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SEOUL — Twenty-seven North Koreans who drifted into South Korean waters last month will be returned to the North as soon as their fishing boat is repaired, according to an official with the South’s Unification Ministry.

The North Koreans were supposed to be repatriated Thursday but the boat’s engine malfunctioned, the official said.

Thirty-one North Koreans accidentally crossed the maritime border Feb. 5, but four in the group decided to defect and stay in South Korea. The South tried to return the 27 at a border crossing at the Demilitarized Zone, but North Korea initially refused to accept them and demanded the return of the entire group.

North Korea said this week that it would allow the group to return without the defectors.

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