By Hyo-Jin Paik
Impunity Watch Reporter, Asia
SEOUL, South Korea– After one month of detention for accidently entering North Korean waters when their satellite navigation malfunctioned, four South Korean fishermen were released and have returned home.
Fishermen and their boats from both North and South Korea are often accused of straying into each other’s maritime border, because the two countries disagree on the exact location of the demarcation line.
The four fishermen, who were detained since July 30, 2009, were handed over to the South Korean Coast Guard at the two Koreas’ shared eastern maritime border on Saturday. Park Kwang-sun, captain of the detained boat, said upon his arrival back to South Korea, “I am sorry to the public for causing concern, but I am deeply grateful for the support that secured our quick return.” South Korean citizens have been holding protests demanding the fishermen’s return. Park’s wife also thanked the South Korean government for her husband’s safe return.
A North Korea expert Kim Young-hyun of Seoul’s Dongguk University said, “The release turned on the green light for the overall improvement of inter-Korean ties.”
Relations between the two Koreas have been strained for the past year. However, the release of the detained fishermen is being considered as a conciliatory move on the part of North Korea, in addition to a sign that tensions are being eased between North and South Korea.
Furthermore, the two Korea’s have agreed to resume family reunions of those who have been separated since the end of the Korean War in 1953. The last family reunion was held in 2007.
For more information, please see:
BBC – N Korea frees S Korea fishermen – 29 August 2009
MSNBC – North Korea frees four South Korean fishermen – 29 August 2009
NYT – North Korea Releases Fishermen – 29 August 2009
VOA – North Korea Releases 4 Detained South Korean Fishermen – 29 August 2009