North to release 7 captured fishermen

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North to release 7 captured fishermen

North Korea said yesterday that seven fishermen intercepted Aug. 8 by the North Korean navy will be released today along with their squid boat.

According to North Korea’s state-run news agency, North Korea made the decision after “considering [the fishermen’s] acknowledgement of the situation’s graveness, their promise never to repeat such a thing and also the South Korean Red Cross’ request to generously forgive and release them.”

“The South Korean fishing boat, Daesung 55, was caught by the DPRK’s navy after trespassing on our eastern economic waters and illegally operating,” the Korean Central News Agency continued, adding that its action “infringed upon their sovereignty.”

Shortly after the KCNA’s announcement, the unification ministry said that the fishermen would be released at the eastern military maritime border around 4 p.m., according to a North Korean notice sent through the Kaesong management committee to the Red Cross around 2 p.m. yesterday.

The release of the fishing boat comes 30 days after its capture and after much anticipation from family members of the crew.

An Wue-sang, 55, wife of the captain Kim Chil-ee, 58, said she was happy for her husband’s release after she received a call from the unification ministry yesterday afternoon.

“Thank you, thank you,” An said. “I’m so happy, I feel numb. I didn’t even dream that today would be so different from yesterday.”

An said she had been unable to eat since her husband’s capture. But now she was thinking of what to make for her husband’s first meal back with the family.

Gong Dong-geun, 32, the son of 60-year-old Gong Yeong-mok, who was also on board the Daeseung 55, said he “wishes to talk to his father about many things over a meal.”

The families of the fishermen delivered a petition to the government with 13,844 signatures of fishermen and employees from the National Federation of Fisheries Cooperatives demanding the crew’s swift return.

The 41-ton squid boat was captured last month with four South Korean and three Chinese crew members in waters off the eastern coast of the Korean Peninsula between the two Koreas. The South Korean government and Red Cross sent requests demanding the return of the sailors on Aug. 11 and 20.

By Christine Kim, Song Yee-ho []
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