The South Korean Red Cross said that four of the 31 North Korean fishermen decided to defect to the South when their boat accidentally strayed to South Korea's waters last month, reported by the CNN.
Despite Pyongyang's demands that all be repatriated, Seoul will release only 27 through the Panmunjom border and send the fishing vessel in the West Sea on Friday. The defection could heighten the already tensed relations in the peninsula, where the North warned to send the South in to a "sea of flames" one day before the South Korea-US military exercises began last week.
Seoul's intelligence agency questioned the fishermen for one month before releasing them, said the aid agency.
According to Seoul's Unification Ministry, there are currently over 20,000 North Koreans who have resettled to the South since the end of the Korean War in 1953 and the numbers continuously escalate every year.
Many of North Korea’s defectors have settled in China, Mongolia or Southeast Asia. Those who were forcefully sent back to the North are punished by sending them to prison camps.
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