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2ND LD: N. Koreans try to enter S. Korea's Beijing consulate.

BEIJING, Oct. 25 Kyodo

(EDS: ADDS QUOTES, DETAIL, BACKGROUND)

Three North Korean asylum seekers entered the South Korean Consulate in Beijing on Monday morning, breaching security around a military-guarded diplomatic officer tower for the second time this month.

But another 17 defectors were caught, a South Korean government source said.

At about 6:30 a.m., more than two hours before the consulate opened, the group hopped over a fence and entered the Tayuan Diplomatic Building in central Beijing, the government source said.

But Chinese authorities caught 17 people, including women and children, on the building grounds outside the first-floor consulate.

South Korea's Yonhap News Agency said some also fled.

''The security is quite tight,'' the source said.

She said South Korean officials had mentioned the incident briefly to Chinese officials but had not verified the three people's identities.

China, an ally of North Korea, opposes the routine asylum attempts at diplomatic property. China may send the 17 back to North Korea, possibly to a harsh punishment.

South Korean diplomats in Beijing have an ambivalent attitude toward the asylum seekers, the government source said.

''Quite a large number of defectors are waiting to leave'' South Korean diplomatic property in Beijing, she said ''It definitely has an impact on our business. Our consulate business is important, but at the same time to provide assistance to North Korean defectors is also important.''

About 12 South Koreans work at the consulate. The source declined to say how many South Koreans were waiting there for out-processing to South Korea or what conditions were like inside the consulate.

Shortly before 6 a.m. on Oct. 15, 20 North Koreans entered the same consulate. And on Friday, 29 people believed to be North Koreans entered a South Korean international school in a suburb of Beijing to seek asylum, but the school, because it is not a diplomatic area, may be required to turn those people over to China.

Most asylum seekers ask to be sent to South Korea, which has a program to mainstream them into society.

After weeks or months of negotiations between China and the nation in charge of the affected diplomatic property, North Koreans are usually released to South Korea via a third country.

''It's not an emotional thing, it's policy,'' the government source said, calling the defector incidents ''very routine, not one isolated case.''

North Koreans fleeing economic deprivation at home and breaking into diplomatic venues in Beijing to seek asylum have become a regular sight in the Chinese capital recently.

And generally, asylum seekers who reach a diplomatic compound are sent to South Korea via a third country.
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Publication:Asian Political News
Date:Oct 25, 2004
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