North Korean leader Kim Jong Un inspects a flight drill of fighter pilots from the Korean People's Army's (KPA) Air and Anti-Air Force, in this undated photo released by North Korea's Korean Central News Agency (KCNA) in Pyongyang on February 21, 2016. REUTERS/KCNA(reuters_tickers)
SEOUL (Reuters) - North Korea accused South Korea on Tuesday of abducting its citizens in China, four days after South Korea said 13 workers at restaurant run by the North had defected.
North Korea said the abduction of its citizens was an unacceptable provocation and it demanded their return.
"We sternly denounce the group abduction of the citizens of the DPRK as a hideous crime against its dignity and social system and the life and security of its citizens," the North's KCNA news agency quoted a spokesman of its Red Cross Society as saying.
DPRK stand for the Democratic People's Republic of Korea, the North's official name.
South Korea said on Friday that 13 workers at a restaurant run by the North in an unidentified country had defected, a case it described as unprecedented, adding that the 13 had arrived in the South a day earlier.
South Korea did not say where the 13 had worked. China said on Monday that 13 North Koreans had been there and had left lawfully. It did not say if they were the same group.
The North's Red Cross Society said the group was employed at a restaurant in the Chinese city of Ningbo, and they were taken to a Southeast Asian country before being flown to South Korea.
It did not say how many people were in the group.
News of the defections came during a period of tension on the Korean peninsula following the North's fourth nuclear test in January and a long-range rocket launch the next month.
The two Koreas have been fierce rivals since the 1950-53 Korean War and about 29,000 people had fled from North Korea and arrived in the South, since then, including 1,276 last year.
(Reporting by Jack Kim; Editing by Robert Birsel)