Sat, Nov 09, 2019 - Page 6 News List

Seoul deports two N Koreans over killings

‘HEINOUS CRIMINALS’:The two North Korean fishers had killed their 16 colleagues at sea and cannot be recognized as refugees under international law, the South said

AP, SEOUL

North Korean defectors living in South Korea protest against the government’s defector policy in Seoul yesterday.

Photo: EPA-EFE

In an extremely unusual case, South Korea on Thursday deported two North Korean fishers after determining they had killed 16 other crew members on their boat and then fled to South Korean waters, Seoul officials said.

South Korea has a policy of accepting North Koreans who want to resettle in the nation to avoid political oppression and poverty at home.

This week’s deportations were the first South Korea has carried out of any North Korean since the end of the 1950 to 1953 Korean War, the South Korean Ministry of Unification said.

The two North Korean men, both in their 20s, were captured on Saturday last week on their boat south of the two nations’ eastern sea border, the ministry said.

It said an investigation later found that the two had killed 16 colleagues, including the captain.

Ministry spokesman Lee Sang-min said that Seoul decided to expel the two fishers to North Korea, because they were “heinous criminals” who could not be recognized as refugees under international law.

The two were sent back through the two nations’ land border, Lee said.

Nineteen people were aboard the squid fishing boat when it left North Korea’s Kimchaek port on the east coast in August.

While fishing in waters near Russia and elsewhere, the two men collaborated with another crew member and killed the captain, who they said had abused them, according to the investigation.

The trio later killed 15 other fishers on the boat to cover up their action.

The three went back to Kimchaek port with the intention of moving to another region of North Korea, but the third fisher was arrested near the port, and the other two fled using the same boat, the ministry said, citing the investigation.

When their boat sailed across the sea border last week, they were chased by a South Korean navy ship, which fired warning shots at them. After two days, the two were captured by the South Korean navy last Saturday.

They later told investigators that they wanted to resettle in South Korea, but the authorities determined that they only wanted to avoid arrest and on Tuesday informed North Korea of the plan to deport them, the ministry said.

Observers say the men are likely to receive heavy punishment in North Korea, including possible execution.

Some media questioned why the South Korean government made the deportation decision so early and whether it should have allowed the North Koreans to go through a judicial process first.

Seoul had determined the two’s acceptance into South Korean society would threaten public safety, Lee said.

North Korean fishing boats occasionally drift into South Korean waters and Seoul usually accepts those who chose to resettle, while repatriating others who wish to return home.

About 32,000 North Koreans have fled to South Korea since the end of the Korean War, most of them via China and in the past two decades.

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