N.Korea Frees S.Korean Fishermen

      August 31, 2009 08:09

      Four South Korean fishermen who had been towed to North Korea after crossing the border in the East Sea on July 30 safely returned home Saturday. Their release was the latest episode in new friendly signs from the North.

      Sokcho Coast Guard took over the crew and their boat, the 800 Yeonan, from North Korean authorities at the Northern Limit Line some 29 km northeast of Jejin Port in Gangwon Province around 5 p.m. The captain and crew are reportedly in good condition.

      An investigation team of National Intelligence Agency, military and coast guard officers is questioning the fishermen at a military camp near Sokcho to find out how they crossed the NLL in the first place and what detention in North Korea was like.

      Released South Korean fishermen, who were towed to the North, wave their hands at Sokcho port after they returned to the South on Saturday.

      North Korea's official Rodong Sinmun daily on Saturday appeared to call for inter-Korean talks to implement the June 15, 2000 North-South Joint Declaration and the Oct. 4, 2007 Joint Declaration. "There is no distinction between the government and the private sector in implementing North-South joint declarations," it said.

      North Korean weekly Tongil Shinbo the same day said a meeting between President Lee Myung-bak and a North Korean delegation who attended to the funeral of former President Kim Dae-jung was "fortunate for the entire nation and a welcoming event opening a new horizon in inter-Korean relations."

      "Normalizing the North-South relations is a national request and an urgent demand of the times," it said. "A breakthrough for a new turn in North-South relations has already been found." The word "normalize" recurred four times.

      A South Korean official on Sunday said, "It seems North Korea has recently launched a heavy charm offensive. The first priority should be given to ascertaining North Korea's sincerity."

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