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31 sea border-crossing N. Koreans to be repatriated

Posted February. 08, 2011 13:31,   


Thirty-one North Koreans who were on a boat that crossed the inter-Korean sea border near Yeonpyeong Island in the Yellow Sea Saturday will be repatriated, a South Korean military official said Monday.

The North Koreans departed from the village of Tongpo-ri in Kangryong County, South Hwanghae Province. The five-ton wooden boat with no nameplate reportedly drifted to South Korean waters due to strong currents.

Seoul`s joint interrogation team questioned the 31 North Koreans. A few of them initially expressed intent to defect but the final confirmation suggested that all 31 seek to return home.

A South Korean official said, "Individual investigations on the people could end Monday night," adding, "As soon as our probes end, we plan to repatriate all 31 back to the North."

Chances are high that they will be repatriated to the North via the truce village of Panmunjom. The timing of their handover will likely coincide with inter-Korean military talks to open at 10 a.m. Tuesday.

A government source in Seoul said Pyongyang will likely demand their repatriation at the military talks.

A South Korean official said Monday, "The wooden boat floated to the South as its motor failed to resist the currents and eventually crossed the Northern Limit Line," adding, "The North Korean fishing boat continued to drift southward and came to a stop at waters 2.96 kilometers off the NLL. The sea was at ebb tide at that moment and the boat was suspended in a swallow tidal flat."

"Since 31 people were aboard the boat, the South Korean Navy immediately transported them to Incheon rather than Yeonpyeong Island."

Tongpo-ri is famous for indigenous clamshells and as a habitat of red-crowned cranes. Kangryong County also has Gaemeori Fortress, from which the North Korean military launched shelling attacks on Yeonpyeong in November last year.