Two North Koreans have crossed the western sea border into South Korean territory and one said he intends to defect, the South's intelligence agency said Friday.
The two men, whose identities were withheld, traveled into Southern waters in a boat on Tuesday, a spokesman at the National Intelligence Service said on condition of anonymity in accordance with official policy.
Defections direct from North Korea, either by sea or across the heavily patrolled inter-Korean border, are rare. Most defectors come through China, which shares a long border with North Korea. More than 5,000 North Koreans have defected to the South since 1998. The number of defectors has risen sharply in recent years, with 583 known to have fled the communist country in 2001, 1,139 in 2002, 1,281 in 2003 and 1,890 last year.
Most defectors complain of hunger and repression in their homeland. Since the mid-1990s, North Korea has depended on outside aid to feed its 23 million people. The Koreas were divided in 1945. Their border remains tightly sealed, guarded by nearly 2 million troops on both sides, AP reports.