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Investigators quiz four freed fishermen

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Aug 31,2009
Four fishermen and their boat arrive at the South’s Sokcho harbor, Gangwon, on Saturday night after a month of captivity in North Korea. [YONHAP]
Four fishermen detained in North Korea for 30 days after crossing a maritime border returned to South Korean soil on Saturday.

North Korea handed over the fishing vessel and its crew to a South Korean patrol boat at 5 p.m. at the eastern sea border. The four men were greeted by their families after arriving at Sokcho harbor, Gangwon, three hours later. “I’m sorry for causing so much concern,” said Park Kwang-seon, the boat’s captain, upon arrival at the harbor.

When questioned by journalists why he and his crew crossed the maritime border on July 30, Park said he will “thoroughly explain to the South’s investigation authorities.”

An investigator at the Korea Coast Guard said the freed fishermen are in good condition. “The crew had no problem sailing the boat from North Korea to Sokcho harbor,” he said.

The men were later questioned by investigators over the incident.

The Lee Myung-bak administration welcomed the North’s actions.

“Though the release seems to be a bit late, it’s good that our boat and people have safely returned home on humanitarian grounds,” a government official said.

On July 30, the 29-ton boat Yeonan crossed the Northern Limit Line on the east coast after its satellite navigation apparently broke down. The Yeonan and its crew were picked up by a North Korean patrol boat and accused of “intruding on North Korean waters.”

The release comes days after a North Korean delegation visited Seoul to pay respects to the late former President Kim Dae-jung, who died on Aug. 18. Five days earlier the North released a Hyundai Asan worker detained for criticizing the communist regime.

The North’s conciliatory mood stands in stark contrast to the brittle relations that have characterized inter-Korean relations since President Lee Myung-bak took office. Lee has vowed he will take a tougher stance on North Korea than his recent predecessors.


By Lee Young-jong, Kim Mi-ju [mijukim@joongang.co.kr]





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