HONG KONG: A North Korean student in Hong Kong for an international math contest is seeking asylum in the city, media reports said on Thursday.
The 18-year-old male student, who was not identified, took refuge at the South Korean consulate in Hong Kong, according to local newspaper Ming Pao.
The student was part of an official delegation in Hong Kong this month for the International Mathematical Olympiad at the Hong Kong University of Science and Technology (HKUST).
Walk-in defections are relatively common at South Korean missions in Southeast Asian countries like Vietnam, Cambodia, Laos and Thailand, which are the target destination for North Koreans escaping their country through China.
But defections by members of official delegations traveling abroad are rare, because they are carefully vetted before being granted exit visas and closely monitored during their stay overseas.
Officials declined to comment on the reports that the student had defected during his visit for the math competition.
“We will not give any response in relation to the issue,” a South Korea consulate officer, who did not give her name, told Agence France-Presse.
There was a cordon Thursday morning in front of the lift to the floor of the building where the consulate is located, and an AFP reporter was stopped by guards from going up.
A city police spokeswoman said there is “no information” to provide, while HKUST also declined to comment.
Hong Kong has a semi-autonomous status after being returned from Britain to China in 1997.