BEIJING, Nov. 18 (UPI) -- A group of North Korean defectors who were being smuggled across the China-Vietnam border have been detained, and are at risk of being repatriated to North Korea.
A South Korean government official who spoke to News 1 on the condition of anonymity said 10 defectors in total were taken into custody in the Mong Cai region of northern Vietnam. All have been sent back to China, and 9 of the 10 are at risk of being repatriated to North Korea, South Korean outlet Newsis reported.
The arrests were made on Oct. 23, according to the source, and one defector held a Chinese passport, and is not at risk of refoulement. The defector, according to Newsis, was a minor and a naturalized Chinese citizen.
The other nine defectors were being detained in the Chinese city of Dongxing in Guangxi province, adjacent to the border with Vietnam. They were last seen at the airport, according to News 1's source, and are likely to be repatriated to North Korea for crossing the border without authorization.
The group includes a captain of the North Korean army, and a family of three that includes a 1-year-old child, the source said. It is likely the group was seeking asylum in South Korea through an embassy in Vietnam.
China does not recognize North Koreans in their country as refugees, and undocumented North Korean nationals are sent back to North Korea if caught. In July, the United Nations requested China explain its decision to repatriate 29 North Korean defectors in August 2014. Beijing has not responded to the query.
The Seoul official said the South Korean government has contacted China and had requested diplomatic cooperation on the defectors.