BANGKOK: Ten suspected North Korean asylum seekers, including two children under 10, were taking refuge in the Japanese embassy here yesterday, embassy officials said.
The group, consisting of four men, four women, one boy and one girl, rushed up to a Japanese official and pleaded for sanctuary as he went into the embassy compound here.
“They were outside the embassy shouting 'North Korea, North Korea' and they only speak Korean. So we don't understand them,” embassy spokesman Hisaki Nakasuki said.
A Korean-speaking Japanese diplomat was due to arrive here from Seoul later yesterday to interview the group, who appeared to be in good health, he said.
A South Korean embassy official said Japanese diplomats told him that the group was North Korean.
He said Seoul would consider granting the group asylum if asked.
“We usually receive North Korean asylum seekers,” he added.
Last year, over 1,000 North Koreans reached South Korea via China and other countries after fleeing hunger and repression in their homeland, which is embroiled in a dispute with the international community over its nuclear programme.
“Only bad people would do this kind of thing,” a spokesman for the North Korean embassy said.
Thai Foreign Minister Surakiart Sathirathai said the group appeared to hold identity cards issued by the United Nations refugee agency UNHCR.
“It is up to Japan to decide on their asylum-seeking request,” Surakiart said.
At least 30 Thai police kept watch outside the embassy building, which is surrounded by high walls.
Earlier this month, four North Korean teenagers sought asylum at the British consulate in Shanghai, the latest in a string of defections from the impoverished communist country. – Reuters
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