The Guardian

Inside Life's hotel, a launchpad for crackdown on North Korean refugees

Defectors’ odds of success are lengthening, and not only because of the spies said to have checked in to this Chinese hotel
The lobby of Life’s business hotel in Dandong. Photograph: Tom Phillips for the Guardian

Life’s business hotel’s reception is perfumed with black vanilla fragrance sticks from Zara Home. Its rooms boast geranium-scented shower gel and stunning river views.

“Really nice,” one satisfied guest wrote on Ctrip, China’s top travel website. “And also interesting to see all the business [people] from North Korea who are also staying there.”

The glowing reviews may not tell the whole story. This 20-floor riverside retreat is reportedly one of at least two hotels in the pretty Chinese border town of Dandong used by North Korean “abduction teams” tasked with hunting down defectors fleeing one of the world’s most repressive regimes.

“[The agents] appear to be staying … for business but are instead collecting information on the locations of North Korean defectors and are launching operations to arrest them,” a, a Seoul-based website known for its intrigue-filled exposés on the affairs of Kim Jong-un’s reclusive state.

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