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‘21 N. Koreans cross sea border into South’

A group of 21 North Koreans was found drifting aboard a boat off South Korea’s west coast earlier last week, officials said Saturday, the latest in a string of defections by North Koreans.

The five-ton wooden boat carrying the North Korean family members, including children, was spotted by sailors on a South Korean Navy vessel in the Yellow Sea on Sunday, the officials said, speaking on condition of anonymity.

The boat was drifting in waters some 38 kilometers south of the tense western maritime border, surrounded by Chinese fishing boats, indicating the defectors intended to hide from view of the North Korean authorities.

The North Koreans expressed their wish to defect to officers from the Korea Coast Guard, and were transferred to a patrol ship to be taken to a nearby dock in Incheon, west of Seoul, for questioning by South Korean officials.

Chronic food shortages and harsh political oppression in the North have forced more than 22,000 North Koreans to defect to South Korea since the 1950-53 Korean War. Most North Koreans cross the country’s land border with China to reach the South, with some choosing to take the sea route.

It is the fourth time this year North Korean defectors have arrived in the South by crossing the Yellow Sea border. 

(Yonhap News)
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