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Japan moves North Korean defectors to South Korea

By Yoko Wakatsuki, CNN
updated 4:52 AM EDT, Tue October 4, 2011
A bus carrying North Korean defectors arrives at an immigration center at Omura city, Japan on September 14, 2011.
A bus carrying North Korean defectors arrives at an immigration center at Omura city, Japan on September 14, 2011.
STORY HIGHLIGHTS
  • The nine say they are from North Korea
  • They include men, women and children
  • The group has been questioned in Japan for weeks
  • It is rare for North Korean defectors to sail to Japan's coast

Tokyo (CNN) -- Nine North Korean defectors found near Japan's coast in September were transferred to Seoul, South Korea, on Tuesday, a Japanese government spokesmen said.

The group of nine -- three men, three women and three children -- departed Japan for South Korea in line with their wishes for long-term residence, said Foreign Ministry spokesman Masaru Sato.

The nine came under the custody of Japanese Coast Guard after they were discovered drifting in a small wooden boat off the coast of Noto Peninsula in northern Japan on September 13. The government kept the group, who claimed to have escaped from North Korea, in an immigration facility in Nagasaki in southern Japan, for three weeks for questioning.

Chief Cabinet Secretary Osamu Fujimura said the government got "sufficient information" about the current situation of the secretive country through lengthy interviews with the refugees.

It is rare for North Korean defectors to sail to Japan's coast. According to coast guard records, there have been only two other cases.

One was in 2006, when four North Koreans floated to northern Japan. The other was in 1987, when a family of 11 drifted to west Japan.

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