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North Korean Seeking Refuge at South Korea Consulate in Hong Kong

Hong Kong, China

Hong Kong, China

An 18-year-old North Korean man who went to Hong Kong to compete in the International Mathematical Olympiad took refuge in the South Korean consulate there Wednesday, according to local news media.

As a precautionary measure, the South Korean Consulate General, located in the Far East Finance Centre, asked Hong Kong authorities for enhanced security. Police quickly deployed a large number of officers, including an anti-terrorist SWAT team.

Details remain sketchy, but on Thursday afternoon, VOA reporters took the elevator to the 5th floor consulate's office where they were turned back by plainclothes officers. The consulate has suspended visa distributions and other services.

Some reporters have camped outside the building's entrance. A few reporters have said the defector’s situation remains unclear, and that neither Hong Kong officials nor the Commissioner of the Chinese Foreign Ministry in Hong Kong has responded to press inquiries.

According to the “one country, two systems” policy between mainland China and Hong Kong, all incidents involving diplomatic issues are to be handled by the Ministry of Foreign Affairs in Beijing.

China and South Korea have refused to comment on the situation. Beijing in the past has come under fire from human rights groups for sending alleged North Korean defectors back to their homeland, where they are widely believed to face severe penalties.

This report was produced in collaboration with VOA's Mandarin Service.