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Sweden to Reopen Asylum Case for Purported N Korean Teen

Sweden has long prided itself on offering a refuge for those fleeing oppression in other parts of the world. This asylum-seeker is shown walking outside the Bergby Gard hotel and conference center, which houses asylum-seekers, near Stockholm last June.

An offical of Sweden's immigration agency said Wednesday that it had decided not to appeal a court decision ordering another hearing for a purported North Korean teenager.

The teenager, who uses the pseudonym Han Song, claims he is from North Korea although he does not have documents proving national origin. He is seeking asylum in Sweden, but Sweden's immigration authority suspects he is a Chinese citizen of Korean descent and had been seeking to expatriate him to China.

“We have decided not to appeal the migration court’s decision. So we will try the case again,” Fredrik Bengtsson, spokesman for the Swedish Migration Agency, said in a phone interview with the VOA Korean service.

The immigration agency’s decision gives Han a new chance of getting refugee status in Sweden. Bengtsson said he expected the reinvestigation to be completed within a few months because much of the work has been done already.

Earlier this month, the Migration Court of Sweden ordered the immigration agency to reinvestigate the case, saying the agency had mishandled it. According to a court document, the judge said the agency had ignored the fact that one of the language analysts who participated in the interview determined Han was from North Korea.

Han said he had lived as an orphan in North Korea. In March 2013, he fled the country and met a broker who helped him reach Sweden.

In an email to the VOA Korean service, Tim Peters, director of Helping Hands Korea, a Seoul aid group helping North Korean defectors, said Han’s accounts were consistent with those of other North Korean children who fled the country.

“We believe quite strongly that his speech and story are very consistent with thousands of other ‘flower swallow’ children from North Korea,” Peters said, referring to North Korean children who have lost parents.

Peters said his group and Swedish lawyers have been helping Han seek refugee status since October 2014.

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    Jee Abbey Lee

    Jee Abbey Lee is a veteran broadcast journalist with more than 10 years of experience in TV, radio, and the web. She serves as Voice of America's social media correspondent and is an expert of millennial lifestyle. 

    Lee received her graduate degree from the Medill School of Journalism at Northwestern University. Prior to joining VOA, she worked at the Seoul bureau of CNN Travel and served as the chief Bank of Korea correspondent for Arirang TV. 

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