South Korea announced on Tuesday that three sailors from North Korea have made the decision to stay in the South after the South Korean Coast Guard rescued the three, as well as two others, after their ship started to sink on Tuesday. The ship was found off the northeast coast of South Korea near the island of Ulleungdo. It has not been reported where the sailors were heading.
As the conditions in North Korea worsen, thousands of North Koreans attempt to flee to their neighbors to the South each year. Since the Korean War ended in 1953, over 28,000 people from North Korea have fled to South Korea with a majority of them making the trek through China while a few take the risk of crossing the heavily guarded borders on land as well as water.
After discussing with the sailors, South Korea has contacted the North and reported that they are sending two of the five sailors back upon their wish. The other three have defected to stay in the South. The exchange is set to take place at a village between the two countries known as Panmunjom. Although the North demanded to have all of the sailors returned, from a humanitarian perspective, the South has agreed to keep the other three per their request.
This is certainly not the first time that sailors have ended up in South Korea after leaving from the North. On purpose or not, a majority of the sailors make the decision to defect and stay in the South should they get the chance. The North, and its manic leader Kim Jong-un, is never happy with this decision due to the negative press it generates for the hermit kingdom.
The North will often imprison the families of defectors, which serves as a deterrent to would-be escapees. Yet threats of violence have failed to stem the tide of refugees from the impoverished North as on Kim Jong-un’s birthday this year six prominent scientists and their families made the daring escape, angering the Jong-un deeply.