China fisherman fatally shot by the Coast Guard
A Chinese fisherman was killed during a Coast Guard crackdown on illegal fishing in waters west of Buan County, North Jeolla, yesterday morning, the first time a Chinese national died from a shot fired by a Coast Guard officer in a raid.
The Chinese skipper surnamed Song, 45, was shot in the abdomen while fighting off a raid by 10 Coast Guard officers in waters 144 kilometers (89 miles) west of Wangdeung Island in Buan County at around 8:30 a.m. yesterday.
After he was shot, he pleaded for help because he could not breathe and was taken to Mokpo Hankook Hospital on a helicopter. The Coast Guard said he arrived at the hospital at 9:38 a.m. and was pronounced dead at 11:12 a.m. due to an internal injury caused by a gunshot.
A CT scan revealed that the man had a 1.6-centimeter bullet in his abdomen.
“It is presumed that a shot that penetrated the upper back caused the death,” said Dr. Jung Jong-hyun of the hospital’s emergency department, adding that the fisherman’s liver, kidney and lung were badly damaged and he suffered heavy internal bleeding.
The fatal turn of events yesterday unfolded when the Coast Guard approached a Chinese-flagged ship after it was found illegally fishing in Korea’s maritime exclusive economic zone in the West Sea. The Coast Guard dispatched 10 officers, who got onto the ship and took custody of the fishermen aboard, according to the Mokpo Coast Guard.
“At 8:07 a.m., the officers gained control of the ship and began moving into a safer zone. At 8:11 a.m., the ship had to stop due to an internal malfunction. Taking advantage of the stop, four Chinese vessels nearby flanked the ship on the left and right, with two ships on each side. Chinese fishermen from the four vessels then began exercising violence against the officers,” said Choi Chang-sam, head of the Mokpo Coast Guard during a press briefing yesterday.
In explaining as to what led to the use of deadly force, Choi said the Chinese threatened the officers with knives and beer bottles and tried to choke the officers.
The officers fired three warning blanks before they shot eight times to subdue the attackers.
The Coast Guard said the deceased fisherman was the captain of one of the three vessels that came to rescue the seized fishing ship from the Koreans.
The Coast Guard’s rules of engagement stipulate that officers are allowed to use deadly weapons when they are physically threatened by suspects with sharp objects or in a group attack.
The chief said the officers performed CPR on the captain on the Coast Guard vessel before sending him to the hospital.
The Coast Guard said five officers are receiving treatment at a hospital in Mokpo for injuries sustained during the brawl and that it requested an autopsy of the victim to find out the exact cause of his death.
The Ministry of Foreign Affairs expressed regret over the incident and sent its condolences to the captain’s family yesterday as well as notifying the details of the incident to its Chinese counterpart.
In response to the death of its citizen, the Chinese government urged Seoul to conduct a thorough investigation while expressing its deep dissatisfaction with how the event turned out in a regular briefing by its foreign ministry.
“[The Chinese government] demanded stern punishment for those responsible [for the loss] and called on [the Korean government] to impartially and strictly deal with the case,” said Hong Lei, spokesman of the foreign ministry in Beijing.
Korean Coast Guard officers frequently battle Chinese vessels in pursuit of abundant ocean resources in the West Sea and have also suffered casualties during the raids.
A Coast Guard officer was killed in a raid after he was stabbed by a Chinese fisherman in waters off Ongjin County, Incheon, in December 2011 during a raid.
A year later, one Chinese crew member died from an injury sustained by a rubber bullet in waters off Sinan County, South Jeolla.
Though authorities in Beijing demanded Korea stop what it called “violent execution of laws,” the incident did not develop into a diplomatic feud.
BY JANG DAE-SUK, KANG JIN-KYU [firstname.lastname@example.org]