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Army and Navy Fail to Stop Fishing Boat Entering Northern Waters

Army and Navy Fail to Stop Fishing Boat Entering Northern Waters

Posted October. 23, 2007 07:29,   


In a report submitted to the National Assembly, it was revealed that the fishing boat “Woojin” (weighing 30 tons) crossed the Northern Limit Line into North Korean waters last December, despite efforts by the South Korean military to stop its passage that involved a 12-hours chase under radar.

According to the revelation, though the military failed to secure the sea borders once again, after the fishing boat “Hwangman” made it to North Korean waters in April 2005, it never revealed the fact, prompting a thorough investigation into military operations at the time.

The report, which was part of the materials for parliamentary inspection of the administration, was submitted by the Joint Chiefs of Staff and the Korean Coast Guard to GNP lawmaker Hwang Jin-ha, of the defense committee, on Monday.

According to the report, after exchanging words with the owner of Woojin, engineer Lee(46), who was severely intoxicated at the time, sneaked aboard the boat and left Ganggu Port in Yeongdeok-gun, Gyeongsangbuk-do, at around 3:30 p.m. on December 25, crossing the sea boarder into North Korea less than 12 hours later.

The army identified via radar Woojin’s departure from the port and its course set for North Korea. The wayward fishing boat was then tracked and pursued.

At around 2:30 a.m. on December 26, eleven hours after its departure, the vessel sailed into Northern waters, 83 kilometers off the Sokcho Port in Gangwon-do and some 240 kilometers from the Ganggu Port. It was at around this time that nearby naval vessels discovered the boat and began their pursuit.

But it was revealed that Woojin, which sailed north nine kilometers below the NLL, disappeared from the radars of naval vessels at around 3:55 a.m., eluding its pursuers.

After crossing the NLL, Woojin was discovered in the waters off Wonsan Port at around 1 p.m. on December 27 by a North Korean patrol boat. North Korea repatriated Lee and the boat to the South on January 12 this year. Lee was subsequently arrested for violating the National Security Law, and was sentenced to probation and community service.

It has also been revealed that the army, navy, and coast guard have conducted 21 joint drills since May 2005 to prevent similar incidents to that of the Hwangman fishing vessel from occurring.

In addition, the navy and the coast guard, along with a guard ship, a defense ship, and several fast patrol ships, had conducted a military drill to practice intercepting vessels bound for North Korean waters, just four days before the Woojin incident took place; but they failed in their first real test. This has raised criticism that the drills were inadequate and a waste of time and money.

“At a time when the North was attempting to undermine the NLL and the government continued to change NLL policy, this failure to intercept a fishing vessel from crossing the NLL into the North exposed a crack in guarding of territorial waters, and it will be difficult for the government to avoid criticism,” said lawmaker Hwang.