Seoul allows fisherman to defect in a move sure to anger North Korea

SEOUL (AFP) - South Korea said Monday it had granted a defection request from a North Korean fisherman rescued a week ago by the coastguard, in a move guaranteed to anger Pyongyang.

The Unification Ministry said the fisherman had been rescued June 16 while drifting in a damaged squid boat in South Korean waters.

"He said he had no intention to return to North Korea," ministry spokesman Kim Eui-Do said, underlining Seoul's policy of only repatriating those fishermen who ask to be sent home.

It's the latest in a series of cases involving rescued North Korean fisherman which have triggered angry exchanges between Seoul and Pyongyang.

North Korea insists that all fishermen picked up by the South should be returned along with their vessels.

Five fishermen who opted to return were repatriated a week ago at the border truce village of Panmunjom.

Hundreds of North Koreans flee their isolated homeland each year.

Most cross into China and then to a third country such as Thailand before coming to the South. Intentional defections across the sea or land border between the two Koreas are rare.

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