North Korea has freed a private Chinese fishing vessel it had seized, a Chinese consular official in Pyongyang told the Xinhua news agency Tuesday morning.

Yu Xuejun, owner of the "Liaoning Generic Fishing No. 25222" from Dalian in northeast China, told the Chinese Embassy that his fishermen were all safe and on their way home around 3 a.m.

"Yu told us that the fishermen are to continue fishing on the sea before heading back to China," the Chinese official said.

The Chinese Embassy had called for the release of the boat and its crew upon receiving Yu's call for help on May 10.

The 16-man crew was taken captive by unidentified North Koreans in the Yellow Sea on May 5, according to the BBC.

Yu told Reuters he had paid no ransom. He had earlier said that the North Koreans were demanding 600,000 yuan ($100,000), and that he had received eight calls demanding payment.

"There were no conditions and they didn't take any money," he told Reuters. "They just released them all. I received the call from the ship captain this morning at 03:50 telling me that they had already been released."