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4 North Koreans Seek Refuge in Japanese School in Beijing - 2003-02-18

Four North Koreans took refuge in a Japanese school in Beijing Tuesday. It appears to be the latest effort by desperate North Korean refugees to reach South Korea.

A Japanese Embassy spokesman said officials are still trying to determine who the intruders are and what should be done with them.

A Japanese group that helps North Korean refugees says the man, woman and two children have been hiding in China since 1997. They made their way into a Japanese school in the Chinese capital Tuesday afternoon.

More than 100 North Koreans have reached South Korea over the past year by pushing their way into diplomatic facilities in China and then demanding political asylum.

After sometimes lengthy negotiations, Beijing generally allows the refugees to leave for new lives in South Korea, via a third country.

This latest incident follows reports of a major Chinese crackdown on illegal North Korean migrants hiding in Northeastern China. News accounts say Chinese officials have used force to send thousands of North Koreans back across the border.