Confirmed: North Koreans sheltered at Swedish embassy

Two North Korean men have taken shelter at the Swedish embassy in the Lao capital Vientiane after fleeing their homeland to seek refugee in a third country, a Swedish diplomat confirmed on Monday.

“I can confirm we have two men at the embassy who claim that they are North Koreans. They are probably North Koreans,” said a spokesperson at the diplomatic mission.

“They came Friday last week. They are between 20 and 30 years old.”

Radio Free Asia, a US-funded non-profit broadcaster, on Sunday reported that Sweden was in talks with relevant states about what to do next.

Tens of thousands of North Koreans escape to China and often move on to Mongolia or Southeast Asia to seek safe passage to South Korea or another third country, as Beijing returns any refugees it catches as economic migrants.

Laos is sometimes used as a transit country, with refugees travelling through the Golden Triangle region and then crossing the Mekong into Thailand.

Three North Korean child defectors arrived in South Korea in April after they were detained for five months in Laos, where rights groups said some officials threatened them with repatriation unless they paid bribes.

The number of North Koreans who made it to South Korea since the end of the 1950-53 war topped 10,000 in February.