Police caught 12 illegal Chinese migrants trying to fly to South Korea by pretending to be soccer fans headed for the World Cup tournament, according to a report by China Daily Saturday.
They were among 550 would-be migrants stopped since China launched a crackdown on migrant-smuggling April 1.
Members of the group bound for South Korea were caught June 12 at an airport in eastern China after questioning by police revealed that they knew little about soccer.
Thousands of Chinese traveled to South Korea for the World Cup this month, prompting police efforts to block migrants from using it as cover to slip into the country.
The migrants bound for South Korea were stopped at the airport in Yantai, a city in the eastern province of Shandong across the Yellow Sea from South Korea.
It said they told police they had paid smugglers 30,000 to 60,000 yuan (dlrs 3,600 to dlrs 7,200) to reach South Korea.
The migrants could be considered to have broken the law even before leaving China because they got travel documents under false pretenses.
The report cited information released by Go Xiqin, deputy director of border control for the Ministry of Public Security, during a visit this week to the southeastern province of Fujian, where many smuggling attempts originate.
In 2001, police detained 229 smugglers and 9,465 migrants.
Attempts by migrants have continued despite warnings by authorities that they face enslavement, rape or death at the hands of smuggling gangs.
In October 2001, two dozen migrants suffocated in their hiding place in the hull of a fishing boat bound for South Korea.