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Relative pleads for abducted seamen in Somalia

Korea Times
Friday, October 05, 2012
By Kim Young-jin

The son-in-law of one of four Korean seamen kept hostage by Somali pirates last year pleaded with the government, Friday, to take urgent measures to secure the freedom of the hostages.

He reportedly lamented over recent phone threats by the pirates to shoot one of their remaining captives, if their demands are not immediately met. The kidnapped seamen were among the crew of a ship operated by a Singaporean firm Glory Ship Management, operator of the 21,000-ton vessel MT Gemini, hijacked by pirates on its way to Kenya from Malaysia.

The emotional appeal came as lawmakers criticized government’s lax handling of the case, prompting an apology from Foreign Minister Kim Sung-hwan.

"Please save my kin," the man said in a video shown at an annual parliamentary audit of government agencies. “The government says it is doing something but nothing is happening. There is nothing I hope for more than his return.”

Friday marked the 525th day of the group’s ordeal under captivity. He further described the condition of one of the four hostages as “serious.” A revelation which contradicts comments from officials last month saying the hostages appeared to be in good health, citing phone conversations with their family members.

In December, the pirates freed the vessel but reneged on an an earlier agreement to release the entire crew, by holding on to the four Koreans. Minister Kim was slammed for “ineptness” by independent lawmaker Moon Dae-sung, who presented the video, as well as other lawmakers.

"I am sorry that our efforts have not produced tangible results so far,” said Kim in response. He said while Seoul’s policy is not to negotiate with pirates, the ministry was making every effort to secure the release of the seamen.

Kim added he had requested the Somali Prime Minister Abdiweli Mohamed Ali for cooperation on the sidelines of last month’s U.N. General Assembly meeting in New York.

Officials say, constrained by the government’s policy of not negotiating with pirates, it has sought to offer a “wide range” of assistance to the operators of the vessel to aid their effective negotiations with the pirates. Progress has meanwhile being stalled because of differences in positions between the firm and the pirates over the ransom demand.

Officials say Seoul has asked the international community, global organizations as well as the Somalia government for help in securing the release of the captives.

Seoul has taken a tough line over piracy in recent years, deploying the Cheonghae Unit to the Gulf of Aden since 2009 to stem piracy in the region. In January, navy commandos raided a Korean freighter hijacked by Somali pirates in the Arabian Sea and rescued all 21 crew members. Eight pirates were killed in the raid.


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