Security was tightened at the South Korean consulate in Hong Kong on Thursday after media reports that a North Korean, possibly a student, had sought refuge there.
The North Korean is understood to be a member of a delegation that attended an academic competition at a Hong Kong university two weeks ago, the South China Morning Post said, citing government sources in the Chinese-ruled city.
Other media said the North Korean was an 18-year-old student who was attending a mathematics competition and was from a family with a military background.
North and South Korea remain technically at war, and the reports of a possible defection are bound to exacerbate tensions.
Uniformed and plainclothes police were patrolling around the office building near the heart of Hong Kong's financial center where the South Korean consulate is located. Scores of reporters thronged the building.
Local government and consulate officials declined comment.