Two South Korean fishermen returned home unharmed Sunday, 11 days after they were detained by North Korea on a Russian fishing ship, the Ministry of Unification said.
They were on board the 300-ton crab-catching vessel, the Xiang Hai Lin 8, along with 15 Russian crew members, when it was detained by North Korea's coast guard in the country's northeastern waters for "violating the rules of entry and stay" on July 17. The ship's engine was reportedly out of order at the time.
After a temporary repair, it left the North's port in Wonsan at around 7 p.m. Saturday, a source said.
The ministry confirmed that it arrived at a port in Sokcho, Gangwon Province, carrying all of them, at around 1 p.m. Sunday.
"So far confirmed is that the two South Koreans are all in good health," it said.
Related authorities plan to check their condition in detail and an interagency team will make a formal inquiry of the situations related to the detention.
The ministry, which handles inter-Korean affairs, said it regards the North's release of them as "positive from a humanitarian point of view."
It said the humanitarian measure, taken in accordance with international law and practice, is not directly linked with inter-Korean relations, which have apparently turned sour recently.
The North has not provided the South with any separate notification in connection with the detention and release of the South Koreans, the ministry added, indicating that the Russian government has led relevant contact with Pyongyang.
The Russian vessel departed from Sokcho in the eastern province of Gangwon on July 16 for Russia. After drifting into the North's waters, it was caught by North Korea's authorities and towed into Wonsan.
The South Koreans stayed at a Wonsan hotel with the other crew members, facing the North's own probe into why they entered its waters, a source said.
The two, one in his 50s and the other in his 60s, had a technology-support contract with the operator of the ship. (Yonhap)