Updated March. 05, 2011 11:03
The Korea Coast Guards Taean branch in South Chungcheong Province said Friday that it seized two 30 ton-class Chinese fishing boats for illegal fishing.
The two boats allegedly entered Koreas exclusive economic zone Wednesday and were taken to the port of Shinjindo-ri in Taean County.
Ten Chinese fishermen were booked on the same charges. Of those arrested, those who resisted with knives and blunt weapons were slapped with the additional charge of obstructing public authority.
Korean maritime authorities will also fine each fishing boat 30 million won (27,000 U.S. dollars).
A Korea Coast Guard source said the fishing boats are suspected of illegal fishing in waters some 64 miles southwest off the Gyeongryeolbi Islands in Taean County at 3 p.m. Wednesday.
Seven Chinese fishing boats found to have been illegally fishing were spotted at that time by a patrol boat from the Korea Coast Guards Taean branch. The patrol boat approached the fishing boats and aired a warning in Chinese in compliance with standard procedures ordering them to stop.
The Chinese fishing boats, which were scattered when fishing, began assembling instead of running away to overpower maritime authorities. Korean authorities used fire extinguishers to disperse the boats, sent out two speedboats, and seized two fishing boats before boarding and inspecting them.
Maritime officer Park Jun-seong, 30, who participated in the operation, said, After chasing one boat for 10 minutes, we caught it and boarded it. We demanded that they surrender and put down their weapons, but the fishermen brandished axes and hammers at us and violently resisted.
Judging that seizure of the fishing boat was impossible due to violent resistance, officers fired 10 blanks and live ammo with shotguns. One shot penetrated the left ankle of one of the Chinese fishermen. After treating the injury on the spot, he was taken by chopper to a hospital in Gunsan, where he is being treated.
With Chinese fishing boats violently resisting the Korean crackdown on illegal fishing, Korean maritime authorities opened fire for the first time.
Lee Byeong-il, chief of the Korea Coast Guards Taean branch, said, Except one that was aimed, all shots were meant as warnings and threats and were not aimed at fishermen, adding, Use of weapons is allowed only when officers feel threatened and deem it impossible to suppress suspects and conduct their mission. Officers are allowed to shoot at non-critical body parts after firing warning shots. The officers seem to have followed the guidelines in the manual.
Five fishing boats fled after the officer opened fire. Lee said, Among Chinese fishing boats, those who violate the fishing zone or fish without permission are more likely to violently resist because they face heavier fines, adding, The boats seized this time also have no licenses.
The Korea Coast Guard is analyzing video footage and photos documenting illegal fishing by Chinese fishing boats and the skirmish that erupted in the course of the crackdown.
A maritime police source said, The Chinese fisherman suffered a gunshot wound on his leg but his condition is not life threatening, adding, Weve also explained the seizure process to China through the Korean Foreign Ministry.