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Mayor Missing in Freak Wave Incident

Posted November. 27, 2006 07:05,   


The Haeyeong (3.8 tons, Captain Kim Hong-bin, 44), a Moseulpo-registered fishing boat, sank between 1:00 p.m. and 2:00 p.m. on November 25 with seven people, including Seogwipo Mayor Lee Yeong-du, on board.

Three people, Oh Nam-geun (57, director of the Seogwipo-si District Economy Bureau), Hwang Dae-in (54, mayor of Daejeong-eup) and Lim Kwan-ho (56, chairman of the Daejeong-eup self-governing committee), died, and Mayor Lee and Captain Kim are still missing. Of those on board, Yoon Se-myeong (40, the mayor’s secretary) and Kang Chang-woo (48, the mayor’s driver) were rescued by the coast guard and a nearby boat.

Mayor Lee and company were participating in the Yellowtail Fishing Experience, part of the Yellowtail Festival being held in the Moseulpo Harbor area of Daejeong-eup.

Residents are especially distressed by the fact that Mayor Lee boarded the boat despite being prone to severe seasickness to help enliven Seogwipo district tourism.

The Haeyeong lost contact after requesting to have two fisherboats sent out when large waves appeared while it was returning from yellowtail fishing around 1:00 p.m. Mr. Yoon, who was rescued around 3:30 p.m. said, “Three enormous waves overtook the boat and the boat filled up with water and sank.”

There were no special weather reports for the area that day, but freak waves four to six meters high suddenly appeared in the area of the accident.

Our travel journalist Jo Seong-ha who was covering the Yellowtail Festival at that time on a different boat reported on the situation.

Calm waters suddenly changed –

The eight fisherboats participating in the “One-day Marado Yellowtail Fishing Experience” event, a part of the festival, hurried to get ready early in the morning on November 25 to set sail. The boats were scheduled to leave Moseulpo Harbor at 10:00 a.m. and return at 2:00 p.m.

Our reporter boarded the Dongwoon III (7.93 tons). Two diplomats from the Consulate-General of Japan at Jeju also boarded the boat. The skies were so clear that the summit of Mt. Halla could be seen.

About 10 minutes after leaving the breakwater, the sea changed. Rough waves shook the boat to and fro. It was difficult to stay standing. The people on board sat down on the deck to keep from falling off the boat into the water.

About 50 minutes later the boat arrived in Marado waters, the destination for yellowtail fishing. A total of 26 boats including the eight that left Moseulpo Harbor together were at sea.

The boat began to shake so violently that two passengers lay down on the deck. Severe rolling and pitching caused seasickness. Pills were no use.

Waves weren’t all they had to worry about. Rollers appeared as well. Rollers are enormous waves that are deep and high. Sitting at the bow of the boat, it felt like being on a “Viking” or a roller coaster at the amusement park.

Nearby fishing boats disappeared for moments with only the masts visible when they fell in the pits of the waves.

“Moseulpo’s Dream” swept away by waves–

Moseulpo Harbor, with the Daejeong plains behind it and the sea in front, is the most underdeveloped area in Jeju Island. Perhaps this is why the resourcefulness and vitality of the Daejeong people are famous even in Jeju Island.

When it became difficult to make a living by fishing alone, the people of Moseulpo started the “Daejeong Fisherboat Lodging Village,” which combines tourist fishing and private lodging, in 2001. In the tourism program, 20 fishing boat owners go fishing for yellowtail and sea bream with tourists.

Mayor Lee, who is currently missing, served the public for 24 years before being appointed on July 1 of this year as the mayor of the new district of Seogwipo-si, which was made by adjoining the original Seogwipo-si and Namjeju-gun when the Jeju Special Self Governing Province was founded.

Lee’s wife Kang Hye-sook was in great distress, saying, “He said this morning that he was so tired he didn’t want to go out in the boat but he had to go to encourage the festival; I didn’t know something like this would happen.”

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