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British Deputy PM to meet N.K. defectors in Seoul

Britain's Deputy Prime Minister Nick Clegg will hold a rare meeting early next week with North Korean defectors who have settled in South Korea, when he travels to Seoul to join a global nuclear summit, a British embassy official said Thursday.

Clegg is scheduled to arrive in Seoul Sunday to attend the second biennial Nuclear Security Summit and will meet Tuesday with five North Korean defectors who study English at the embassy, the official said.

"Deputy Prime Minister Clegg has invited the five North Korean refugees to a dinner meeting with him on Tuesday," the official said on the condition of anonymity.

The official declined to comment about the purpose of the planned meeting, but it comes as South Korea has stepped up diplomatic campaigns to urge China not to send North Korean defectors back to their communist homeland where they could face harsh punishment.

The British Embassy in Seoul offered English-language education to North Korean defectors to help them better adapt to South Korean society.

South Korea is home to more than 23,000 North Korean defectors, with the number rising noticeably in recent years. Many lack English language skills, which can seriously disadvantage them in competition with their South Korean counterparts. (Yonhap News)