[Letters] Sovereignty is not declared but protectedFrom the Baengnyeong Island in the North to the Ieo Island in the South, more than 3,000 Chinese fishing vessels are exploiting the fisheries resources in the vast South and West Seas, taking advantage of bad weather and darkness of the night. The maritime police and the Fisheries Supervision Office crack down an average of 500 Chinese fishing boats every year. They have been fined more than 10 billion won ($9.35 million). However, the illegal fishing operation continues, and the damage is getting serious.
As Korean patrol boats approach the Chinese fishing boats, they would cut off the fishing nets and run away fast. And the fishing net they leave behind cause serious damage on the ecosystem. The illegal fishing is so serious that the West Sea fishermen can only maintain an average catch with a strict crackdown by the maritime police.
Chinese fishing boats are getting more and more ruthless. While inspection is an approved procedure under the Korea-China Fisheries Agreement, some fishing boats are covered with barbed wire to block police officers from getting onboard. They gear up in rain jackets and brandish weapons as the maritime police use pressurized water cannons. In the course of crackdown, two police officers have been killed in action, and 57 have been injured. They were good citizens, neighbors, fathers and husbands.
Not so long ago, one of the Chinese crew members was killed by a rubber bullet shot by the Korean police as he was wielding a weapon. As they were using hand axes, saws and steel pipes, the use of the rubber bullet was a proportional and just response. The incident was concluded without much diplomatic troubles between the two countries.
Sovereignty is not declared but protected. We cannot give up just because it may cause diplomatic friction or pose risk to the safety of the police. The maritime police is endowed with the mission to protect the maritime sovereignty of Korea and hand over the seas to the future generation safely. The entire society should share this value and pledge.
by Kim Mun-hong Chief of the Mokpo Maritime Police