December 20, 2016 10:13
Seoul on Monday sent eight North Korean fishermen home after they were rescued from their drifting ships in the East Sea last week.
"We handed eight North Korean crewmen and two boats over to North Korean authorities at sea this monring," Unification Ministry spokesman Jeong Joon-hee told reporters Monday.
Coast guards on Dec. 11 and 12 came upon harrowing scenes when they found three boats adrift and a dozen fishermen dead of starvation and exposure. They had apparently been at sea for up to three months. One of the boats was beyond repair and scuttled at sea.
All the rescued crewmen wanted to return home. Seoul repeatedly tried to contact North Korean authorities through various channels, but Pyongyang had severed all hotlines after South Korean businesses were pulled out of the joint Kaesong Industrial Complex in February.
Eventually South Korean officials had to resort to loudhailers in the border truce village of Panmunjom. A North Korean guard on duty at Panmunjom videotaped the scene and reported it to his superiors.
North Korean authorities did not respond until early Monday morning but sent two patrol vessels and two tugboats to a point in international waters near the Northern Limit Line.
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