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N Korean defector sneaks home

04 April 2013, 17:24

Seoul - A North Korean refugee who settled in the South in 2007 has returned home in a stolen fishing boat in the middle of an escalating military crisis, a Seoul official said on Thursday.

The 28-year-old refugee, identified by his surname Lee, stole the boat on Yeonpyeong island which lies next to the disputed maritime border with North Korea, a defence ministry spokesperson said.

Lee, who had been working as a crew member on the same boat, used the vessel to cross the border on Wednesday night, the spokesperson said.

The South Korean military detected his passage on radar and contacted the boat's owner who provided Lee's mobile phone number.

Officials then called Lee and urged him to come back, but he refused, the spokesperson said.

Yeonpyeong, about 1.5km south of the border, was shelled by the North in November 2010 in an attack that left four South Koreans dead.

Pyongyang last month warned residents of the heavily-militarised island to flee ahead of "thunderous attacks" as military tensions on the Korean peninsula escalated.

Around 25 000 North Koreans have fled North Korea to settle in the South, the vast majority of them via China. Only a small number have returned.

The North's state media said last November that a refugee couple had returned home after living for four years in the South where they suffered a "miserable life".



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