But North Korea still sees the drills' intent as an invasion rehearsal and often has reacted to the exercises strongly, especially when talks are stalled.
"At present, the solid growth of the South Korean economy is contributing to a high level of fiscal and monetary flexibility and its satisfactory external soundness, the South Korean economy is diversified without dependence on specific industries or export markets, and the average per-capita GDP of South Korea is expected to increase from US$31,800 to US$35,000 from this year to 2022", it explained, adding, "The GDP trend rate is 2.2 percent, which is higher than those of many high-income countries, although South Korea's export growth for this year is rather sluggish due to worldwide and regional factors".
The Coast Guard rescued 60 North Koreans but there was no way to confirm they had been illegally fishing within Japan's exclusive economic zone (EEZ) - as their boat had sunk.
Lee said the two were sent back through the Koreas' land border.
North Korea has criticized the U.S., saying the country is planning a joint military exercise with South Korea.
The three then killed the other 15 crew members to cover up the crime and dumped all bodies overboard.
"We made a decision to deport them after determining that accepting them to our society could pose a threat to the lives and safety of our people and that such criminals cannot be recognized as refugees under worldwide law", Lee Sang-min, the ministry's spokesperson, said at a press briefing.
They were chased by a South Korean navy ship which fired warning shots at them. Two fishermen from the secretive country who killed their fellow crew members to escape to the south have been handed back to Pyongyang. It was the most provocative missile test in almost two years and came just days before long-stalled nuclear talks with the US were set to resume in Stockholm. The men may be executed in North Korea as punishment, the AP noted.
They initially meant to return to North Korea and seek shelter.
About 32,000 North Koreans have fled to the South since the end of the Korean War, a lot of them via China and in the past two decades.
Aside from the accusations of murder, the case is unusual in that it is the first time Seoul has returned any North Koreans trying to flee the nation since the Korean War, which ended in 1953, according to the Associated Press.