South rejects talk about 4 defectors

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South rejects talk about 4 defectors

South Korea yesterday rejected North Korea’s latest proposal for Red Cross talks to discuss the fate of four North Korean defectors whose fishing boat drifted across the tense western sea border to the South earlier this year.

In February, the boat carrying 31 North Koreans strayed into the southern waters.

Seoul sent 27 North Koreans back home last month, but the four others remained in the South after they expressed their desire to defect.

The North has since called for the repatriation of the four defectors, a demand that Seoul spurned.

The North’s Red Cross proposed holding talks with its South Korean counterpart in a message sent earlier yesterday, according to Unification Ministry spokesman Chun Hae-sung in Seoul.

The latest proposal came a day after Pyongyang accused Seoul of kidnapping the defectors and attempting to force them to stay.

On Thursday, the North held a press conference in which 10 repatriated citizens repeated the regime’s allegations, according to the North’s official Korean Central News Agency.

One of them, identified as Ok Song-hyok, alleged that his group was “kidnapped, mistreated and pressed to remain in South Korea,” according to the KCNA.

South Korean officials have said that the North’s claims are groundless and not worthy of a response.

Chun said it’s unnecessary for Seoul to discuss with North Korea the fate of the four defectors as they expressed their wish to defect to the South and their resettlement process is under way in the South.

“We are not at all considering repatriating” the four defectors, Chun told reporters, though he said Seoul remains committed to helping the North confirm the “free will” of the four defectors in a fair and objective manner in the South.


Yonhap

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