Wed, Jul 28, 2004 - Page 5 News List

Scores of N Korean defectors reach the south

AP , Seoul

Two hundred North Koreans flew into the South Korean capital yesterday from an unidentified Southeast Asian country in the largest-ever group of defectors to reach the South, a news report said.

They arrived at an airport outside Seoul on a chartered Asiana Airlines plane arranged by the South Korean government, Yonhap news agency said.

A second group was expected to arrive today, bringing the total to 460, the report said.

A trickle of defectors to the South has grown into a steady stream in recent years as more North Koreans flee hunger and repression in their country, mostly fleeing across its long border with China before heading to other countries.

South Korean officials have declined to reveal where the group of 460 is arriving from, the Yonhap report said.

The defectors were swiftly taken away in five buses.

The government typically puts defectors through a month of questioning before giving them a two-month orientation course on how to make their way in their new capitalist home.

Television footage showed buses standing near the Asiana Airlines plane, and later taking the people away. However, reporters were barred from getting close to the scene.

More than 60 percent of the 460 defectors are women and children, and most of them had illegally entered the Southeast Asian country via China, reports said.

Human rights groups have said that hundreds of North Koreans were living in Vietnam, Thailand, Cambodia and other Southeast Asian countries, and were eager to travel to South Korea.

Previously, defecting North Koreans have arrived in the South in small groups of three or four, or a dozen.

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