July 16, 2018 12:29
The manager who defected with 12 other staff from a North Korean restaurant in China in 2016 has claimed that the National Intelligence Service reneged on a promise to help him set up his own restaurant if he agreed to defect.
Ho Kang-il managed a restaurant called Ryugyong in Ningbo, Zhejiang Province and made headlines when he and the 12 women escaped their minders and fled to South Korea.
North Korea insists they were abducted and has taken the matter to the UN, demanding their return.
"I was an informant for the NIS and they told me I could get [South] Korean citizenship if I brought the workers," Ho told Yonhap News. They "duped me into believing their promise to set up a restaurant for me in Southeast Asia as a front for the NIS that could be run by myself and the workers."
Ho said most of the women "followed me because they believed they would be running a restaurant" but discovered they were headed to South Korea "only after boarding the plane."
He said when he hesitated, "NIS agents threatened to tell the North Korean embassy that I'd cooperated with them, so I had no choice but to do as they said."
Yet when he was being interviewed in 2016 by the left-leaning group Lawyers for a Democratic Society, who had vowed to get to the bottom of the North Korean regime's allegations, Ho said they defected for fear of punishment for watching South Korean movies and TV dramas.
And in an interview with JTBC in May, Ho said, "I was unmasked as an NIS informant, so I asked them for help to prepare for my defection."
A Unification Ministry official insisted the North Koreans defected of their own free will and questioned Ho's motives.
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