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South Korea deports North Korean fishermen accused of killing 16

According to the South Korean investigation, 19 people were aboard the squid fishing boat when it left the North’s Kimchaek port on its 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. The trio later killed 15 other fishermen 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 fisherman was arrested near the port, and the two fled North Korea using the same boat, the Unification Ministry said, citing the government 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 on Saturday. They later told investigators they wanted to resettle in South Korea, but South Korean authorities determined they only wanted to avoid North Korean 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 South Korean 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 South Korean judicial process first.

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

North Korean fishing boats have occasionally drifted into South Korean waters, and South Korea has usually accepted those who chose to resettle and repatriated others who wished to return home.

About 32,000 North Koreans have fled to the South since the end of the Korean War, most of them via China and in the past two decades. North Korean defectors are a sore point in relations between the two Koreas, with the North often claiming its citizens are held against their will in the South.

Ties have been strained between the two Koreas as the North ramps up pressure on the United States to make concessions in deadlocked nuclear diplomacy.

AP

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