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May 2, 3:59 AM EDT

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SEOUL, South Korea (AP) -- Seoul has instructed its foreign embassies to take extra precautions against possible North Korean attempts to kidnap or attack South Koreans abroad.

The Foreign Ministry said Monday the instruction was issued in response to North Korea's threat to retaliate for the recent group defection by 13 North Koreans.

Seoul said last month the 13 North Korean workers from a restaurant in China had defected to South Korea in pursuit of better lives. Pyongyang countered that South Korean government agents kidnapped the workers and demanded their return home.

Defections are a contentious issue for the Koreas. Seoul says more than 29,000 North Koreans have fled to South Korea since the end of the 1950-53 Korean War. South Koreans defecting to the impoverished, authoritarian North is rare.

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