Pyongyang: North Korea demanded on Tuesday that South Korea return 13 North Korean nationals who Seoul claimed were defectors to the South and apologise for abducting them.

A spokesman for the central committee of North Korean Red Cross Society said that the National Intelligence Service of South Korea lured and abducted the 13 individuals who worked at a state-run restaurant in China, calling this “a hideous crime” against the Pyongyang’s dignity and its social system, Xinhua reported.

The spokesman asked South Korean authorities to apologise for the group kidnapping and send them back immediately.

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The South will be accountable for serious consequences if it fails to do so, he added.

Seoul’s unification ministry said on Friday that the group defected to South Korea last week. Local media said it marked the first time that a group of North Korean citizens working at the same overseas restaurant defected to South Korea.

Chinese Foreign Ministry spokesman Lu Kang confirmed on Monday that 13 North Korean nationals entered and left China legally with valid passports last week.

He made the remarks at a briefing when asked to comment on a report that 13 North Korean nationals had gone to the Republic of Korea from a restaurant in an unspecified third country, possibly China.

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