North defector was holed up for 80 days

Top News | Chan Ho-him 29 Sep 2016

An 18-year-old North Korean defector resided inside the South Korean consulate in Hong Kong for about 80 days, including briefly living like a refugee in a conference room, according to FactWire.

South Korean press quoted sources as saying that the defector, Jong Yol Ri, had left the SAR at the end of last month.

But FactWire - a Kowloon-based investigative news agency - said he remained at the consulate in Admiralty for most of this month, until arrangements were made to fly him to South Korea last weekend.

Jong sought asylum at the consulate while participating in an international maths contest in July, raising a political storm in Hong Kong and triggering the deployment of heavily armed police to guard the consulate.

While he was believed to have left Hong Kong shortly after, FactWire said it took footage between late August and early September from outside the Far East Finance Centre, where the consulate is located, showing him spending the nights on his own inside.

The footage showed Jong multiple times behind loose blinds slats, walking around or tidying his clothes in a brightly lit room.

He was provided with new clothes, as well as electronic games to help him pass the time, FactWire reported. One night he was seen putting on a formal attire.

The teenager had reportedly received around-the-clock protection during his stay. Security around the consulate was stepped up, with observation posts set up and plainclothes and counter-terrorism police officers patrolling the building.

FactWire said Jong was moved from the conference room on the fifth floor to the sixth floor of the center, where only consulate staff members who go through fingerprint recognition are allowed to enter.

It also said an official from South Korea's embassy in Beijing, An Jae Su, came to Hong Kong last month and met with officials from the Office of the Commissioner of the Ministry of Foreign Affairs in Hong Kong and the Immigration Department to discuss Jong's departure.

The South Korean consulate in Hong Kong declined to comment when contacted by The Standard. A spokesman said the SAR government had "no information to provide on the matter."

Jong, who attended the 57th Mathematical Olympiad at the University of Science and Technology, held between July 6 and 16, had sought refuge at the consulate after the contest before he was found missing. Reports of a North Korean defector seeking asylum at the consulate emerged in late July.

South Korea's Yonhap Television News late last month quoted a source as saying that Jong had left Hong Kong to continue his studies "in a third country."

Jong was the first North Korean known to seek refuge in Hong Kong since 1997.

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