South Korea will send home all six North Korean sailors recently rescued from the East Sea in accordance with their free will, a Ministry of Unification official said Tuesday.
The North Korean sailors aboard two fishing boats were adrift in South Korean waters on May 27, when they were all rescued by the South Korean Coast Guard.
|Ministry of Unification (Yonhap)|
"All of the six North Korean sailors rescued said they want to return home, and they are in good condition," the Unification Ministry official said. "They will be transferred to (the North Korean side) on board a ship at around 9:00 a.m. Wednesday through the Northern Limit Line in the East Sea."
One of the two North Korean ships was irrecoverably broken and all the sailors will go home aboard the other ship, according to the official.
Earlier in the day, the ministry tried to inform the North of the repatriation through several contact points, but the North did not respond, the official said.
"If North Korea remains unresponsive, the ministry will try to inform it again in the afternoon through the United Nations Command Military Armistice Commission," the official said, referring to the South Korea-based U.N. body in charge of supervising the armistice with North Korea.
North Korean ships have often been rescued in the NLL area in the past, the de facto maritime demarcation line between the two Koreas. South Korea returns home those who wish to go back to the North but allows those who seek asylum to stay in the South.
Any trips between the two Koreas are not permitted without prior approval from the South Korean government since the two countries are technically at war since the 1950-53 Korean War ended in an armistice, not a peace treaty. (Yonhap)