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5 N. Koreans defected by small boat via the East Sea

Posted July. 03, 2017 07:27,   

Updated July. 03, 2017 07:29


With a flurry of North Koreans having defected to South Korea in recent months, five North Koreans crossed the Northern Limit Line by a small fishing boat in the East Sea and expressed intentions to defect to the South on Saturday.

“We have spotted a small fishing boat carrying five North Koreans around 6:30 p.m. on Saturday, and all of them expressed intention to defect to the South,” the (South) Korea Coast Guard said. “The boat was not seen floating without power due to a broken engine or bad weather when it was spotted.”

The North Korean defectors are four males and one female, and will be probed about the reason for their defection in a joint interrogation by the South Korean government. In North Korea, women are not allowed to ride a small fishing boat. Considering this, chances are high that they are a single family and have thoroughly prepared for defection.

It is the second time this year that North Koreans have willingly defected from North Korea by boat, after the defection by the 50-something father and his 20-something son to the South via the East Sea on June 3. At the time, they left the port of Shinpo in South Hamkyong Province by a wooden boat around late May. Two North Korean soldiers also defected to the South in June. It is notable that defections through maritime routes by boat are taking place in the East Sea rather than the Yellow Sea. Defection via the East Sea is more difficult than via the Yellow Sea because the distance to the Northern Limit Line, de facto inter-Korean sea border, in the East Sea is longer. With two defections via the East Sea having happened in a matter of a month, attention is focusing on whether additional defections via a maritime route will happen again going forward.

Sung-Ha Joo zsh75@donga.com