Fishing boat from North Korea drifts near Yeonpyeong

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Fishing boat from North Korea drifts near Yeonpyeong

A group of 31 North Koreans in a fishing boat floated into South Korean waters Sunday morning, raising questions about how they ended up there.

The 5-ton boat was discovered drifting near Yeonpyeong Island, 1.6 miles south of the Northern Limit Line, said an official from the Joint Chiefs of Staff yesterday.

The island was the site of a North Korean attack last year.

According to the military source, the ship was caught in the tidal current near the island. There were 11 men and 20 women aboard the boat.

The Navy broadcast warnings, then dispatched a rigid-hulled inflatable boat to the site.

South Korean officials searched the boat and towed it to Incheon after questioning those onboard, said the military official.

Authorities believe the boat drifted to Yeonpyeong Island while fishing out at sea. There have been several similar cases of fishing boats crossing the inter-Korean border accidentally.

“At the time the sea fog was very dense and there was a very strong current,” said a government source, who added that the North Korean boat was stranded in “very shallow waters.”

After being taken in for questioning, none of the people expressed any desire to defect and were planning to be returned to the North at Panmunjom while their ship will be returned to North Korean waters across the disputed maritime border in the West Sea, according to the government source.

The Ministry of Unification declined to speak on the matter yesterday. The government has been careful in discussing such incidents, since large groups of North Korean people on boats have decided to defect after crossing the border. In 2009, 11 North Koreans fled in a boat on the eastern coast of the peninsula, while in 2002, 21 North Koreans defected on a fishing boat in the West Sea.


By Christine Kim [christine.kim@joongang.co.kr]

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