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China confirms mass defection of North Koreans

All Headlines 17:36 April 11, 2016

BEIJING, April 11 (Yonhap) -- China confirmed Monday that the 13 North Koreans who used to work at a state-run restaurant in the country and have defected to South Korea left the country with "legitimate" passports last week.

China's Foreign Ministry spokesman Lu Kang said during a press briefing that the North Koreans departed for a foreign country early Wednesday morning with "legitimate identification" documents.

"What we would like to stress is the fact that they held legitimate identification cards," he said. "Thus, they legally left China and they were not North Koreans who illegally crossed the border."

Lu added that Beijing has a consistent policy over the defector issue, and that it has dealt with it "according to international and domestic laws and humanitarian principles."

It was the first confirmation by the Chinese government concerning the rare mass defection since the South announced Friday that the North Koreans arrived in the South on Thursday. During its announcement, Seoul refused to confirm where they worked, citing diplomatic concerns.

Reports here said that they fled their restaurant in Ningbo in northeast Zhejiang Province around Tuesday and arrived in Seoul via Southeast Asia -- a normal route for North Korean defectors fleeing the poverty and repression of their homeland.

Seoul officials here said that the defectors opted to come here as they were disillusioned with tightly-controlled North Korean society and yearned for better lives in the South after watching South Korean TV dramas and movies.
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