North Korea restaurant workers granted passports

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North Korea restaurant workers granted passports

By Kim Bo-eun

Two of the 12 North Korean restaurant workers who Pyongyang alleged were abducted by the South in April 2016 were recently given passports, according to a local lawyers' group.

The two had registered for passports but were initially denied them. They were then issued their passports in late August and early September, Lawyers for a Democratic Society said. A manager of the restaurant and one of the workers were earlier given passports.

Civic groups stated the basic rights of the restaurant workers had been violated because they were not issued passports, while two years have passed since they came to the South and acquired South Korean nationality.

Any Korean national can be issued a passport, but this can be barred when authorities such as the National Police Agency or the National Intelligence Service find problems based on background checks.

Members of the lawyers' group had been preparing to file an administrative suit over the refusal to issue the restaurant workers with passports. They also submitted a petition to the National Human Rights Commission.

"We believe the human rights watchdog started to look into the matter and so the intelligence agency approved issuing the passports to prevent this from becoming a major issue," a member of the group said.

However, it is unclear whether the restaurant workers will be able to leave and enter the country freely on their passports.

The authorities may ban them from leaving the country as there have been cases in which North Korean defectors return to the North via China.

The government has been stating that the restaurant workers came to the South of their own free will, but the restaurant's manager who came with the workers claimed they were abducted.


By Kim Bo-eun

Two of the 12 North Korean restaurant workers who Pyongyang alleged were abducted by the South in April 2016 were recently given passports, according to a local lawyers' group.

The two had registered for passports but were initially denied them. They were then issued their passports in late August and early September, Lawyers for a Democratic Society said. A manager of the restaurant and one of the workers were earlier given passports.

Civic groups stated the basic rights of the restaurant workers had been violated because they were not issued passports, while two years have passed since they came to the South and acquired South Korean nationality.

Any Korean national can be issued a passport, but this can be barred when authorities such as the National Police Agency or the National Intelligence Service find problems based on background checks.

Members of the lawyers' group had been preparing to file an administrative suit over the refusal to issue the restaurant workers with passports. They also submitted a petition to the National Human Rights Commission.

"We believe the human rights watchdog started to look into the matter and so the intelligence agency approved issuing the passports to prevent this from becoming a major issue," a member of the group said.

However, it is unclear whether the restaurant workers will be able to leave and enter the country freely on their passports.

The authorities may ban them from leaving the country as there have been cases in which North Korean defectors return to the North via China.

The government has been stating that the restaurant workers came to the South of their own free will, but the restaurant's manager who came with the workers claimed they were abducted.


Kim Bo-eun bkim@koreatimes.co.kr
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