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N. Korean Asylum Seekers on Way to S. Korea - 2002-05-14


Some of the North Koreans who sought refuge in foreign missions in China are on their way out of the country while negotiations continue over the fate of others.

Three North Koreans who snuck into the U.S. Consulate in Shenyang are on their way to South Korea, via Singapore.

The trio got into the building in the northeastern Chinese city last week, seeking political asylum and passage to South Korea.

Shenyang is close to China's border with North Korea, in an area that is home to many ethnic Koreans, who have sometimes sheltered North Korean migrants. Human rights groups say tens of thousands of North Koreans have crossed the border illegally, fleeing their nation.

The rights groups say the North Koreans face persecution if they are sent home, and should be given asylum. China says the North Koreans are all illegal economic migrants and ships home any it catches.

Chinese police last week seized and forcibly removed five North Koreans who got into the Japanese Consulate in Shenyang. That incident has sparked a diplomatic spat with Japan, which demands that Beijing return them to the consulate.

A spokeswoman for Canada's embassy in Beijing says officials there are still talking to Chinese authorities about the future of two North Koreans who managed to get past guards and into that diplomatic compound.

These incidents are the latest in a string of attempts by North Koreans to make their way to South Korea by entering diplomatic compounds.

China has responded by deploying many more police in Beijing's diplomatic district, and putting up two rings of barbed wire fences around most of the embassies in Beijing, surprisingly including the North Korean Embassy.

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