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North Koreans Fleeing In Rising Numbers

North Korea has suffered from famine in recent years, as well as chronic economic problems, including energy shortages (ITAR-TASS) August 23, 2006 – Officials in Seoul today said that the number of North Koreans who have fled to South Korea in 2006 is 60 percent higher than it was in 2005.

South Korea's Unification Ministry says a total of 1,054 North Koreans sought asylum in the first seven months of the year.

Most North Korean asylum seekers flee to Southeast Asia or to China. China, however, considers them to be illegal economic migrants and says it is obligated by bilateral treaties to send the refugees back to North Korea.

Authorities in Thailand today said they detained 175 North Koreans on August 22 for illegally entering the country. The authorities in Bangkok say the refugees will not be forced to return to North Korea if found guilty of illegally entering Thailand.

(AP, dpa)