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SEOUL, October 5 (Itar-Tass) — Official Pyongyang has demanded from Seoul to repatriate two North Korean citizens who were detained in the territorial waters of South Korea near its eastern shores this week, press secretary the South Korea’s Unification Ministry that oversees all inter-Korean issues Park Soo-jin said on Wednesday. The North send its request to the South through the national Red Cross and Red Crescent Societies at the Panmunjom border point in the Demilitarised Zone separating the two Koreas.
On October 4, two DPRK nationals in a small boat crossed the sea border with South Korea in the Sea of Japan that is called here the East Sea. Wooden boat with a displacement of two tonnes was spotted in the territorial waters of South Korea by a patrol ship of the South Korean Navy. The ship towed the boat to a naval base in the nearest seaport. At present, according to the traditional procedure, the North Korean citizens are questioned by South Korean intelligence officials, and it is not known so far with which purpose these two men had crossed the border - deliberately, in order to stay in the Republic of Korea, or their boat accidentally drifted to the South.
It was not immediately clear whether the two North Koreans deliberately entered South Korean waters seeking asylum or if their two-tonne wooden boat accidentally strayed across the border.
Park said South Korea will handle the case in accordance with the expressed will of the men and on humanitarian grounds, adding that they are being questioned by South Korean officials about their motives.
The Yonhap news agency notes in this regard that Seoul’s official position of principle is that the authorities receive any people from the North who wish to remain in South Korea and repatriates back to North Korea those citizens of this country who accidentally got into the South Korean territorial waters and wish to return home.
Panmunjom, located in Gyeonggi Province, is a village on the de facto border between North and South Korea, where the 1953 Korean Armistice Agreement that ended the Korean War was signed. The building where the armistice was signed still stands, though it is on the northern side of the Military Demarcation Line, which runs through the middle of the Demilitarised Zone. It is considered one of the last vestiges of the Cold War. It should not be confused with the Joint Security Area (JSA) nearby, where discussions between North and South still take place in blue buildings that straddle the Military Demarcation Line.