North Koreans found in sea opt to defect to South

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North Koreans found in sea opt to defect to South

Two North Korean civilians defected to the South by swimming across the inter-Korean maritime border in the Yellow Sea, officials from Seoul said yesterday.

According to the South Korean government and military, the two men - one in his 20s and the other in his 50s, respectively - were discovered at 4 a.m. swimming near Gyodong Island in Incheon by South Korean marines, apparently after having crossed the inter-Korean border.

When they saw the marines, the two men shouted for help and expressed their intention to defect to the South, the military said.

The distance between the Gyodong Island and the closest area of North Korean coast is about 2.5 kilometers (1.5 miles), according to the military.

Information on the defectors’ identity has not been released to the media. The South’s National Intelligence Service will question the defectors, under internal regulations, on their route and reasons for defecting. If they pass questioning, they will be sent to the Hanawon resettlement center.

It is rare for North Korean defectors to flee the regime by swimming through the heavily guarded maritime border.

On July 3, a North Korean man in a wooden boat was found drifting near the South’s Baengnyeong Island and declared his intention to defect.

BY KIM HEE-JIN [heejin@joongang.co.kr]







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