People working in North Korean-operated restaurants overseas have previously defected, but this is the first time multiple workers have escaped from the same restaurant, South Korean Unification Ministry spokesman Jeong Joon Hee told reporters in Seoul.

North Korean defections are a bitter point of contention between the rival Koreas. Pyongyang usually accuses Seoul of enticing North Korean citizens to defect, something Seoul denies.

Overseas North Korean workers are usually thought to be chosen largely because of their loyalty.

Jeong said one male and 12 female North Korean workers arrived in the South on Thursday. He didn’t reveal the country where they were working to avoid diplomatic problems and possibly endanger North Koreans still working in the country


The North Koreans told South Korean officials that they learned about the South and began to distrust North Korean propaganda by watching South Korean TV dramas and movies and from searching the Internet while living overseas, Jeong said.


The Unification Ministry’s website says more than 29,000 North Koreans have defected to South Korea as of March.