"[The group] includes a 17-year-old artist whose drawings depicting life in North Korea could subject the family to punishment if they are returned to their country," UNHCR spokesman Ron Redmond told journalists today in Geneva, adding that the family of seven members, including three women, had been in China since 1999.
"We believe that these people deserve asylum and we are seeking assistance to find a solution for them with all concerned authorities," the spokesman said. "This is the first time North Koreans have come to the UNHCR office in Beijing to request asylum."
According to the UN agency, many nationals from the Democratic People's Republic of Korea enter China every year.
"This is just the tip of an iceberg," Mr. Redmond said. "There have been reports of large numbers of North Koreans entering China, but we have had limited access to them. Last year, seven North Koreans who had sought asylum in China and subsequently turned up in Russia were returned to North Korea. We have had no further reports on their fate in North Korea."