North Korea arrests defector for conspiring to kidnap North Korean children

The National Intelligence Service (NIS) of South Korea denied any involvement in Ko's case.

A North Korean defector has been arrested by police for allegedly conspiring with Seoul's spy agency to kidnap North Korean children.

Agence France-Press (AFP) reported that the convict, Ko Hyon-chol, confessed that he tried to kidnap two North Korean orphan girls and take them to the South. The confession was made during a news conference for foreign media in Pyongyang.

"I committed the unpardonable crime of being involved in attempted child abduction," Ko was quoted by AFP.

The 53-year-old Ko said that the National Intelligence Service (NIS) of South Korea sent him to the Chinese border city of Dandong to kidnap orphans from North Korea, in lieu of $10,000 for each child. However, NIS denied any involvement in Ko's case.

Ko was granted a South Korean citizenship and he lived in South Korea for quite some time. The Unification Ministry of South Korea said in a statement that it regretted that "the North had arrested a South Korean national and used him for what it described as propaganda".

In 2013, Ko fled North Korea and stayed in China for about a year. Later in 2014, he arrived in South Korea.

The case comes amidst an ongoing dispute between North and South Korea over the issue of abduction. North Korea accused the NIS of kidnapping 13 people, who worked in a restaurant run by the North in China in April. But the South Korean government said that all of them had chosen to come to the South.