South Korea's Navy and Coast Guard rescued three North Korean fishing boats drifting in waters off its east coast early this week, a government source said Thursday.
The vessels carrying eight North Korean sailors were found to be drifting in South Korea's exclusive economic zone (EEZ) on Sunday and Monday, according to the source.
"All fishermen expressed a willingness to return home," the source said. "We are seeking ways to contact North Korea to repatriate them to the North."
They were known to be drifting for about two months on broken vessels without enough water and food, and some fishermen may have died of hunger, according to the source.
North Korea has no communication channels with South Korea as it cut them off in response to Seoul's Feb. 10 decision to shut down a joint industrial complex in the North's border city of Kaesong following Pyongyang's nuclear and missile tests early this year.
South Korea usually sends back North Korean sailors across the de facto inter-Korean maritime border, known as the Northern Limit Line (NLL), when they want to return.
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