, mention of state of repatriated defectors in 11th para)

SEOUL, June 5 (Yonhap) -- North Korea claimed Wednesday that South Korea had abducted the nine defectors who were caught in Laos and accused Seoul and Washington of a smear campaign against Pyongyang.

"It was disclosed recently that the south Korean puppet group attempted to tempt and abduct many youngsters of the DPRK to take them to south Korea," an unidentified spokesman for the North's Red Cross said in a statement carried by the country's Korean Central News Agency (KCNA). DPRK stands for North Korea's official name, the Democratic People's Republic of Korea.

"The nine young people of the DPRK in question are just part of the victims of such abduction and brainwashing," the spokesman said.

Seoul denied Pyongyang's claims. "They are ludicrous and baseless," an official said.

A group of nine North Korean defectors, all believed to be orphans and in their teens, were caught in Laos on May 10 for border trespassing and placed in detention centers. In what appeared to be close coordination between Laos and North Korea, the defectors were sent to China on May 27 and repatriated to North Korea the following day.

The defectors, guided by South Korean missionaries, had gone to Laos, one of the countries on the North Koreans' escape route, hoping to find their way to South Korea. The international community decried the repatriation and has been pressing Pyongyang to guarantee the safety of the nine youths.

Seoul has also come under fire for failing to stop the repatriation. Civic groups here have accused the government of not actively stepping in to help the defectors.

The North's statement, the first response from Pyongyang over the incident, said South Korea sent "flesh traffic dealers" disguised as religionists to kidnap young North Koreans. It said the South Korean "puppet group" uses large amounts of money "in collaboration with U.S. body to hatch plots against the DPRK over its 'human rights.'"

Such plot is "nothing but a cynical ploy to drive a wedge between the DPRK and countries concerned and bring into bolder relief the non-existent 'human right issue' in a bid to escalate the anti-DPRK campaign," the statement said.

"If the puppet group persists in such anti-DPRK human rights abuses as allurement and abduction of DPRK citizens despite its warnings, the group will have to pay a dear price for them," it said.

The statement's Korean-language version added that the nine returnees "are finding stability and will see their hopes and future fully blossom under the care of the country."

The South Korean government took up the issue Wednesday in Geneva during the U.N. Human Rights Commission conference, demanding the guarantee of safety and humanitarian treatment of the repatriated youths. Seoul called on Pyongyang to allow outsider access to them while urging the international community to make full efforts ensure the safety of all North Korean defectors.

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