North Korea promised to release six detained South Koreans on Friday afternoon through the truce village of Panmunjom, a Unification Ministry official said Thursday.
The six South Koreans, who are believed to be evangelical missionaries, were arrested for unknown reasons starting in 2010.
The ministry identified them only by their surnames Kim (44), Song (27), Yoon (67), Lee (65), Chung (43) and Hwang (56) although the North gave it their full names.
Once they return they will be questioned why they went to the North in the first place and what they did there.
"On Feb. 26, 2010, the North said it had arrested four South Koreans for illegal entry and was investigating them," a government official said. "Four of the six are presumed to be the same people."
At the time, Seoul asked Pyongyang who they are but got no answer.
The other two are believed to have gone to the North later.
Another government official said none of the six appear to have been kidnapped.
Back in June, the North Korean Red Cross said several South Koreans had been arrested for illegal entry.
Pundits believe the North is releasing the six to make the climate more conducive to dialogue, including six-party nuclear talks and efforts to revive lucrative package tours to Mt. Kumgang.
In other signs that it is trying to create a friendlier cross-border atmosphere, the North accepted an application from the National Assembly’s Foreign Affairs and Unification Committee to visit the joint-Korean Kaesong Industrial Complex for a parliamentary audit next Wednesday.
Twenty-four committee members and their staff have applied to visit to the industrial park. If the audit goes through it will be the first since February last year.