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Seoul vows tougher actions against illegal fishing boats

South Korea will introduce stronger measures, including naval gunfire and shock tactics, to combat illegal Chinese fishing in its waters, the government said Tuesday.

The measures also involve the active usage of force and firearms such as cannons and crew-served weapons to deal with unauthorized vessels poaching in Korean waters, the government announced after an emergency meeting held at the government complex in Seoul earlier in the day.

The move comes after a Chinese fishing vessel attacked and sank a Korean speed boat Friday, putting South Korean authorities under fire for their passive and ineffective response. 

A 100-plus ton Chinese fishing ship deliberately rear-ended a 4.5-ton Korean patrol boat as it was caught during the coastguard’s raid of illegal fishing, in waters off Incheon on the western side of the peninsula, the Korea Coast Guard said Sunday.

While the marine guards are allowed to use personal weapons such as K-1 rifles and K-5 handguns, they only fired a couple of shots in the air for threat purposes during the incident.

An official from the Ministry of Public Safety and Security speaks during press briefing on Tuesday. (The Ministry of Public Safety and Security)

An official from the Ministry of Public Safety and Security speaks during press briefing on Tuesday. (The Ministry of Public Safety and Security)
The Foreign Ministry summoned the Chinese ambassador Tuesday to protest the ramming.   

Assistant Foreign Minister Kim Hyeong-jin called in Chinese Ambassador to Korea Qiu Guohong to his office in Seoul to denounce the incident and ask for efforts to prevent its recurrence, the Foreign Ministry said.

The government condemned and showed regret over the incident Sunday, when the regional deputy director-general of the ministry asked the Chinese consul general to come to his office and showed him a video of the attack scene.

“We expect Korea to deal the problem rationally with regional peace and bilateral relations in mind,” China’s Foreign Ministry spokesman said, adding its government is investigating the case.

There have been calls within the nation for stronger action to be taken about illegal fishing boats which, at times, have sparked violent incidents.

“There is no reason to refrain (from) the usage of weapons against these outlaw anglers,” Rep. Chung Jin-suk of the ruling Saenuri Party said Monday. “We will review organizing a new marine safety headquarters and reinforce facilities.”

The Chinese boats that attacked South Korea’s authorities are currently on the wanted list in collaboration with the Chinese authorities.

According to statistics, 50,022 Chinese fishing vessels have trespassed in South Korean waters, with only 43 of them arrested, the Central Regional Headquarters Korea Coast Guard said.

By Jo He-rim (herim@heraldcorp.com)
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