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5 N.K. defectors arrive in S. Korea after 3 years in China

Five North Korean defectors have arrived in South Korea after spending three years in a South Korean consulate in China, a South Korean official said Wednesday.

China has allowed them to travel to South Korea via a third country, the official said, a step Beijing usually takes to handle those involved in high-profile cases.

The five people, who include three family members of a late South Korean soldier taken prisoner during the 1950-53 Korean War, are being questioned by South Korean authorities after arriving in Seoul on Sunday, the official said, in a routine process for new North Korean arrivals.

The official did not give details on the two others and asked not to be identified, citing policy.

The three had been waiting for their trip to South Korea since 2009, when they entered the South Korean consulate general in Beijing seeking asylum.

Their trip came as North Korea defied Chinese and other international calls to halt a rocket launch. The North has repeatedly vowed to go ahead with the launch sometime between April 12 and 16 to put a satellite into orbit.

However, South Korea, the United States and other regional powers suspect the launch could be a cover for testing the North's ballistic missile technology.

Their trip also came more than a week after Chinese President Hu Jintao showed flexible position on the issue of North Korean defectors during his summit talks with South Korean President Lee Myung-bak. Hu was in Seoul to attend an international nuclear security summit.

The move came weeks after China has detained dozens of North Korean defectors and reportedly sent some of them back to their communist homeland where they could face harsh punishment.

Tens of thousands of North Korean defectors are believed to be hiding in China, as a constant stream of North Koreans reportedly continues to cross the porous border into China to avoid chronic food shortages and harsh political oppression. (Yonhap News)

 

<한글 기사>

탈북자 5명 중국에서 극비 입국

국군포로 고(故) 백종규씨의 딸 영옥씨 가족을 비롯해 탈북자 5명이 최근 극비 입국한 것으로 알려졌다.

정부 소식통은 3일 연합뉴스와의 통화에서 "중국 내 한국 공관에서 3년간  체류 해온 탈북자 5명이 지난 1일 국내에 들어왔다"면서 "이들은 현재 관계기관의 보호 속에 탈북 경위 등을 조사받고 있다"고 말했다.

이번에 입국한 국군포로 백씨의 가족은 차녀 영옥씨와 외손자 이강민 군,  외손 녀 이일심 양 등 3명이다. 이들은 지난 2009년 북한을 탈출한 뒤 베이징 총영사관에 들어간 뒤 지금껏 한국행을 기다려왔다.

앞서 장녀인 영숙 씨는 2004년 4월 아버지 백 씨의 유해를 안고 입국한 바 있다 .

중국 당국은 최근 이들에 대해 제3국 추방 형식으로 한국행을 허용한 것으로 전 해졌다.

특히 지난달 26일 핵안보정상회의에서 한-중 정상회담에서 후진타오(胡錦濤) 국 가주석이 탈북자 문제에 대한 유연한 입장을 밝히고 북한이 장거리 로켓 발사를  강 행하려는 시점에 나온 조치여서 주목된다.

 

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