Posted July. 31, 2009 08:50,
A South Korean fishing boat with four crew members was dragged to North Korea yesterday after crossing the inter-Korean border in the East Sea.
According to the South Korean military, the 29-ton boat 800 Yeonan-ho was seized by a North Korean patrol boat at 6:27 a.m. after straying into North Korean waters in the East Sea. The North Korean vessel dragged the fishing boat to the North Korean port of Changjon.
A Seoul official said a South Korean patrol vessel found an unidentified boat across the Northern Limit Line around 5:05 a.m. Authorities sought to confirm if it was a South Korean ship but received no reply.
After entering North Korean waters, the boat made wireless contact with a South Korean fisheries information bureau around 6:20 a.m., saying it discovered a North Korean patrol ship while returning to the South because of a malfunction in its global positioning system. Several minutes later, a South Korean naval vessel found the boat being dragged by the North Korean patrol ship.
The South Korean Navy dispatched two high-speed boats to the scene around 6:30 a.m. and sent a message to the North through an international maritime communication line. The North, however, failed to reply to the request for the immediate release of the crew and the boat.
In Seoul, the Unification Ministry also used an inter-Korean hotline to urge the North to send the boat and crew back.
Around 3 p.m., North Korea said their authorities were investigating the situation, ministry officials said. The North confirmed its detention of the South Korean vessel and said an investigation was underway.
The ministry said the South asked the North to provide further information about the fishing boat, to which the North agreed.
In 2005, a South Korean fishing boat strayed into North Korean waters before being repatriated after five days. Another met the same fate a year later and was returned after 18 days.