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Four North Koreans Boat to S. Korea in Apparent Defection

Four North Koreans crossed the sea border by boat into South Korea on Thursday in what appeared to be the latest defection from the communist nation, a South Korean official said.

The North Koreans — a man in his 40s, a woman in her 30s and two females in their teens — arrived on a wooden boat in waters off Uldo near South Korea's disputed western sea border with North Korea, said Jung Ki-jung, an official at the South's Korea Coast Guard. They were being questioned by police and intelligence officials.

"The North Koreans, who appeared to be family members, seem to have defected to South Korea," Jung said.

CountryWatch: North Korea

The number of North Korean defectors has been steadily on the rise in recent years where they seek to escape chronic food shortages and political oppression.

More than 8,200 North Koreans have defected to the South since the end of the 1950-53 Korean War — with more than 5,700 of those arriving since 2002. A total of 1,387 defectors arrived in the South last year, down from a record 1,894 in 2004.

Tens of thousands of North Koreans are believed to be living clandestinely in China.