North Korean diplomats and businessmen serving overseas are refusing orders from Pyongyang to send home all but one of their children, a news report said yesterday.
South Korean reports last month said the hardline Communist regime had ordered the repatriation of most children by mid-March in an apparent attempt to prevent defections.
None of the North Koreans in China had sent sons or daughters home by the deadline in a rare show of defiance of the regime, Seoul's Yonhap news agency quoted sources as saying.
"Those in China have yet to send a single child back to North Korea," the source told Yonhap, adding they cited the children's education needs.
The agency last month reported that Pyongyang had revived a decades-old regulation restricting the number of children its diplomats can take abroad to one.
North Korea has extended the deadline for returns until April 30 and sent Kim Chang-kyu, a vice foreign minister, to China to listen to the views of its diplomats, the latest report said.
"The extension was to give them more time in a follow-up to diplomats' complaints about insufficient time for bringing back their kids," another source in the Chinese city of Shenyang was quoted as saying.
"We are checking the intelligence. There's nothing concrete that we can confirm," a spokesman for Seoul's National Intelligence Service said.
The reports last month said some 3,000 children living with their parents in about 50 countries would be subject to repatriation.
Seoul's JoongAng Ilbo newspaper had said the ruling Workers Party issued the order on Feb. 14 to prevent defections.
North Korea in the early 1990s called home all its overseas students, apparently for fear of defections at a time when the Soviet Union and its satellite states in eastern Europe were collapsing.
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