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Some N. Korean restaurant staff in China nervous about defections

All News 20:15 April 09, 2016

SHENYANG/BEIJING, April 9 (Yonhap) -- Some North Korean restaurant staff in China were visibly nervous on Saturday about news reports that 13 North Koreans working at a restaurant in a foreign country have defected to South Korea.

The North Korean defectors -- one male manager and 12 female staff -- arrived in South Korea on Thursday, South Korea's Unification Ministry said, without identifying the foreign country where their restaurant was located.

Shortly before noon at a North Korean restaurant in the northeastern Chinese city of Shenyang on Saturday, there were few guests.

In a restaurant of some 10 tables, none were occupied during lunchtime.

Asked about the news reports of the 13 North Korean restaurant staff that defected to South Korea, a North Korean waitress replied, "I know."

Asked again what she thought of them, the North Korean waitress said they might be mentally deranged.

The North Korean waitress declined to reply to a question about how she knew about the news reports.

In Beijing on Saturday, another North Korean-run restaurant, the Okryugwan, appeared to be unfazed by the defections of North Korean staff.

North Korean staff working at their state-run restaurants overseas have previously defected to South Korea, but it is rare for so many staff working at the same restaurant to defect at the same time, Seoul officials said.

The defections come at a time when tensions are high on the Korean Peninsula after North Korea's fourth nuclear test in January and launch of a long-range rocket about a month later.

North Korea has remained defiant over tougher U.N. sanctions against the nuclear test and missile launch.

South Korea has urged its citizens living in or traveling to China to avoid eating at North Korean restaurants as part of its efforts to cut off any cash flow to North Korea.

North Korea is estimated to operate about 100 restaurants in China, a legitimate revenue source for the cash-strapped country.

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