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South Korea sends 2 North Korean fishermen back home, keeps 3 who wish to defect

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SEOUL, South Korea — South Korea said Tuesday that it had sent back two North Korean fishermen who were rescued earlier this month from South Korean waters.

The two fishermen were sent home through the border village of Panmunjom, where they were greeted by North Korean officials and relatives, said an official from Seoul's Unification Ministry, who didn't want to be named, citing office rules.

Seoul has rejected the North's demands to receive three other fishermen from the same boat who Seoul says wished to defect to the South. The ministry official said those three fishermen were receiving resettlement training.

North Korea had been demanding that the South send back all five fishermen, whose damaged boat was found drifting in waters near South Korea's Ulleung island on July 4.

The two Koreas are still technically at war because the 1950-53 Korean War ended with an armistice, not a peace treaty.

Tensions between the countries have increased recently over the opening of a U.N. office in Seoul tasked with monitoring human rights in North Korea, and the North's detainment of several South Koreans, including two who were sentenced to life in prison last month on charges of spying for the South.

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