A teenager, who claims he escaped from North Korea by walking across a frozen river into China and crossing two continents by traveling in cars and trucks, is seeking asylum in Sweden. However, he has not been able to offer any evidence to prove his story and Swedish authorities suspect he is Chinese.
The 17-year-old, who uses a pseudonym "Han Song," is reportedly worried that Sweden might deport him to China. Han said, according to media reports, that he was born in Songbuk County, a rural area on the North Korea-China border. He reportedly also claimed he was a street child in the reclusive North Korea, where his mother had passed away when he was seven and his father was arrested for criticizing Kim Jong Il, who ruled before Kim Jong Un, North Korea’s current leader.
"I can't speak Chinese," Han told Reuters, adding: "But it's hard for me to prove anything. I ran away from the village after that, and roamed around as a 'kotjebi' (word used for homeless and orphan children)."
Han said, according to media reports, that a wealthy trader, who was his father’s former friend, came to his aid and made a deal with an ethnic Korean in China, who smuggled North Koreans into other countries. On a cold night in March 2013, Han reportedly claimed he sneaked into China by walking on the frozen Tumen River, where a car on the other side took him to a safe house with other refugees. He was then taken to Russia and further to Sweden, hiding on the back of a truck.
"The broker was always with me because I didn't know how to go about any of this (on my own)," Han said, according to Reuters, adding: "They made a fake document for me, I don't know if it was a fake passport or not."
The Swedish Migration Board, which refused his asylum plea last year, reportedly said that Sprakab, a company which the board uses to conduct language tests of asylum seekers, could not confirm his background. However, a woman working for the company had alleged in November that the firm twisted her words in the report, The Guardian had reported last year.
“I never said that he didn’t come from North Korea,” she said, according to The Guardian, adding: “What they are saying is wrong. It’s ridiculous.”
Han has not been able to prove his North Korean nationality, and the Swedish authorities have reportedly asked him to seek Chinese travel documents. However, Han will likely be allowed to stay in Sweden on humanitarian grounds if his identity is not proved within four years.
"If Sweden refuses to protect him, NKHR urges the South Korean government to seek the boy's deportation to South Korea," Citizen's Alliance for North Korean Human Rights (NKHR), a South Korean non-profit organization, which has taken up Han's case, said, according to Reuters.