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Two N. Korea Families Escape on Boat Disguised as Trawler

May 13, 1997| From Reuters

INCHON, South Korea — Two daring North Korean families who escaped by boat to the South on Monday in what could be the first defection by sea from the hunger-stricken Communist nation came ashore saying they wanted freedom.

The group of 14 people was one of the largest ever to flee the impoverished nation, authorities in the western port of Inchon said.

The families' ship, disguised as a Chinese fishing trawler, was intercepted off the west coast of the Korean peninsula just south of a military demarcation line that has split the two Koreas since 1953.

The two families boarded a maritime police vessel and were escorted ashore this morning. Their 32-ton wooden boat was abandoned because of high waves.

"If the information provided by the captain is true, it would be the first defection direct by sea from North Korea," said Korea Maritime Police spokesman Chung Moo Chung. But a mobile telephone was reportedly found on the ship along with first aid supplies and a bag of corn, raising suspicion that the defectors could have come via China.

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