- The Washington Times - Wednesday, September 20, 2006

Seven North Korean women, some of whom have been hiding in China for years, have turned themselves in to authorities in Thailand in a bid for political asylum, a human rights group said.

Upon arriving in Nong Khai Province, about 300 miles north of Bangkok, from Laos on Monday, the women surrendered to the authorities to prevent being charged with illegal entry, Life Funds for North Korean Refugees (LFNKR) reported this week

LFNKR is a human rights group based in Japan.

The women were fined $26.80 each and turned over to immigration authorities, who planned to take them to Bangkok for deportation proceedings.

LFNKR hopes that by publicizing the women’s plight, a third country will accept them as refugees, before they are returned to North Korea.

“They are appealing in desperation to the foreign authorities concerned and swift travel to the country accepting them,” the group stated.

The LFNKR Web site profiled several of the women but altered their names to protect their families still in North Korea.

Ann Hi, 28, defected to China in 1999 and married a Chinese man as a means of securing legal status in China.

“The fateful decision also did not offer me true freedom from the haunting fear of arrest by Chinese Police,” Mrs. Ann wrote in her profile.

Another refugee, Han Na, 22, defected to China for the first time in 1998 as a teenager. Since then, her life has been a cycle of escape and repatriation, making this her seventh attempt. She said she was released from North Korean detention camps each time because of her young age.

In recent years, Thailand and Southeast Asian countries have become important transit points for North Korean refugees seeking asylum in South Korea and elsewhere. Thousands leave each year to escape government repression and death from famine.

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