SEOUL, Aug. 23 (UPI) — Three North Koreans found at sea recently sought asylum in the South, according to Seoul officials.
The three defectors had made it south, well past the disputed maritime border between the two Koreas, when the Pyeongtaek coast guard apprehended them and took them into custody, Yonhap reported.
The North Koreans had made their way from the coast of North Pyongan Province in an old fishing boat, and may have sailed through international waters before reaching South Korea’s maritime zone, officials said.
The group immediately expressed their desire to defect to South Korea, and they were taken into custody at Incheon port and handed over to South Korean security.
The North Koreans, who defected Aug. 7, are under investigation by South Korea’s national intelligence service.
The defections are occurring at a time when North Korea is being constrained due to a scarcity of food, drinking water and foreign currency.
An internal North Korean document obtained by South Korean television network MBC and distributed during the Seventh Party Congress in May shows basic needs are not being met in the country due to policy failures.
“Despite many words and many promises to resolving the food problem to the people, the situation has yet to be normalized,” the document read.
The document also addressed problems related to North Korea’s supply of drinking water, and noted the shortage of foreign currency is causing problems in everyday life.
“Some people have become so accustomed to using foreign currency when a shortage appeared they could not get anything done,” the document read.
Cho Han-bum of the Korea Institute for National Unification said the document is evidence of serious economic problems that the regime can no longer ignore, according to MBC.