Seoul: South Korea deported two North Koreans after learning that they killed 16 fellow crewmembers on their fishing boat and fled to Seoul, the Unification Ministry said here on Thursday.

The two in their 20s were sent back to the North at around 3.10 p.m. through the truce village of Panmunjom, five days after they were captured near the Northern Limit Line sea border in the East Sea, Yonhap News Agency reported citing the Ministry as saying.

"We decided to deport them after determining that accepting them to our society could pose a threat to the lives and safety of our people and that such criminals cannot be recognized as refugees under international law," Lee Sang-min, the Ministry spokesperson, told the media here.

The government has also planned to send back the fishing boat of the North Koreans, Lee added.

During investigation, the North Koreans confessed that they and another crew member first killed the captain of the fishing boat in October out of anger over his harsh treatment before killing the other protesting crewmembers one by one later, according to officials.

They were also quoted as saying that all the bodies were dumped overboard.

This marks the South's first deportation of North Koreans through Panmunjom.

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