SEOUL, South Korea – South Korea on Tuesday sent back two North Korean fishermen who were rescued from South Korean waters but said it would not return three others who requested asylum.
The two fishermen were returned through the border village of Panmunjom, where they were greeted by North Korean officials and relatives, said an official from Seoul's Unification Ministry, who didn't want to be named, citing office rules.
The North has demanded the return of three other fishermen from the same boat, though Seoul says the three wanted to defect to the South. The ministry official said those three fishermen were receiving resettlement training.
Their damaged fishing boat was found drifting near South Korea's Ulleung island on July 4. North Korea's official Korean Central News Agency called South Korea's decision not to return the three fishermen an "unforgivable infringement" of human rights and an "extremely evil" provocation.
The two Koreas are still technically at war because the 1950-53 Korean War ended with an armistice, not a peace treaty.
Tensions between the countries have increased recently over the opening of a U.N. office in Seoul tasked with monitoring human rights in North Korea, and the North's detainment of several South Koreans, including two who were sentenced to life in prison last month on charges of spying for the South.