North Korean in Hong Kong seeks asylum in South

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North Korean in Hong Kong seeks asylum in South

A North Korean teenager sought refuge in the South Korean consulate in Hong Kong after attending an international math competition, local newspapers in Hong Kong reported Thursday.

The 18-year-old boy was in Hong Kong to attend the International Mathematical Olympiad at the Hong Kong University of Science and Technology, the newspaper Ming Pao reported. According to the report, the student was one of the six North Korean official delegates of the competition.

According to South China Morning Post, all six members of the North’s team and the two supervisors attended the closing dinner of the competition on July 15.

At some point after that, the report said quoting a diplomatic source, one of the students vanished and later sought refuge at the South Korean diplomatic mission.

The mission asked for strengthened security protection from the Hong Kong government, fearing a possible North Korean retaliation, and armed anti-terrorist troops are now guarding the consulate around the clock.

“The South Korean government requested the Hong Kong government to allow the student’s departure, but no definite answer was given,” a Hong Kong source told the JoongAng Ilbo. “The Chinese Foreign Ministry is apparently reviewing the issue.”

Hong Kong’s foreign policy is decided by China.

The Ministry of Unification said Friday that it cannot confirm the report. “We see many reports and if there are necessary measures, concerned ministries will take proper measures,” said Park Soo-jin, spokeswoman of the Unification Ministry.

She also refused to comment on another report of high-profile defection. Four top North Korean officials, including a military general are seeking asylum in a third country, choosing not to defect to the South, the Korean Broadcasting System (KBS) reported Thursday.

According to KBS, the four high-ranking North Korean officials have escaped their communist homeland to China and are seeking asylum.

The general was in charge of managing the secret funds of North Korean leader Kim Jong-un in Southeast Asia, the KBS reported, quoting a source well-informed about North Korea affairs.

The report said a North Korean diplomat assisted two other companions of the general to leave the North on July 10, while the general was in China on a business trip. The trio met in China and are staying there to seek asylum in a third country, the report said, while the diplomat also made a separate asylum attempt.

They chose not to go to South Korea because of the situation faced by a group of North Korean restaurant workers who defected to the South in April.

After the 13 North Koreans entered the South, the Lawyers for a Democratic Society, or Minbyun, filed a lawsuit to challenge the legitimacy of the National Intelligence Service’s holding of the defectors. The lawyers’ group argued that they were asked by the defectors’ families in the North to proceed with the case. The North insisted that the restaurant workers were not defectors and were abducted by the South.

The government refused to confirm the KBS report.

“We don’t have any information on it,” an intelligence official told the JoongAng Ilbo. “Even if the report is true, it is directly related to the safety of the defectors, so I cannot comment.”

BY SHIN KYUNG-JIN, SER MYO-JA [ser.myoja@joongang.co.kr]

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