A group of 159 North Korean defectors who fled oppression from the communist country, and were detained in Thailand a month ago, have been freed and will soon be allowed to leave the country, a U.N. official said.
According to Kitty Mckinsey, a spokesman for the Bangkok office of the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR), the North Korean defectors, who were arrested in Thailand late last month for illegal entry into the Southeast Asian country, are taking necessary procedures to leave for a third country.
The spokesman did not elaborate on whether the third country was South Korea but noted that he hopes that they could leave for a third country as soon as possible.
A South Korea official, declining to be named, said that the Seoul government is willing to help those defectors come to South Korea if they want, adding that its basic stance is to respect their opinions.
According to Seoul's Unification Ministry, a growing number of North Koreans are defecting to South Korea. A total of 1,054 North Koreans have found their residence in the South in the first seven months of this year, up 60 percent from the same period of last year.