Indonesia sailors escape to Busan but get caught, 1 diesIndonesian sailors stranded on a deep-sea fishing vessel due to the war in Ukraine tried swimming to shore, where they hoped to get jobs illegally.
One drowned and six were caught with an accomplice in Busan, who arranged money and a motel room.
The incident took place on June 9 but was only disclosed by the JoongAng Ilbo.
The seven Indonesian sailors obtained seafarer visas (C-3) in March and entered the country in April.
Their ship was moored near Geoje, South Gyeongsang. It was supposed to leave for the Russian coast for pollack fishing, but due to the Russian invasion of Ukraine, it was stuck.
The Indonesian sailors feared they would never get to the fishing grounds and would end up returning home empty-handed.
“They received between $600 and $800 monthly as basic wages, but to earn commissions, they needed to sail out to the Russian coast,” said a spokesperson for the Special Immigration Investigation Unit of the Busan Immigration Office.
They spent two weeks planning their escape. They had to swim 1.6 kilometers to shore and wore life jackets underneath their clothes.
They packed extra clothes, shoes, passports and money in plastic bags. The Special Immigration Investigation Unit said they studied the tides for weeks. During questioning, the sailors admitted that they “waited for the right tide and escaped.”
It was reported to the Changwon Coast Guard at 7:34 a.m. on June 9 that seven Indonesian sailors had left the ship without permission.
Other sailors on the ship confirmed that the sailors were on the ship until 1 a.m. Nobody noticed them leaving.
About 80 minutes after the missing report, an Indonesian man in his 30s was found dead in a coastal area in Seongpo-ri, Geoje, by the Coast Guard.
The man sustained no injuries. The Coast Guard assumes the body was pushed to the shore by the tide after drowning.
The other six sailors, unaware of their friend's demise, waited for him for about an hour near Seongpo Port, 800 meters from the location of the dead body.
They gave up and took a taxi to Busan. They were on the run for half a day. The Special Immigration Investigation Unit, Coast Guard and Police were sent to find them.
They were caught in a motel room with an accomplice who had arranged money for the sailors. The accomplice was arrested too.
The Special Immigration Investigation Unit plans on charging the six Indonesian sailors and their accomplice with violating the Immigration Act.
More than 100 foreign sailors are similarly stuck on deep-sea fishing vessels near Korea’s coastal cities. Ships scheduled to go to Russian waters during the fishing season—May and June—have been unable to.
The Korea Ocean Industry Association reported that as of June 14, a total of 171 crew members, 54 Korean and 117 foreigners, are living on fishing vessels anchored in Busan Gamcheon Port and in the waters off Geoje.
“We have requested shipping companies to deploy 24-hour security on ships to prevent further incidents of attempted escape,“ said an official from the Busan Immigration Office.
Fishing companies have been unable to pay Russia to fish along the Russian coast because of U.S. sanctions against Russia following the invasion of Ukraine. The Ministry of Maritime Affairs and Fisheries is currently negotiating other ways to pay the fees.
“We all hope to resume fishing operations during June and July,” said an official from the Korea Ocean Industry Association.
BY AN DAE-HUN [email@example.com]