Trouble on the high seas

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Trouble on the high seas

Yet another Korean freighter has been hijacked by Somali pirates.

The 19,000-ton Samho Jewelry was plowing the waters of the Arabian Sea en route to Sri Lanka with a load of chemicals when it was hijacked.

The dispiriting news comes just two months after Somali pirates released a supertanker from the same Busan-based company - Samho Shipping - after receiving a record ransom payment. The pirates held the ship and its crew captive for seven months.

Meanwhile, Somali pirates are still holding the Korean trawler Geunmi 305, which they captured in October.

The government has been taking broad actions to safeguard our ships against piracy, but the recent hijacking in waters near Pakistan shows that pirates are venturing farther away from their home base in Somalia.

It is time for shipping companies, the government and the international community alike to join forces to rein in Somali piracy.

The Korean government has been helping shipping companies offset the threat of privacy by encouraging them to outfit ships with safe rooms for crew members and to place armed security guards on board ships traveling in dangerous regions.

Local officials have also actively sought international efforts to fight piracy, serving as the chair country last year of the Contact Group on Piracy off the Coast of Somalia, which operates under the auspices of the United Nations.

But the government and the international community have come up short: Attacks and hijackings by Somali pirates have surged from 20 cases in 2004 to 111 in 2008 and 217 in 2009.

The United States, Japan, the European Union, Thailand and Korea have sent warships to the waters near Somalia to patrol for pirates, but the region is simply too vast to monitor effectively. Many pirates also are set free once they are captured because of a lack of international criminal guidelines.

More than 20 percent of the ships that pass through this pirate-infested region of the world are Korean-flagged vessels, and some 29 percent of our shipping freight must sail through this danger zone.

Our government inevitably must take a stronger, more aggressive stance to clamp down on the problem.

We cannot let Somali pirates continue to hamper our trade and economic activities.
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