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2009/07/27 15:33 KST
(LEAD) N. Korean asylum seeker rejected by S. Korean culture center in Beijing

SEOUL, July 27 (Yonhap) -- A North Korean defector repeatedly requested asylum at the South Korean cultural center in Beijing earlier this month but the facility rejected her request, a diplomatic source said Monday.

   The woman, whose details including name and age were withheld, entered the center on July 6 and 7, seeking asylum.

   But the South Korean facility turned her away, according to the source, saying it has no right and capability to protect her.

   Foreign diplomatic missions are able to exercise extraterritoriality for North Korean defectors who enter their facilities but a cultural center has no such rights, the source said, explaining the reason for the expulsion.

   Hundreds of thousands of North Koreans are believed to be staying in China after fleeing their hunger-stricken homeland. China, North Korea's main ally, recognizes them not as refugees but as economic migrants. Beijing has an agreement with Pyongyang to repatriate such defectors.

   Until several years ago, North Koreans often attempted to enter foreign diplomatic offices in China in a desperate bid for asylum but it has become increasingly difficult for them to do so as the Chinese authorities have beefed up security for those facilities.