Asylum-seekers leave China for third country

Kyodo

Fifteen North Koreans who entered a Japanese school in Beijing in September to seek asylum departed China on Wednesday for a third country.

A Japanese Embassy official said Thursday that they have all expressed a desire to eventually go to South Korea, although he declined to reveal their destination.

A total of 29 North Koreans entered the school on Sept. 1, and five of them left Beijing later that month. The 15 who departed Wednesday were among the 24 remaining in the embassy compound.

The 15 were allowed to leave from a humanitarian standpoint, the official said, noting some are elderly.

Many North Koreans who have fled to China have sought refuge inside foreign missions or schools in Beijing in the hope of being sent to other countries.

Driven by famine in North Korea, the number who enter South Korea seeking asylum has grown substantially since the mid-1990s. In 2003, roughly 1,280 North Koreans sought asylum in South Korea, compared with about 580 in 2001.