SEOUL (Reuters) - North Korea said it will release a South Korean fishing vessel on Friday for humanitarian reasons after the boat was found “illegally” in waters under the North’s control six days ago, North Korean state news agency KCNA said.
The boat and its crew had been captured on Oct. 21 and they will be released “at the designated waters of the military boundary line in the East Sea (38°39′20″ latitude, 128°38′10″longitude) at 1800 on Oct. 27,” the news agency report said.
North Korea had reached its decision to release the South Korean boat after “taking into account the fact that all the crewmen honestly admitted their offence, repeatedly apologizing and asking for leniency,” the report said in English.
An investigation by the North had “proved” the boat and crew had entered North Korean waters for fishing.
North Korean fishing boats, because of age or low fuel, have been found drifting south of the maritime border between the two Koreas at times. Most North Korean crew are released to the North after interrogations by intelligence officials if they wish to return. It is more unusual for South Korean fishing vessels to be found under similar circumstances.
The South Korean government could not be immediately reached for comment.
Reporting by Christine Kim; editing by Grant McCool