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Last Updated: Friday, 15 October, 2004, 06:39 GMT 07:39 UK
Refugees storm Beijing consulate
Asylum seekers climbing the wall
About 20 asylum seekers gained entry to the consulate
About 20 people claiming to be North Korean asylum seekers are reported to have entered the South Korean consulate in Beijing.

According to reports from Seoul, the group is said to have scaled a high wall to enter the compound, in an attempt to defect to South Korea.

China treats North Koreans as illegal immigrants and deports them home.

But increasing numbers have entered foreign embassies in recent years, hoping for a passage to South Korea.

South Korean YTN television showed the latest group of asylum seekers - some of whom are children - crawling under a barbed-wire fence before scaling the wall of the consulate.

Once they were inside the compound they reportedly shouted "We are North Koreans!" and "We want to go to South Korea!"

They are the latest in a string of North Korean groups to demand asylum in various embassies and consulates in China.

Last month 40 North Koreans stormed the Canadian embassy in Beijing, where they remain, and another 29 entered a Japanese consulate school.

More than 460 North Korean refugees were airlifted to South Korea in July from Vietnam, in an action which enraged Pyongyang.

But seeking asylum at foreign embassies in China remains a risky strategy for North Koreans, according to correspondents.

As Pyongyang's closest traditional ally, Beijing is loath to take any steps which might destabilise its neighbour or lead to waves of asylum seekers pouring over the border.

So China deports any North Koreans it catches back to their homeland.

It has also thrown heavy security around embassies to try to deter such asylum attempts.

But despite the risks, many North Koreans are still prepared to take the chance, and activists estimate that about 200,000 are currently hiding out in China.

Watch video of the N Koreans entering the consulate

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