Sunday, January 14, 2007

North Korea Hands Over South Korean Sailor

South Korea's coast guard said it is in the process of towing a South Korean fishing boat, with its engineer aboard, that crossed into North Korean waters last month in the East Sea. It said the Woojin-ho, a 30-ton squid fishing boat, and its engineer identified only by his family name Lee was handed over by North Korean authorities at the Northern Limit Line (NLL), the de facto sea border between the two Koreas. North Korea's Red Cross said it sent back the boat and its engineer for humanitarian reasons.
A South Korean fishing boat engineer steps off with unidentified officials from a ship of the maritime police at a port in Sokcho.
The 46-year-old engineer is believed to have sailed the ship across the NLL on Dec. 25. The skipper reported the loss of the boat to the South Korean police, who detected the signal of the boat's satellite phone near Wonsan, off the North's east coast. "The North's Red Cross said on the basis of humanitarian concern, it would hand the boat over to us at 5:00 p.m. but the actual turnover took place around 7:30 p.m," said a coast guard official in the port of Sokcho. A South Korean coast guard cutter will bring the boat and engineer to Sokcho. Officials plan to escort Lee to Pohang's Coast Guard headquarters to determine the exact reason for the ship's crossing of the NLL.

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