SEOUL (BNO NEWS) -- A small boat carrying 21 North Koreans was found drifting off South Korea's western coast this week, officials who requested anonymity told the Yonhap news agency on Saturday.
The five-ton (10,000 pounds) wooden boat was drifting in waters some 38 kilometers (23 miles) south of the disputed Yellow Sea border when it was spotted by a South Korean Navy vessel earlier this week. The boat was surrounded by Chinese fishing boats, indicating the defectors intended to hide from North Korean authorities.
The refugees, including children, told officers from the Korea Coast Guard that they wished to defect. They were transferred to a patrol ship to be taken ashore in Incheon, west of Seoul, for questioning by South Korean officials, the news agency reported.
It is the fourth time this year that North Korean defectors have arrived in the South by crossing the Yellow Sea border.
More than 22,000 North Koreans have defected to the South to avoid chronic hunger and political oppression since the 1950-53 Korean War ended. The Northern Limit Line, as the maritime border is known, was drawn up at the end of the war, which ended in a truce rather than a peace treaty.
Both countries are officially still at war.
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