Unification minister Kwon Young-se said the United Nations Command(UNC) had strongly protested the deportation of two North Korean sailors in November 2019 under the former Moon Jae-in administration.
On a local radio program on Tuesday, Kwon said the UNC had approved the sailors' repatriation without being aware that they were being deported against their will.
Stating that the UNC was reportedly perplexed at the sight of the sailors blindfolded and bound by rope, Kwon said the restraints and eye coverings were removed after the UNC protested such treatment.
The minister added that relations between the unification ministry and the UNC following the deportation were temporarily strained as a result of the command’s protest against the condition of the sailors during the repatriation.
While acknowledging the probability of truth behind allegations that the sailors killed their fellow crew members before crossing the border, Kwon said it would be difficult to conclude definitively that they had indeed committed the crimes.