A 17-year-old boy claims that he crossed a frozen river and crossed two continents by car and rail to escape from North Korea and arrive in Sweden. Unfortunately, he didn’t bring along any documentation, and Swedish authorities suspect he is really from China.
The boy is using the alias Han Song, fearing North Korean agents’ reprisals.
Song told Reuters, “I can’t speak Chinese. But it’s hard for me to prove anything.”
According to the news outlet, the teenager spoke with a heavy North Korean accent.
Sadly, North Korea is a closed country, and for the hundreds of people who escape each year, it’s nearly impossible to prove their stories. For Han Song, that story is both amazing and tragic.
According to the Strait Times, Han claims he was born in rural Songbuk. The county sits in the corner of North Korea next to the Tumen River, which divides China and the hermit kingdom.
His mother died from a stomach ailment when he was seven years old.
Authorities caught Han’s father and imprisoned him for criticizing North Korea’s former dictator Kim Jong Il.
Song says, “I ran away from the village after that and roamed around as a ‘kotjebi.'”
Kotjebi is a Korean word to describe orphaned street children. Like most Kotjebi, Han says he begged for food to survive, or had to forage on the fringes of markets to find scraps.
Then, his journey began.
A friendly North Korean smuggler who sold basic commodities from China arranged for the boy to be shipped out of North Korea. Han claimed that he crossed the frozen Tumen River on a cold night in March, 2013.
As previously reported on the Inquisitr, the frozen Tumen River lacks security measures in rural areas, allowing refugees – and criminals – to enter China from North Korea.
Song stayed in a safe house provided by a “broker” while they prepared fake documents to get him through two continents. He then spent a week on a train traveling through Russia to the Finnish border.
When he got there, Han hid in a truck to go the rest of the way to Sweden, where he is now requesting asylum.
The only problem is, Swedish officials don’t buy his story.
To figure out Han’s nationality, the Swedish Migration Board relied on Sprakab, a company that uses language tests and other methods to verify nationality. Unfortunately, Sprakab could not conclusively prove Han’s North Korean origin.
If Han or Swedish authorities cannot prove his nationality in the next four years, he’ll be allowed to stay in Sweden for humanitarian reasons.
Still, many fear that Han will be sent to China, or worse, and have started a petition to make sure he is not deported. The petition, which can be found here, already has 14,000 signatures.
As a last resort, the Citizen’s Alliance for North Korean Human Rights, an NGO in Seoul, has asked the South Korean government to take Han if Sweden threatens to deport him.
[Image Credit: Expert Infantry/Flickr]