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9 fishermen who died helping Cheonan crew rescue honored

9 fishermen who died helping Cheonan crew rescue honored

Posted March. 30, 2012 06:41,   


Nine crewmen of the fishing boat Geumyang who died in a collision after finishing a search for missing seamen of the South Korean naval corvette Cheonan two years ago have been designated national heroes who died for just cause.

The Health and Welfare Ministry said Thursday that a second review committee on people who died and suffered injury for just cause for 2012 decided to honor 11 people, including the nine fishermen.

In April 2010, the Geumyang took part in a search operation for 18 minutes at the site of the Cheonan sinking at the request of the Naval Command. The vessel then collided with a Cambodian vessel while moving to its fishing site, and the nine fishermen on the boat died in the accident.

The fishermen were not recognized as heroes who died for just cause by a review committee for people who died and suffered injury for just cause in June that year. The Act on Respectful Treatment and Support of People Who Died and Suffered Injury for Just Cause suggests that such people should be “those who died or suffered injury as a result of direct and proactive actions meant to rescue people in imminent jeopardy.”

The committee held a heated debate over designating the fishermen, but the majority of committee members said the Geumyang’s collision could not be considered a “pressing situation jeopardizing others unless instant action was taken,” and the search work could not be deemed a direct and proactive act meant to rescue the sailors.

In a statement, the committee said, "Many people expressed regret over the Geumyang case, but if we determined whether (the crewmen) died for just cause or not based only on public opinion, it could have violated legal stability."

The families of the nine fishermen thus failed to get “legal benefits,” but the Community Chest of Korea, an umbrella charity fundraising organization, paid them 250 million won (220,000 dollars) each and 125 million won (110,000 dollars) each to the two foreign crewmen).

The government also presented awards for their service to guard the nation, established a memorial tower, organized a funeral hosted by the National Federation of Fisheries Cooperatives, and paid expenses for their funeral. The benefits were equivalent to those for people who died for just cause.

Some two years later, the fishermen have been honored as heroes who died for just cause because of a revision to the act last year. The amendment suggests that people who died while returning to their residences or work after finishing rescue operations can also be recognized as people who died for just cause.

The Geumyang accident occurred before the revision took effect (Feb. 5), but the act has been retroactively applied.

As a result, the families of the two foreign crewmen will each get 72 million won (63,000 dollars) more, or the difference between 197 million won (173,000 dollars), the standard compensation amount for people who died for just cause in the year of the accident, and 125 million won (110,000 dollars) that they were paid.

The Korean victims of the accident will not get additional compensation in line with the provision, "When such people have been granted treatment and compensation equivalent to that for people who died for just cause, they will not be compensated for that amount.”

Nevertheless, the families will get medical coverage, educational subsidies and employment assistance.

The review committee also recognized as people who died for just cause the late Park Young-woong, (age 22 at time of death), who entered a sewage treatment facility to rescue workers and died from intoxication due to gas and waste water there. Also honored was Kim Mun-yong, 47, who suffered an injury while trying to control traffic after a road accident in January.