BEIJING, April 11 (Yonhap) -- South Korea's top envoy to Beijing will visit two Chinese cities bordering North Korea this week to inspect the enforcement of new sanctions against Pyongyang, an embassy official here said Monday.
Ambassador Kim Jang-soo will visit Dandong and Hunchun, on the western and eastern ends of the border, from Wednesday through Friday to inspect Chinese customs offices and meet with South Korean residents and businessmen there, the official said.
The trip comes about a month after the U.N. Security Council slapped tough sanctions on Pyongyang to punish the regime for its fourth nuclear test in January and long-range rocket launch in February. China, North Korea's key ally and economic lifeline, has vowed to faithfully implement the sanctions that include the mandatory inspection of all cargo going in and out of the North and a ban on the country's exports of coal, iron and other mineral resources.
However, Beijing has also said it will continue to import the minerals if the revenue is used for "livelihood purposes" and not for the North's nuclear and missile programs.Last week, Kim told a group of South Korean correspondents that the new U.N. sanctions have so far had little impact on bilateral trade between North Korea and China.
"No specific figures, such as changes in the volume of trade between North Korea and China or the volume of Chinese imports of North Korean coal, have been reported yet," he said, adding that an upcoming Chinese report to the U.N. will help determine whether Beijing is enforcing the measures.
On his visit, Kim also plans to meet with the mayor of Dandong and other officials in the region.
The trip had been planned since last week, before the surprise defection of 13 North Korean workers from a restaurant in China, the official said.
Это выходит, что посол иностранной державы будет проверять, насколько КНР действительно выполняет санкции?
И это намек, что КНР на самом деле уже начала пользоваться отмеченной Ланьковым лазейкой?
Ок, а теперь про беглецов из ресторана:
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.
"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.
SEOUL, April 10 (Yonhap) -- Future mass defection by North Koreans working abroad cannot be ruled out following the recent escape of 13 people, South Korea's unification ministry said Sunday.
Speaking to reporters, a ministry official explained that considerable pressure to send back hard currency to Pyongyang in the face of tough United Nations sanctions played a part in the restaurant workers' defection.
The government hinted earlier that the defectors were fearful that they would be punished if they were unable to send back money to North Korea. Many restaurants have been forced to close due to a drop in patrons, with estimates placing roughly half of them unable to send money back to the North.
The official who spoke on condition of anonymity, said one restaurant serving staff testified that with tough sanctions taking hold, people felt there was no hope for the North Korean regime.
He said a second worker confirmed she watched South Korean TV dramas and knew about life in the South, while another said she realized what happiness was really like while living abroad, and did not want to go back to the North.
"They expressed a desire to live their lives as South Koreans and believed the joint action was their last chance to get away from the North," the official said. He added the defectors had Internet connection to the outside world, which is not possible inside their isolationist homeland.
"Such information (about the world at large) caused them to crave freedom," the official claimed.
The ministry insider then said that the one manager and 12 workers who arrived in Seoul on Thursday were all from upper middle class families, which in itself is meaningful.
"The move by such people holding status in the North is bound to have some impact on North Korea (as a whole)," he said.
On the current overall circumstances surrounding the Korean Peninsula, the ministry official said Pyongyang is continuing to show its defiance against the latest set of sanctions and could opt to lash out. This, he said, makes the present state very grave.
"Depending on how well Seoul handles the present situation, we can open a new chapter of change on the peninsula," he claimed.
The ministry said that with the U.N. sanctions taking bite, North Korea is finding it harder to carry out financial transactions, while many of its overseas operations have come under restrictions from foreign governments. It said even the shipment of money by couriers is becoming difficult with many foreign companies shying away from conducting transactions with North Korean counterparts for fear they too will be penalized.
North Korea is known to operate some 130 restaurants generating some US$10 million in cash inflow for the North Korean regime annually.
Related to the defection, Seoul's foreign ministry also clarified to the media the 13 North Koreans made their escape on their own.
The ministry sidestepped questions on whether it worked with foreign governments to expedite the defection, but emphasized it was the North Koreans who made the decision to flee.
There has been speculation that the North Koreans had passports with them so they were able to legally move across borders.
The ministry then said because there is a chance that other mass defections could take place, it is moving to work more closely with other governments to handle all eventualities.
BEIJING/SEOUL, April 11 (Yonhap) -- A group of North Korean defectors who used to work at a restaurant in China entered South Korea last week via Thailand and Laos, a source familiar to North Korean affairs said Monday.
Thirteen North Korean workers at an overseas restaurant defected to South Korea en masse last week amid toughened international sanctions on Pyongyang over its latest nuclear and missile tests.
