South Korea said Wednesday it plans to repatriate eight recently rescued North Korean fishermen across the de facto maritime border in waters off the country's east coast this week.
Earlier in the day, the government notified North Korea of its plan to send them back Thursday, but North Korea did not respond, according to the Ministry of Unification.
A ship carrying the North Koreans was found drifting near Ulleung Island in the East Sea on June 23 suffering from an engine breakdown. All of them voiced their wishes to go home.
The ministry said that it will once again notify the North of its plan later in the day, with the help from the United Nations commission in charge of supervising the inter-Korean armistice.
"As the ship (is fixed), the South Korean Coast Guard plans to hand them over to North Korea across the Northern Limit Line in the East Sea at around 9:00 a.m. Thursday," Lee Duk-haeng, ministry spokesman, told a regular press briefing.
As North Korea cut off two inter-Korean communication channels last year, Seoul uses loudspeakers installed along the inter-Korean border or gets help from the UN commission when it notifies the North of its plans to repatriate rescued North Koreans.
South Korea has sent back fishermen who drifted into its waters in the past after making certain they did not wish to defect.
South Korea has rescued North Korean ships going astray on five occasions so far this year. Thirteen fishermen were sent back home and two chose to defect to South Korea, the ministry said.
South and North Korea are technically still at war after the 1950-53 Korean War ended in a truce, not a peace treaty. (Yonhap)