Seoul deportes North Koreans accused of killing 16 people

The two men were deported to the North via the truce village of Panmunjom

The two men were deported to the North via the truce village of Panmunjom

South Korea deported two North Koreans accused of murdering 16 fellow fishermen on Thursday after the pair had fled south from their homeland.

Kwon Jong Gun, a roving ambassador at North Korea's foreign ministry, said in a statement on Wednesday night that the US decision to hold aerial exercises with South Korea in December "amounts to a declaration of confrontation with the DPRK".

The two in their 20s were sent back to the North at around 3:10 p.m. through the truce village of Panmunjom, five days after they were captured near the Northern Limit Line sea border in the East Sea on Saturday, according to the ministry.

When their boat was stopped in South Korea's waters, they said they wanted to resettle there - but investigators determined they were merely trying to avoid arrest.

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But a Seoul Unification Ministry spokesman, Lee Sang-min, said South Korea has chose to send the two fishermen back to North Korea because they allegedly committed "grave" crimes and couldn't be protected by the South Korean government. Neither can they be regarded as refugees under worldwide law because they are vicious criminals. Their fishing boat will be sent back at a later date. But the third fisherman was arrested near the port, and the two fled North Korea using the same boat, the Unification Ministry said, citing the government investigation.

They were chased by a South Korean navy ship which fired warning shots at them.

They then killed the protesting crew members afterwards one at a time and dumped the bodies overboard, Yonhap news agency reported. -South Korean military drills would amount to "throwing a wet blanket over the spark" of nuclear negotiations between Pyongyang and Washington. The trio later killed 15 other fishermen on the boat to cover up their action.

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The three went back to Kimchaek port with the intention of moving to another region of North Korea.

On Thursday, Kwon Jong Gun, a roving ambassador for the North, accused the USA of trying to resume joint aerial drills with South Korea next month.

North Korea still carries out public executions, including by firing squad and hanging.

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