Cheonghae Unit Dispatched to Chase Somali PiratesUpdated: 2010-04-05 12:00:00 (KST)
A Korean oil tanker remains out of contact after it was reported that Somali pirates had taken control of the ship.
The safety of the 24 crew members, including five Koreans, is yet to be confirmed and the unexpected hijacking has left the shipping company scrambling to find ways to bring them home.
[Interview : Chun Bok-woo, Director
Samho Shipping Co.] "Through talks with the government we will look for all possible measures."
The 300-thousand ton supertanker, Samho Dream, was on its way to the US state of Louisiana from Iraq when it was allegedly seized in the Indian Ocean on Sunday some 1,500 kilometers southeast of the Gulf of Aden.
The Korean government has dispatched its anti-piracy naval ship, the Yi Sun-shin, along with its 300-strong Cheonghae counter-piracy unit.
The 4,400 ton warship plans to intercept the pirate ship before it reaches port which is believed to be headed towards its base in Somalia.
Despite the distance, officials at the Foreign Ministry believe since the hijacked vessel is much slower the destroyer could catch up with it if it goes directly to Somali waters.
But, the officials are expecting the chase to last as long as two days.
[Interview : Kim Young-sun, Spokesperson
Foreign Ministry] "It will take the Yi Sun-shin warship a full day to travel 1,500 kilometers."
However, in dealing with the situation, the Korean government has made it clear that its top priority is looking after the lives and safety of the kidnapped crew members.
It added that it will not take part in direct talks with the pirates as such a move can further jeopardize the lives of the hostages and said it will merely provide instructions for Samho Shipping who will be involved with direct negotiations.
At least four Korean ships have been hijacked by Somali pirates in recent years including the two ships and their 24 crew members who were held captive for six months in 2007.
Hwang Sung-hee, Arirang News.
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