Seoul - The bodies of two North Korean sailors were recovered on Friday after their cargo ship went missing off the southern coast of South Korea but 11 others are still missing, South Korea's coast guard said.
The Mongolian-flagged cargo ship, which was carrying 16 North Korean crew members, remains missing after it sent a distress signal early on Friday in waters about 130km south of the southern port city of Yeosu, the coast guard said in a statement.
Three people were rescued and identified themselves as part of a 16-member North Korean crew on the ship, the statement said.
Rescuers later discovered two dead bodies and are still trying to find the 11 missing crew, the coast guard said.
The statement said the 4 300-ton-class ship carrying iron ore was sailing to China from the North Korean port city of Chongjin.
The coast guard said it had mobilised 13 vessels and six aircraft to search for the ship and its crew members. High waves and a strong wind are still hampering rescue operations, according to coast guard officers.
It was not immediately known how South Korea will handle the rescued North Korean sailors, though Seoul usually repatriates North Korean sailors found drifting in South Korean waters if they want to return home.
The Korean Peninsula remains in a technical state of war as the 1950-53 Korean War ended with an armistice, not a peace treaty. On Monday, the rival Koreas fired hundreds of artillery shells into each other's waters in a flare-up of animosities.