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Report: N. Korea Refugees Arrested

September 2, 2002

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BEIJING (AP) _ Chinese police have detained a group of North Koreans planning to seek refugee status in Beijing, along with a South Korean man who was helping them, a refugee activist said Monday.

The group was picked up at the train station in the northeastern city of Changchun on Saturday evening, according to Norbert Vollertsen, a German doctor who has worked to publicize the plight of North Korean refugees.

The South Korean man, Kim Hee-tae, is a longtime advocate for North Koreans fleeing hunger and repression at home, Vollertsen said in an appeal sent to reporters by e-mail.

He said the North Koreans _ five men, five women, and a 15-year-old boy _ had been preparing to board a train to Beijing to submit requests for refugee status.

Officials at the South Korean embassy in Beijing and China’s Foreign Ministry said they had no immediate information on the report. Police in Changchun either declined to provide any information or said they had no knowledge of the reported arrests.

Tens of thousands of North Koreans live in hiding in northeastern China. Beijing has rejected appeals to treat them as refugees, insisting they are economic migrants.

Dozens of others have been allowed to leave for South Korea since March after taking refuge in foreign embassies and consulates in China.

Update hourly