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North Korean Asylum Seeker Gains Entry to South Korea's Beijing Consulate - 2002-06-27

Another North Korean asylum-seeker has managed to bluff her way into a South Korean diplomatic building in Beijing. The incident is likely to anger China because it is coming to light just days after the end of a month-long stand off between Beijing and Seoul on this very issue.

A South Korean official said the young woman got past guards sometime Monday and is still in the visa office, not far from the embassy.

It is the same building that housed most of the 25 North Korean refugees who were recently allowed to leave China after weeks of tense negotiations.

Human rights groups have said hundreds of thousands of North Koreans have crossed the border into China, fleeing starvation and a brutal government at home. The activists said some of the North Koreans could face prison or execution if they are forced to go home, and should be protected as political refugees.

But China said they are just economic migrants seeking jobs who should be shipped back where they came from as soon as possible.

More than 60 North Korean refugees have managed to get out of China and into South Korea over the past year by using false papers or fleet feet to get past the Chinese guards around diplomatic buildings across China. Once inside, they request political asylum and passage to South Korea.

China strongly resists sending the North Koreans out of the country because it has a treaty obligation with its communist ally and neighbor, North Korea. But human rights groups have said China also has an obligation to allow asylum-seekers to meet with UN representatives to determine if they are refugees.