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N. Korea agrees to partial repatriation of its nationals in S. Korea

North Korea agreed Tuesday to the repatriation of only 27 of its 31 nationals held in South Korea after their wooden boat drifted to the South last month, withdrawing its earlier demand that all of them, including four who have expressed their wish to defect, be returned, officials said.

The agreement, expressed through the Red Cross channel of the two countries, ends the deadlock that has lasted since South Korea told North Korea more than a week ago that it would repatriate only 27 of the 31 North Koreans who came here on a fishing boat on Feb. 5.

The North Korean Red Cross sent a message to its South Korean counterpart on Tuesday that the 27 be returned by sea, according to Unification Ministry officials here.

The South, citing bad weather in the Yellow Sea through which they came, replied that it will repatriate them through a truce village straddling the countries on Wednesday, the officials said.

(Yonhap News)

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