South Korea sent two North Korean fishermen back to the North on Thursday, having discovered that they were on the run for murder.
"South Korean authorities jointly surveyed two North Koreans who crossed the inter-Korean maritime border on November 2nd. It was found that the two men in their twenties were fleeing after killing 16 of their fellow crew members."
Their boat initially left the North Korean port of Kimchaek with 19 people on board in mid-August.
Three of the crew conspired to kill the captain because of his harsh treatment of them, but facing backlash, they ended up killing the rest of the crew as well, for a total 16 dead.
The bodies of those murdered are believed to have been thrown into the sea.
In late October, the three men returned to port in North Korea to sell the squid they'd caught but when one of them was arrested, the other two decided to flee.
After pursuing them for two days, the South Korean navy seized them on November 2nd.
A unification ministry official declined to give specifics about the murders, but Seoul's joint investigation team confirmed that the men killed 16 people "very cruelly" with "blunt objects."
The North had not requested that they be sent back.
But Seoul told Pyeongyang about them through the joint liaison office on Tuesday and the North okayed it.
Though the men had expressed their wish to stay in the South, Seoul sent them back Thursday afternoon via the inter-Korean border village of Panmunjeom.
"The government determined that the two had committed a grave, non-political crime, and therefore cannot be protected under our law for North Korean defectors. We also saw that, once they're accepted into our society, they could threaten the safety of South Koreans. Neither can they be regarded as refugees under international law because they are vicious criminals."
South Korea has in the past allowed North Koreans to return home when they crossed the maritime border accidentally, but this is the first time that Seoul has officially kicked them out through Panmunjeom.
Their boat will be returned to the North on Friday at the maritime border.
Oh Jung-hee, Arirang News.