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It has been a year and four months since four Korean crew members of the ship MT Gemini were kidnapped by Somali pirates. This is the longest period that Koreans have been detained in Somalia.
The ship was kidnapped on April 30, 2011 on the south eastern sea of Kenya. MT Gemini belongs to Singaporean Glory Ship Management. There were four Koreans and 21 other foreigners on board when the ship was kidnapped. Seven months later, pirates released only the 21 people, all except the Korean crew members, who they took to Somalia.
According to the Korean Ministry of Foreign Affairs and Trade (MOFAT), at that time Somali pirates asked the Korean government to free other Somali pirates who were arrested by the Korean navy for attacking a Korean shipment.
MOFAT asked the media not to report about this accident because the media report could make a negotiation worse between the Korean government and Somali pirates. It became impossible to learn of the four crew members on the media.
The crew have been in contact with their family or co-workers through phone calls, letting people know they are okay. However, according to Somalia Report, two crew members are ill because of water with a high rate of salt, and they are not able to get any doctor care.
The problem lies in the fact that the Korean government is having trouble learning where these four are and how they are doing right now. However, the Korean government still sticks with a non-involvement policy, saying that there was no precedent that any nations negotiated with pirates. The main agent of negotiations is a shipping company which hired these Korean people, so the best thing the Korean government will do is help the shipping company by offering know-how about negotiations. Currently, the Korean government is getting the report from a Singaporean embassy about kidnapped crews every week.
According to MOFAT, Somali pirates want a large amount of money from the Korean government in exchange for freeing the four Korean crew members, making negotiation harder and harder.
As 500 days passed, the Korean people questioned the Singaporean shipping company’s negotiation skills. 32-year-old surname Kim, who works for a shipping company in Korea, said, “It seems that the Singaporean shipping company gave up its effort. 21 people are already freed, and only Koreans are left, not Singaporeans or Chinese. There is not a big motivation for a shipping company to rescue them.”
Some people say that the Korean government should use force to rescue kidnapped Korean crews. However, it is unlikely to happen. According to UN mandate, South Korea can exercise the right of hot pursuit into Somali land, but since the four Korean crew members are detained somewhere else, it is impossible to find and rescue them.
Image Courtesy of KOREA.NET – Official page of the Republic of Korea