The source said that the North Koreans who worked at a restaurant in the Chinese eastern port city of Ningbo flew into Bangkok and moved to Laos taking a land route. In Vientiane, they left for Seoul late Wednesday and arrived here the next day, it said.
In a rare announcement, China's foreign ministry said Monday that the North Koreans carrying legitimate passports left China early Wednesday, stressing that they are different from those who cross the border illegally.
The Seoul government has declined to comment on their defection route and other details, citing the issue's sensitivity and diplomatic aspects.
Seoul's unification ministry on Friday made an unusual announcement about their mass defections in a breakaway from its low-key stance on the issue of North Korean defectors.
North Korean restaurants have served as one of the main sources of dollars for North Korea, which is suspected of bankrolling the North's nuclear and missile programs.
Many restaurants run by North Korea have recently faced business hardships, with some shutting down following stronger international sanctions.
Seoul also has asked its nationals not to use North Korean restaurants in China and Southeast Asian nations in a bid to hit the source of income for Pyongyang.
North Koreans at overseas restaurants are among some 50,000 workers sent abroad by the regime to earn hard currency, a move aimed at averting a series of past U.N. sanctions.
South Korea estimates that North Korea is running approximately 130 restaurants in some 12 countries including China, Vietnam and Cambodia, earning US$10 million annually.
Under the tougher sanctions, Pyongyang is believed to have plans to tighten control over its people working at overseas restaurants and cut the number of such eateries, according to another source with knowledge about North Korea.
"The North is known to have instructed its officials to close some of restaurants in China and Southeast Asian nations," the source said. "The number of such restaurants in China could be cut in half and that of North Korean employees will significantly fall."
North Korea handpicks workers who are loyal to the regime and sends them overseas to work at restaurants. South Korea said that those in the latest mass defection case are known to have good social status in the North.
The North is widely expected to summon its workers at restaurants in foreign nations, raising speculation that other groups of workers may opt to defect, the source said.
Meanwhile, the government is under fire for its rare announcement of the North Koreans' defection as critics said that Seoul is seeking to influence the upcoming general elections slated for Wednesday in its favor.
The ruling party and the government often highlight North Korea-related news to raise awareness about security ahead of key elections, a move to rally conservative and security-concerned voters.
Seoul's unification ministry denied a local newspaper's report that Cheong Wa Dae ordered the government to make public the latest mass defection.
"(From now on), the government can unveil further cases of defections if they are unprecedented and meaningful," Jeong Joon-hee, a ministry spokesman, told a regular press briefing.
He declined to confirm whether there are more North Koreans at the same restaurant on a waiting list for defection
BEIJING/SEOUL, April 11 (Yonhap) -- Chinese media have recently shed light on the plight of North Korean women in China amid the surprise defection of 12 North Korean female employees who reportedly worked at a Pyongyang-run restaurant in China.
In a recent report, The Beijing News said some North Korean women have resorted to marrying Chinese men who are much older, divorced or disabled simply in order to survive.
Many North Korean defectors risk their lives to cross the border into China before traveling to Southeast Asian countries with the hopes of being sent to South Korea.
The 12 North Korean women, who arrived in South Korea last week along with a male manager, were different from most North Koreans in China in that they carried passports. The vast majority of North Korean defectors are known to live in China illegally under the constant threat of being deported to their home country. One village chief from Yanji in China's Jilin Province near the border with North Korea told the paper that 10 North Korean women married into Chinese families in his village in the past 20 years. Of them, seven have left for the South, one has gone missing, another has been deported to the North, leaving only one in the village, he said.
One North Korean woman who was married to a Chinese man defected to the South via Thailand, but had to pay 20,000 yuan to a broker with money her family borrowed from close friends, the paper said. The woman has been struggling to bring her family over to the South, it added.
According to the village chief, North Korean women are mostly quiet and hardworking, rarely causing any trouble. However, he recalled one incident in which one North Korean woman slapped another North Korean woman for insulting the country's leader, Kim Jong-un.
North Korean women are also known to become victims of sex slavery and human trafficking, but few are able to resist for fear of being sent back to the North.
Kim Ok-seon, a 40-year-old North Korean woman who defected to the South in 2010, told Yonhap News Agency in Seoul that she and her co-workers had to work up to 18 hours per day at a Pyongyang-run restaurant in China.
"I never had enough sleep and the work was tough, but I had to endure it all because of my family at home (in the North)," she said. Pyongyang is known to punish defectors and disloyal workers by sending their families to concentration camps or subjecting them to other disciplinary measures.
Instead of being paid proper wages, the employees had to write in a ledger whenever they needed money and spend it under the supervision of a manager, Kim said.