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Page last updated at 11:29 GMT, Thursday, 24 September 2009 12:29 UK

N Koreans in 'Denmark asylum bid'

 Vietnamese guard stands at the entrance to the Danish Embassy in Hanoi. Photo: 24 September 2009
The Danish embassy provided no further details on the issue

Nine North Koreans have entered Denmark's embassy in the Vietnamese capital Hanoi to seek political asylum, reports say.

The North Koreans said in a statement they had fled their country "in search of food and freedom from oppression", according to Reuters news agency.

They were reportedly accompanied by South Korean activists.

The Danish ambassador confirmed that North Koreans were at the embassy, without giving any further information.

'Desperation and fear'

In Copenhagen, Danish Foreign Ministry spokesman Ole Brix Andersen said the North Koreans entered the embassy on Thursday morning and "asked for help and protection".

He said they would be allowed to stay for the moment "because we do not send people out who could face some kind of persecution".

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The spokesman added that Copenhagen was working with Hanoi "to find a safe and dignified solution".

Kim Sang-heon, a South Korean activist who helps North Koreans to defect, said earlier the group of defectors included six women and three men.

The group's statement - as carried by Reuters - said: "Some of us were caught by Chinese police and were then subjected to forced deportation to North Korea. After repatriation, some of us endured months of detention in North Korea that can only be described as atrocious."

"We are now at the point of such desperation and live in such fear of persecution within North Korea that we have come to the decision to risk our lives for freedom rather than passively await our doom," the statement added.

So far there have been no official comments on the issue from Vietnam or North Korea.

Thousands of people have fled North Korea in recent years, and at least 14,000 of them have found their way to asylum in South Korea.

Many of them seek passage to South Korea via China and other countries in the region.

Because China repatriates North Koreans, refugees often attempt to reach foreign embassies in third countries.

In 2004, the South Korean government airlifted almost 500 North Korean asylum seekers out of Vietnam, infuriating Pyongyang.



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