The long route from North Korea to South Korea

Two days back, a combined force of Thai Navy, police and local Task force came across a group of 15 North Korean refugees during a routine patrol in northern Thailand, as the North Koreans were walking from a Mekong river bank.

North Koreans typically use the border area in Chiang Rai as a base for entering Thailand. More than 5,000 North Koreans have been arrested in Chiang Rai over the past five years and charged with illegal entry.

north korean defector route

These refugees escape North Korea and enter China where they may stay for a week to 6 months while they gather sufficient funds from various help organizations and then get onto the waiting list. It’s then about a ten day trip down through China and Laos. Then a short overnight 5 hour minivan ride through Laos and then smuggled across the Mekong and into Chiang Khong, where they cross the river.

If they are caught in either China of Laos they are deported back to North Korea. But once the North Koreans make it across the river they are usually eventually transported to the South Korean Embassy in Bangkok. Once into the South Korean Embassy in Bangkok, they may ultimately be provided air transportation to Seoul.

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