North Korea returns six South Koreans to Seoul

File image of soldiers at Panmunjom, the truce village in the demilitarised zone between the two Koreas The six men were returned via Panmunjom, the truce village between the Koreas

North Korea has returned six South Korean men to their homeland, South Korean officials say, in a rare move.

The men, between the ages of 27 and 67, were handed over on Friday at the truce village of Panmunjom, on the border between the two countries.

Their names were not released and details surrounding their detention in the North remain unclear.

The two Koreas remain technically at war, as the 1950-53 conflict ended in an armistice and not a peace treaty.

Pyongyang's Red Cross informed Seoul that the men would be handed back via Panmunjom on Thursday, a statement from South Korea's Unification Ministry said.

Officials said the group would be taken to South Korea's spy agency to face questions over their presence in North Korea.

The South Korean government said that at first glance, the men were not on the list of those abducted by the North.

One possibility is that they may have crossed into North Korea illegally from China, the BBC's Lucy Williamson in Seoul says. Unofficial travel to North Korea by private citizens from South Korea is illegal,

Pyongyang's state news agency announced the detention of several unnamed South Korean nationals in 2010 and there is speculation that they may be among those returned, our correspondent adds.

The move by North Korea is seen as a gesture of reconciliation following the cancellation of reunions for families split by the division of the Korean peninsula at the end of the Korean War which were planned for last month.

Tensions between the two Koreas rose earlier this year, after North Korea's third nuclear test in February.

More on This Story

Korea crisis

More Asia stories


Features & Analysis

  • Cartoon of women chatting on the metroChat wagon

    The interesting things you hear in a women-only carriage

  • Replica of a cargo boxSpecial delivery

    The man who posted himself to the other side of the world

  • Music scoreFinal score Watch

    Goodbye to NYC's last classical sheet music shop

  • Former Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton checks her Blackberry from a desk inside a C-17 military plane upon her departure from Malta, in the Mediterranean Sea, bound for Tripoli, Libya'Emailgate'

    Hillary gets a taste of scrutiny that lies ahead

Elsewhere on the BBC

  • Audi R8Best in show

    BBC Autos takes a look at 10 of the most eye-catching new cars at the 2015 Geneva motor show


  • A robotClick Watch

    The latest in robotics including software that can design electronics to solve problems

Try our new site and tell us what you think. Learn more
Take me there

Copyright © 2015 BBC. The BBC is not responsible for the content of external sites. Read more.

This page is best viewed in an up-to-date web browser with style sheets (CSS) enabled. While you will be able to view the content of this page in your current browser, you will not be able to get the full visual experience. Please consider upgrading your browser software or enabling style sheets (CSS) if you are able to do so.