A North Korean defector who was reported to have sought refuge at the South Korean consulate in Hong Kong has “safely arrived in a third country,” according to a South Korean broadcaster.

The YTN channel quoted a source as saying that the student wanted to continue his studies in a third country, and he was sent to one with the third country’s approval. The report did not mention how the student left Hong Kong and which country he went to.

The defector is reportedly a North Korean student, aged 18, who attended the 57th Mathematical Olympiad at the Hong Kong University of Science and Technology between July 6 and 16. At the end of last month, reports emerged about his defection in Hong Kong.

North Korea
North Korean contestants. Photo: Facebook.

YTN, or Yonhap Television News, is one of the largest TV news channels in South Korea. It was founded in 1993 as a subsidiary of the Yonhap News Agency, the country’s public news agency, and was later privatised.

The South Korean Consulate-General did not confirm at any point that a defector was inside their doors in Admiralty. But security measures in its surrounding area were temporarily heightened after reports came out last month.

Asked about the latest developments, a woman who picked up the phone at the consulate said she had no knowledge of the matter.

Far East Finance Centre
The South Korean Consulate-General is inside the Far East Finance Centre. Photo: Wikicommons.

Owen Lau Kwun-hang, co-founder of the North Korean Defectors Concern group, told HKFP that he found the news very sudden.

He said he did not hear any news about the defector from his contacts in the past few days. “Why did China suddenly agree to this?” he asked.

“But it is the best arrangement if it is true,” he added.

If reports are true, it would be the second case of North Korean defectors seeking refuge in Hong Kong. In 1996, a family of 16 from North Korea sought refuge in Hong Kong.

The news came after the defection of Tae Yong-ho, a minister at the North Korean embassy in London, to South Korea last week.

Kris Cheng is a Hong Kong journalist with an interest in local politics. His work has been featured in Washington Post, Public Radio International, Hong Kong Economic Times and others. He has a BSSc in Sociology from the Chinese University of Hong Kong. Kris is HKFP's Editorial Director.