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A North Korean Defector Entered the U.S. Consulate General in Russia

A North Korean Defector Entered the U.S. Consulate General in Russia

Posted October. 31, 2004 23:11,   


A local Russian newspaper reported that a North Korean defector entered the U.S. consulate in Vladibostok in eastern Siberia on October 29, seeking political asylum. The U.S. Consulate General acknowledged the report but has not revealed any further information. It is the first time that a North Korean defector attempted asylum in Siberia through foreign missions.

Also last week, 45 North Koreans working in Siberia fled their workplace to Kamchatka Peninsular (1,430 miles away), showing weakening control on North Korean workers in this area. It is now forecasted that Siberia will be a new gateway for an exodus from North Korea.

He Entered through the Consulate Roof

The defector used the emergency stairs of the apartment next to the consulate building and went up to the roof in an attempt to enter the consulate. A security guard found him on the roof and caught him without any resistance by the defector. Earlier, it was reported that on October 20 a North Korean defector entered the Vladibostok newspaper office nearby the consulate and asked for help. Saying that his colleague escaped to the United States with the help of the U.S. Consulate General, he asked to contact a U.S. reporter. But the newspaper advised him to contact the consulate himself. The defector replied that would be too dangerous, and then he left the office. Whether this is the same person now in the consulate has not yet been confirmed.

Missions Are Tense

The U.S. Consulate General has said repeatedly that the consulate is in the process of establishing rules on how to handle these situations. By the handing the asylum seeker over to the Russian government, it means he will be extradited to North Korea, and the Consulate will be labeled as being inhumane. The Consulate is also worried that this political asylum, if granted, is very likely to set a precedent for a series of similar cases. Analysts say that with only a few days away from the presidential election, this unexpected incident is troubling the U.S. government. In addition to the United States, in Vladibostok there are consulate generals of five nations, including the Republic of Korea and Japan. It is known that up until now foreign diplomats have avoided contact with North Korean workers due to political burdens.

Ki-Hyun Kim kimkihy@donga.com