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Korea OKs Somali Pirate Ransom Demand

Posted July. 31, 2006 03:04,   


The government announced on July 30 that a deal was settled on July 29 and procedures were underway to release the 25 crewmembers that were held captive for 117 days aboard a Dongwon fisheries vessel, Dongwon No.628. The captain Choi Sun-shik (39), along with eight Koreans, nine Indonesians, five Vietnamese and three Chinese were among the 25 crewmembers.

A government official said, “A written agreement has been made with the kidnappers who hijacked the Dongwon, and the vessel and crewmembers who were held captive at the Port of Obbia in Somalia will soon been moved to nearby international water.” The official said, “Although an agreement has been made with the kidnappers, until the crewmembers and vessel are completely free, we cannot be 100 percent sure about their safety.” He added that, “Procedures must be carried out with caution until the very last moment.”

The AP reported that Somali militia commanders said, “The Dongwon’s crew will be released as a ransom of $800,000 was paid.” The government and Dongwon Fisheries kept in contact with Captain Choi by telephone, keeping in check the conditions of captivity. With the help of local and Korean marine traders, they have directly and indirectly negotiated with the kidnappers ever since the vessel was hijacked on April 4.

But negotiations had difficulties because the kidnappers did not provide unified negotiation terms. A government official said, “No government directly negotiates with forces that kidnap it’s countrymen for ransom,” adding that, “Paying the ransom means giving into threats and providing funds for them to continue as they wish, so it is not appropriate to refer to that.”

Eight gunmen approached the Dongwon in two boats on April 4 and commandeered the vessel that was fishing for tuna.

Myoung-Gun Lee gun43@donga.com