Rescued North Korean fishermen return home
December 19, 2016
SEOUL, South Korea — Eight North Korean fishermen have been repatriated a week after they were found adrift at sea and rescued by maritime police in South Korea.
North Korean patrol ships and tug boats were waiting at the de facto maritime border off the east coast Monday morning and towed the men and two of their boats across, according to the Unification Ministry, which overseas inter-Korean affairs.
The men had all expressed a desire to return home, but South Korean officials said they were unable to reach anybody on the other side to make arrangements. They finally resorted to broadcasting an appeal via loudspeakers in the Demilitarized Zone that divides the peninsula.
The fishermen were found adrift in three fishing boats that had embarked from North Korea in mid-September, mid-November and late November. Some others were believed to have starved to death according to the survivors’ accounts, but no bodies were found, the ministry said.
The countries, which remain technically at war after the 1950-53 conflict ended with an armistice instead of a peace treaty, severed communications earlier this year as tensions rose over North Korea’s nuclear weapons program.
Ministry spokesman Jeong Joon-hee said the South tried to call several times on hotlines, but nobody picked up. He said another call was attempted Sunday night.
“North Korea didn’t respond,” Jeong said during a regular briefing, adding that the message from the loudspeaker broadcasts apparently had been relayed. “They just came out as notified through Panmunjom.”
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