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N.Korea says it will return six detained South Koreans across border

Global Times (2013-10-25 P07)
North Korea will return six unidentified South Koreans across the heavily-militarized land border, it said in a surprise announcement Thursday.

The South's Unification Ministry said it had been informed the transfer would take place on Friday, but was given no details of the identities of the people being returned.

"We just received a sudden notice from North Korea that it would send back six South Koreans tomorrow," a ministry official told AFP.

The repatriation will be made through the truce village of Panmunjom, where the armistice ending hostilities in the 1950-53 Korean War was signed.

In a statement, the Unification Ministry noted that North Korea had announced the detention of four South Koreans in February 2010, and that these might be among the six being returned.

"Our government had repeatedly asked for their identities, but never received an answer," the statement said.

While more than 23,500 North Koreans have escaped to the South since the end of the Korean War, the number of defectors going the other way has been miniscule.

In South Korea, meanwhile, officials said Thursday that South Korean lawmakers will make an inspection tour of the newly-reopened Kaesong industrial zone operated with North Korea after Pyongyang approved their visit.

Kaesong lies 10 kilometers inside North Korea and the tour will mark a rare cross-border trip by South Korean MPs.

"Nothing has been decided on whether or not lawmakers will be able to meet North Korean officials," an official with South Korea's Unification Ministry told the Yonhap news agency.

Kaesong only recently reopened after North Korea effectively shut down the complex in April by withdrawing its 53,000-strong workforce during a sharp and extended spike in military tensions.

The lawmakers will meet with the managers of the South Korean companies in Kaesong and inspect their plants.

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