North Koreans in Britain

Every now and then a visitor to this site asks whether there are any North Koreans in the UK, apart from at the DPRK embassy. Journalist Michael Rank keeps his eyes open for evidence, particularly on the parliamentary website, and shares his findings with the BAKS list – little snippets of information such as the fact that in 2006 North Korean diplomats clocked up 90 unpaid parking tickets.

Thanks to Aidan FC for pointing out an article on the Yonhap website yesterday, about two North Korean refugees who were jailed after having been caught working on a cannabis farm in Southport.

The source of the story was Radio Free Asia, who reported that one of the pair had previously been “offered a job growing plants for £220 a week, plus free accommodation and food, while working at a Korean grocery store in New Malden.”

About 850 people presumed to be North Korean defectors reside in Britain, among whom 450 or more have applied for refugee status. A total of 130 North Korean defectors were granted refugee status in Britain last year, but all of them had already obtained South Korean citizenship, according to a report by the U.S.-based radio broadcaster Voice of America.

The defectors are said to have chosen to live in Britain after failing to adapt to life in South Korea.

In the fourth quarter of 2007, 245 North Koreans applied for asylum in the UK, though according to a recent parliamentary written answer only one or two applications have been granted (the answer isn’t clear as to what period this covers). There are suspicions that many of the applicants are actually ethnic Koreans from the Yanbian Korean autonomous prefecture in China.

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4 thoughts on “North Koreans in Britain

  1. I asked the Home Office for more details of North Koreans in Britain but they were very cagey. All I got was the following statement, pinned on a UK Border Agency spokesperson:

    “We are aware of people who falsely claim to be refugees from North Korea and work to mitigate that.
    “Each case will continue to be dealt with on its individual merits. Where an applicant has no right to remain in the UK and is found to have the right to return to South Korea then, unless he leaves voluntarily, arrangements will be made to enforce removal there.”

    The Home Office spokesman said that if an alleged NK refugee turned out to be genuine, he/she would be allowed to stay but he wouldn’t tell me how many such people there were or where the fake ones were really from.

    Yonhap news agency report last month:

    Seoul to Accept London’s Request to Identify N.K. Asylum Seekers

    SEOUL (Yonhap) — Seoul has decided to cooperate in London’s efforts to identify some 450 people who sought asylum in Britain claiming they are North Korean defectors, a Foreign Ministry official said on July 19.

    혻 혻 The government will run the fingerprints of the applicants through its database in Seoul in order to check whether the applicants have already obtained South Korean citizenship, the official said, requesting anonymity.

    혻혻 “In Britain, there are about 850 people presumed to be North Korean defectors, among whom 450 or more have applied for refugee status,” the official said. “The British government sought our cooperation to confirm if the applicants are genuinely North Korean defectors.”

    혻혻 The South Korean Foreign Ministry made the decision after having consultations with related government offices, officials said. The National Police Agency, the country’s top police body, had opposed cooperation, saying personal information of citizens should not be provided to a foreign country unless the people in question are criminals, they said.

    혻혻 “What we will hand over is not the entire personal information of certain civilians but information on whether fingerprints sent from the British government are identical to those in our database or not,” one of the officials said. That information would greatly influence the chance of the applicants getting refugee status in Britain, he added.

    혻혻 A total of 130 North Korean defectors were granted refugee status in Britain last year but all of them had already obtained South Korean citizenship, according to the U.S.-based radio broadcaster Voice of America. They are known to have chosen to live in a third country after failing to adapt to life in South Korea.

    On a slightly lighter note the BBC hospital soap Holby City had a storyline a few weeks ago about an apparently Chinese asylum seeker who was expecting conjoined twins. It turned out she and her husband were really North Korean and devout Christians, had escaped from NK by train (unlikely) with the help of other underground Christians in NK. The evil hospital manager wanted to hand them over to immigration because of the financial implications and expecting conjoined twins wasn’t in itself a medical emergency, but the other staff supported the couple and the hospital decided not to hand them over in the end. I think this storyline continued for at least one more episode but my devotion to HC is slightly limited… Anyhow thanks to Philip for mentioning this on LKL.

  2. Thanks for your dedication in watching Holby City! When Louise is watching Casualty, that’s prime blogging time for me.

    I was wondering what the secret story line was going to be about.

  3. The following additional info comes from Jim Hoare via Michael Rank:

    There’s a charity in Kingston which looks after refugees, some of whom are North Korean or Chosonjok:

    Refugee Action Kingston
    Siddeley House, 50 Canbury Park Rd.,
    Kingston upon Thames, KT2 6LX,
    tel. 0208 547 0115, fax 0208 547 1114,
    e-mail admin [at] refugeeactionkingston dot org dot uk and webpage
    http://www.refugeeactionkingston.org.uk

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