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S. Korean fishermen held in North Korea return home

A Russian fishing vessel and its crew, including two South Koreans, held by North Korea have returned home, the Ministry of Unification said Sunday.

The South Korean fishermen were held in North Korea along with 15 Russian crew members, after their ship Xiang Hai Lin 8 was seized by North Korea’s coast guard in the country’s northeastern waters on July 17. 

Xiang Hai Lin 8 is mooored in Sokcho, Gangwon Province on Sunday. Yonhap
Xiang Hai Lin 8 is mooored in Sokcho, Gangwon Province on Sunday. Yonhap

The Russian crab fishing boat arrived in Sokcho in South Korea’s Gangwon Province at about 1 p.m. on Sunday, after having left Wonsan on the North Korean part of Gangwon Province at about 7 p.m. on Saturday, the ministry said. All crew members are said to be in good health.

The ministry said it regards their release by the North as “positive from a humanitarian point of view.”

Xiang Hai Lin 8 was seized by North Korea on July 17, a day after it set out from Sokcho. The ship is said to have developed an engine failure, and drifted into North Korean waters when it was taken.

According to the Russian news agency Tass, North Korean Foreign Ministry representatives cited “entry violations and stay in North Korea” for taking the vessel.

The news agency also quoted a Russian crew member as saying that the ship was released without any fines, and that everyone aboard is “feeling well.”

South Korean authorities became aware of the situation on July 18, and attempted to communicate with their North Korean counterparts through the liaison office in Kaesong.

The North, however, did not respond, forcing Seoul to seek cooperation with Moscow on the matter.

According to the Russian Embassy in North Korea, two of the Russian crew members, including the captain, and the two South Koreans were moved to a hotel in Wonsan, while the remaining crew remained aboard the ship. During their stay at the hotel, the four were questioned by North Korean authorities before they returned to the ship around Friday.

By Choi He-suk (