Asia

Seoul hearing on 12 ex-North Korean waitresses suspended

South Korean human right lawyers leave after a court hearing on the detention of North Korean defectors as an anti-North Korean protester, right, shouts to them in front of the Seoul District Court in Seoul, South Korea, Tuesday, June 21, 2016. As South Korea's main spy agency prepares a courtroom defense of its continued detention of 12 North Korean waitresses it says fled from China, Pyongyang is using the women's relatives and colleagues to step up its accusations that they were tricked into leaving their jobs and essentially kidnapped.(AP Photo/Ahn Young-joon)

South Korean human right lawyers leave after a court hearing on the detention of North Korean defectors as an anti-North Korean protester, right, shouts to them in front of the Seoul District Court in Seoul, South Korea, Tuesday, June 21, 2016. As South Korea's main spy agency prepares a courtroom defense of its continued detention of 12 North Korean waitresses it says fled from China, Pyongyang is using the women's relatives and colleagues to step up its accusations that they were tricked into leaving their jobs and essentially kidnapped.(AP Photo/Ahn Young-joon)  (The Associated Press)

A hearing in Seoul for 12 ex-North Korean waitresses has been suspended after the rights lawyers who requested the session asked for the judge to be removed from the case.

The women, who had worked at a restaurant in China, came to South Korea in April. Seoul says they chose to resettle in South Korea on their own, while Pyongyang says they were kidnapped by South Korean spies.

A Seoul court began a hearing Tuesday in response to a legal filing by a group of rights lawyers. As expected, the women didn't appear, but their legal representatives attended.

The rights lawyers demanded that the judge be recused for allowing the session to proceed without the women. The hearing was halted and the court said the request would be reviewed.