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North Korean Defectors Take Refuge In US Mission In China

About 8,700 North Koreans have defected to the South to avoid hunger and political oppression in their communist homeland since the Korean War ended in 1953. About 6,000 of the total arrived over the past four years.
by Staff Writers
Seoul (AFP) Sep 19, 2006
Two North Korean defectors who had been staying at a South Korean consulate in China climbed into the neighbouring US diplomatic mission in an apparent asylum bid, Yonhap news agency reported Tuesday.

The agency, quoting diplomatic sources, said the pair got into the US consulate in the northeastern city of Shenyang early this month after scaling a wall.

South Korean and US officials have been discussing how to handle the case, the sources said.

If sent to the United States, Yonhap said the pair would be the third group of North Korean asylum-seekers accepted by Washington since President George W. Bush signed the North Korean Human Rights Act in 2004.

In May four North Korean defectors staying at the same South Korean mission climbed into the US consulate, and three were later allowed to go to the US. The fourth was rejected because he was found to have worked for a North Korean state intelligence agency, Yonhap said.

Earlier in May six North Koreans staying in Southeast Asian countries were also allowed to enter the United States with refugee status.

About 8,700 North Koreans have defected to the South to avoid hunger and political oppression in their communist homeland since the Korean War ended in 1953. About 6,000 of the total arrived over the past four years.

A US embassy spokesperson in Beijing refused to comment on the report, saying the practice is not to comment on asylum applications.

"The United States has long been concerned about the suffering of the North Korean people, including those who have fled into other countries," the spokesperson added.

"We are interested in finding a humanitarian solution to their plight."

China refused to confirm the report saying it would follow "the principles of domestic and international laws, as well as humanitarian principles," in handling North Korean refugees.

"I don't know if the two people you mentioned are in the consulate in Shenyang but I want to point out that those people crossing the border illegally due to economic reasons are not refugees," foreign ministry spokesman Qin Gang said.

"We'll continue to properly handle those issues."

Source: Agence France-Presse

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