9 N.Koreans Defect at Sea

      March 25, 2011 09:02

      Nine North Koreans defected on the high seas early Thursday morning by boarding a South Korean ship. It was the second defection at sea since December 2009.

      The nine, apparently led by a 37 year old from Ryanggang Province, boarded a rented wooden boat at an eastern port in China at around 2:20 a.m. on Wednesday and traveled to a point 210 km off the coast of Gunsan, where they had arranged to meet with Kim Sung-eun, a South Korean pastor and activist, and Song Sung-kook (37), a North Korean who had defected earlier.

      North Korean defectors board a South Korean ship on the high seas early Thursday morning. /Courtesy of pastor Kim Sung-eun

      Kim and Song convinced the captain of a 20-ton fiberglass trawler to travel to the meeting point despite concerns over dangerous weather from Gunsan port at around 4 p.m. on Wednesday. Twelve hours later they were able to dock with the North Koreans. The South Korean ship was then guided back to Gunsan by maritime police.

      The group includes three direct descendents of a North Korean freedom fighter, a couple and their six-year-old daughter, and one Pyongyang resident.

      "We could not ignore the desperate pleas of church members who defected from North Korea to bring over family members they had left behind in the North," Kim said. "Most of the defectors this time had become disillusioned with the regime."

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