Dubious and irresponsibleThe capture of a South Korean crew and vessel by North Koreans for “illegal infiltration and fishing” on the northern side of the maritime border is full of mystery. All fishing boats registered with the authorities sail on an automated GPS and reporting system. Yet authorities claimed that they learned of their trespassing and capture from an announcement by Pyongyang’s news agency KCNA. They made a statement on the affair only after the crew and ship were released. Our Coast Guard, Navy, and even the defense minister insisted that they were unaware of the affair.
According to maritime authorities, all fishing boats are installed with a location tracing device. The location of all fishing boats can be seen on the fishing traffic and activity dashboards at port situation rooms belonging to the maritime association. The real-time whereabouts of the 391 boats, therefore, should be easily accessible. A fishing vessel is required to report to authorities every two hours after leaving the port. The captain of the ship would have reported on the sailing process to monitoring stations at Ulleung or Mookho ports on Oct. 20.
If a vessel misses its routine updates, the authority can make a call and check on the ship. If there is no answer, protocol demands that the Coast Guard or the Navy are notified. There must be a serious loophole in maritime security if no actions were made despite reporting from authorities. Maritime and security officials would have committed a serious error if they kept the capture a secret.
How the authorities were unaware of the seizure is incredible. The ship is said to have fled upon being chasing by North Korean guards. It would have been normal for it to put out an SOS to South Korean authorities. Apparently unaware that it was missing, the Coast Guard merely placed the ship on the list of vessels that failed to report its whereabouts. If North Korea did not release them, the crew may have never returned home. The Coast Guard and maritime ministry have been dubious and irresponsible. The government must thoroughly investigate the matter and release the findings.
JoongAng Ilbo, Nov. 1, Page 30