North Koreans who sometimes drift into South Korea express a desire to return, such as this North Korean civilian who was voluntarily repatriated at the truce village of Panmunjom in 2013. File Photo by Yonhap
SEOUL, July 13 (UPI) -- South Korea's Unification Ministry said Monday it has not received a response from North Korea regarding plans to repatriate two of five North Korean sailors rescued off the South Korean coast who have expressed a desire to return, South Korean news agency Yonhap reported.
On Friday, North Korea had sent a message to the South requesting the personal data of the three North Koreans who told Seoul they wished to remain in the South, South Korean news outlet Daily NK reported.
Pyongyang said Seoul should also arrange for the three defectors to meet with their families at the truce village of Panmunjom, but Unification Ministry spokesman Jeong Joon-hee said Seoul had denied the request.
"When international conventions on humanitarian issues are taken into account, we cannot comply with the North's request for family visits or for the personal data of the defectors," Jeong said.
The sailors were.rescued by the South Korean Coast Guard on July 4 after they had drifted south of a maritime border. They were found near Ulleungdo, a sparsely populated South Korean island with about 10,000 inhabitants.
Pyongyang has not responded to a July 10 message from Seoul regarding the repatriation of the two North Koreans who wish to return, but in state media blasted Seoul's rejection of family visits as "anti-humanitarian."
Jeong said a similar incident took place February 2011, when a standoff issued over defectors, and the North insisted those who desired to stay in the South should also be returned.
Then, Seoul was able to negotiate with Pyongyang, and North Koreans who expressed a desire to stay in the South were not repatriated.
"We have never repatriated those who wished to remain in the South," Jeong said.