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China arrests 14 North Koreans in northeast border area

All Headlines 15:42 June 16, 2011

SHENYANG, China, June 16 (Yonhap) -- China arrested 14 North Koreans in one of its northeastern border areas last month, sources said Thursday, as Beijing and Pyongyang intensified their crackdown on North Korean defectors.

The number of North Koreans fleeing their impoverished communist country has been on the rise in recent years amid chronic food shortages and harsh political oppression.

Tens of thousands of North Korean defectors are believed to be hiding in China, a major land route through which many North Koreans travel to Thailand and other Southeast Asian countries before resettling in South Korea.

China repatriates North Korean defectors back to their homeland where they could face harsh punishment and even execution, calling them "economic migrants," not refugees.

Chinese police apprehended the 14 North Koreans in Yanbian Korean Autonomous Prefecture near the border with North Korea late last month, the sources in Yanbian said, without elaborating.

A local newspaper in Yanbian also carried a similar report, saying the North Koreans had been hiding in a house.

The news of the arrests came a day after a North Korean family of nine, including four children, successfully sailed their boat into South Korean waters across the tense western sea border.

The North's state media has not yet mentioned the latest defection,

South Korea is now home to more than 21,000 North Korean defectors.

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