NKorea: South brainwashed 9 youths it repatriated

Associated Press
North Korean defectors stage a die-in during a rally protesting against Laos' repatriation of nine North Korean defectors, in front of Foreign Ministry in Seoul, South Korea, Wednesday, June 5, 2013. The nine defectors, seven male and two female, were flown home from China last week. They had been captured in Laos some 17 days earlier, along with a South Korean missionary who tried to help them take asylum at a foreign embassy in the Southeast Asian country, according to South Korean officials and activists. Before they were captured in Laos and sent home, the young group of North Korean defectors smiled and teased each other as they told an activist how some of them were beaten with sticks for trying to steal noodles in their homeland. Banners read: "Banning compulsory repatriation is an international law." (AP Photo/Ahn Young-joon)

SEOUL, South Korea (AP) — North Korea says nine young North Koreans repatriated from China were not defectors but had been kidnapped by South Korea.

Wednesday's statement by Pyongyang's Red Cross comes as international attention builds on the fates of the North Koreans, who are as young as 14.

South Korean media say the nine were detained in Laos last month while trying to come to Seoul. They were flown home via China last week.

The North alleges the group was detained abroad and subjected to brainwashing and beating. It also alleges that South Korea forced the North Koreans to convert to Christianity by making them memorize the Bible and hymns.

North Korea's Red Cross says it abides by the rules of its international association but is essentially controlled by the government.