A North Korean student who was visiting Hong Kong to take part in an international math contest has sought refuge in the South Korean Consulate in Hong Kong.
Hong Kong's Ming Pao daily reported on Thursday that the 18-year-old was part of an official delegation to the International Mathematical Olympiad at Hong Kong University of Science and Technology on July 6-15.
Of the 602 contestants from 109 countries, six were from North Korea. Two North Korean teachers who chaperoned the students and five other students went back to North Korea on July 19, the daily said.A day earlier reports said that a former North Korean military officer has also sought asylum in the South Korean Consulate, leading to beefed-up security around the building.
Armed police are providing around-the-clock security while other security personnel in civilian clothes have been deployed in the building housing the mission.
A South Korean government official said, "It's true that a North Korean defector entered the consulate in Hong Kong, but we can't reveal numbers or identities until they arrive safely in [South] Korea."
Meanwhile, two North Koreans who had been working in the Mediterranean island nation of Malta defected and came to South Korea last year, the Unification Ministry said Thursday.
They are a middle-aged man and a woman in her 20s who had been working at a restaurant there. Another North Korean who had been working in Malta apparently disappeared early this year.
Malta has in effect deported North Koreans by refusing to renew their work visas in the wake of an international outcry that they are being exploited by the North Korean regime. Around 20 North Koreans who had been working at construction sites and textile factories in Malta left the country.
One diplomatic source said, "Malta has a population of around 400,000, which is among the smallest in the EU, but it is quite significant that the country was the first in the EU to expel North Korean workers. Other countries that hire North Koreans may be affected by the decision."
Around 800 North Koreans work in EU member Poland.