South Korea reaffirmed Wednesday that North Korean female restaurant workers who defected to the South in 2016 came to the country of their own free will.

Baik Tae-hyun, the Unification Ministry spokesman, stated the government’s position in a regular press briefing, adding he has nothing more to say on the matter. 

The spokesman said that there is a limit in sharing relevant information as the women remain reluctant to have details disclosed due to concerns about the safety of their families in the North.

The remarks follow comments by Tomas Ojea Quintana, the UN special rapporteur on human rights in North Korea. On Tuesday, he called for an investigation into allegations that some of the defectors came here unknowingly.

In April 2016, 12 North Korean women working at a restaurant in China defected to South Korea. Seoul has claimed that all of the defectors came to the South voluntarily, but Pyongyang has said that they were abducted by South Korean intelligence officials. 

[Photo : YONHAP News]