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3 Korean Seamen Kidnapped off West Africa

3 Korean Seamen Kidnapped off West Africa
Ahn Jun-yong April 02, 2018

A 455-ton Korean fishing boat was hijacked by pirates in the Gulf of Guinea off the western equatorial coast of Africa last week. The whereabouts of three South Korean crewmembers -- the captain, a mate, and an engineer -- have been unknown for six days.

The tuna fishing trawler Marine 711 was reportedly hijacked on March 26 by nine armed Nigerian pirates, who were chased by a Nigerian Navy vessel but escaped.

After a warning broadcast from the Nigerian Navy, the pirates moved valuables and the three Korean crew from the fishing boat into their speedboat and fled to the maritime border between Benin and Nigeria.

The 42 Ghanaian crewmembers, who were released, arrived at Ghana's Tema Harbor two days later. Some of them are being treated at a hospital for injuries they suffered in the assault.

The Korean government imposed a news embargo until all of the Koreans were confirmed safe but lifted it Saturday.

"We lifted the embargo because the hijacking was already reported in the foreign media and something good is currently underway," a government official said.

China's Xinhua news agency reported the three men are believed to have been taken hostage at Bayelsa in Nigeria.

But Seoul has not identified their whereabouts or confirmed the identity and demands of the pirates.

Seoul believes that dialogue with the pirates will begin through the local government after Easter given that southern Nigeria is a Christian region.

President Moon Jae-in was briefed on the hijacking while he was visiting the UAE. On returning home last Wednesday he ordered National Security Council chief Chung Eui-yong to send the Munmu the Great destroyer to the waters.

The destroyer, which was operating off the Omani Port of Salalah near the Gulf of Aden, is expected to reach the area around April 16 by sailing more than 13,000 km around the Cape of Good Hope on the southern tip of Africa.