South Korea to protest to China over North refugees

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SEOUL, Oct 10 (Reuters) South Korea will lodge a protest with China today after security officials scuffled with its diplomats in Beijing trying to help a group of North Koreans defect, a government official said.

Four people believed to be North Korean refugees were arrested by Chinese security officials yesterday as they were seeking refugee inside a South Korean-run school in the Chinese capital, South Korea's Yonhap news agency said.

''We'll be summoning the Chinese side to express regret and ask for an explanation over the incident,'' a South Korean official said, requesting anonymity.

The four -- men and women -- entered the school, hid on its premises and then were chased to the roof by about 30 security personnel who later arrested them, Yonhap said.

North Korean defectors who reach South Korean-related offices in third countries are usually given passage to the South, where they are almost always granted citizenship.

But China, which typically sees the North Korean asylum seekers as economic refugees or illegal aliens, often returns them to the North, where they face imprisonment or even death.

REUTERS SZ DS1243

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