According to Yonhap:
An increasing number of North Korean defectors have been attempting to seek asylum in foreign countries, hiding their newly-won South Korean nationality and pretending to be fresh from the communist nation, a lawmaker said Wednesday.
Britain and Norway have been among the popular targets for these fake asylum seekers, Rep. Hong Jung-wook of the Grand National Party said, citing data from the foreign ministry. Hong said the government should make sure the issue does not escalate into diplomatic problems.
Apparently over concerns about fake defections, Britain has stopped granting asylum to North Korean defectors since last year. In 2008, Norway found more than 50 North Korean defectors with South Korean passports or identity cards during an inspection of a refugee camp, according to the lawmaker.
Since 2004, a total of 695 North Korean defectors have formally filed for asylum in Britain, with the number of applications rising from 20 in 2004 to 410 in 2007. Of those applicants, 373 were granted the asylum, 185 were denied and 135 under consideration as of March of last year, according to the lawmaker.
But the British government estimates that the actual number of North Korean defectors who had come to the country for asylum purposes since 2004 would be about 1,000 and suspects that 70 percent of them would be of South Korean nationality, the lawmaker said in a release.
Britain reached the estimate after a survey of three dozen North Korean asylum seekers, who agreed to provide their fingerprints for the investigation, found that 75 percent, or 24 people, were found to be of South Korean nationality, the lawmaker said.
“Based on this problem, the British side has been asking that our government provide it with broader information on the fingerprints of North Korean defectors, and even demanding a treaty be signed on this,” the lawmaker said in the release.
Hong also said that about 600 fake asylum seekers are believed to be still staying in Britain or Norway, and called on the government to take steps to bring them home.
“The increase in fake asylum attempts by North Korean defectors is because their life in South Korea is difficult,” Hong said. “The government should allow them to return by granting a grace period so as to prevent the issue from growing into a diplomatic problem.”
The foreign ministry denied that Britain had asked South Korea to take back the fake asylum seekers or demanded a treaty on fingerprint information.
“As this issue is related to our nationals, we have been cooperating with related countries within the necessary bounds and are in talks with related countries to work out appropriate measures,” the ministry said in a statement.
Since the 1950-53 Korean War, nearly 20,000 North Koreans have defected to the South to escape from hunger and political suppression in their communist homeland. But many of them have a hard time getting decent jobs due to their lack of education and social discrimination.
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Increasing number of N. Korean defectors in S. Korea seek asylum in foreign countries