South Korea rescued three North Koreans who were drifting at sea and two of them want to stay in the South, officials said Monday, which would likely produce an angry response from Pyongyang.
The men were rescued off the South's eastern coast on Saturday and while two want to stay, one said he wished to return to the North, Seoul's Unification Ministry said in a statement.
Defections are a source of conflict between the Koreas. Seoul returns those who wish to return home but accepts those who choose to resettle in the South, but North Korea insists defectors are coerced.
Pyongyang asked in a telephone call that Seoul immediately return all three crewmembers, the ministry said. The South will send the man back to the North on Tuesday.
A ministry press official who refused to be identified because of office rules said it wasn't clear when the men left North Korea or what they were doing. The men are in their 20s or 30s and were drifting with a wooden vessel, the official said.
Relations between the Koreas have been poor in recent weeks. North Korea has staged missile and artillery tests and warships from the countries exchanged artillery fire near a disputed maritime boundary; there was no bloodshed. Pyongyang has also unleashed racist and sexist rhetoric in its state media against the leaders of Washington and Seoul. (AP)