The drama began when two North Korean fishing boats containing 14 women and eight men - among them three teenagers - drifted into waters off South Korea's Yeonpyeong Island.
South Korean officials, suspecting at first that the group were intending to defect, questioned them about their plans and were told they had accidentally strayed from North Korean waters and had no intention of defecting.
There were a large number of women on the vessels, it was explained, because they were needed to clean the oysters and clams.
Satisfied with their story, the South Koreans seized the two boats, however, and sent the group back across the border through an overland route.
....However a source with North Korean contacts has reported that immediately after the group arrived back over the border they were all shot.
"They weren't even given the option of going to a prison camp. They were simply executed," said the source.
An intelligence official said it was possible the 22 people were executed because they had set out on a fishing expedition without authorisation from the North Korean maritime authorities.