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N.K. to return six S. Koreans

North Korea said it would return home on Friday six South Koreans who have been in the communist country for as long as 44 months, the Unification Ministry said Thursday.

In February 2010, the North revealed that it had four South Koreans in custody but kept mum about their identities. The other two went north some time after that date, a ministry official said.

Pyongyang again raised the issue in June this year when state media accused Seoul of “abandoning and saying not a single word about several of its citizens who were caught illegally crossing the border.”

“We regret that North Korea has not responded to our repeated calls for identification. Though late, we are glad that the North has come to take steps in a humanitarian manner,” the official told reporters on condition of anonymity due to the sensitivity of the issue.

The six men are aged between 27 and 67. Two each are in their 40s and 60s and one in his 50s.

It remains unclear why and how the six people arrived there.

The ministry said it planned to take them over from the border village of Panmunjeom.

The message from the North was written under the name of chief of the North Korean Red Cross’s central committee and delivered through the Panmunjeom telephone channel.

By Shin Hyon-hee (
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Korea Herald daum