North Korea has stepped up its calls for South Korea to return 12 waitresses whom Pyongyang says Seoul abducted from a restaurant in China.

Seoul says the waitresses willingly defected to the South.

North Korean authorities on Tuesday organized colleagues and parents of the waitresses to meet North Korean and foreign media in Pyongyang. North Korea says the women were tricked into thinking they were being transferred to work at another restaurant in Malaysia.

On April 8, South Korean authorities announced the arrival of 13 North Koreans in the South — the 12 waitresses and their manager. Since then, North Korean authorities have issued repeated statements calling on Seoul to return the waitresses or let their parents go to Seoul to meet them.