Fisherman killed in sea clash

By Qiu Yongzheng and Bai Tiantian Source:Global Times Published: 2012-10-17 1:00:05

A Chinese fisherman died on Tuesday after South Korean Coast Guard officers fired rubber bullets at crew members allegedly fishing illegally in the Yellow Sea, Chinese consulate officials confirmed.

Zhang Guanwei, a consul at the Consulate-General of China in Gwangju, South Korea, told the Global Times Tuesday night that they received a notice from the South Korean Coast Guard and have dispatched a diplomat to the harbor near the area where the incident occurred to assist the Chinese fishermen.

According to Zhang, the fishing boat involved in the shooting, the Luyingyu, was sailing toward a harbor near Mokpo, South Korea, under the supervision of the Coast Guard. Zhang confirmed that only one fisherman was killed in the dispute.

The Coast Guard said the 44-year-old fisherman, surnamed Zhang, was apparently hit by a rubber bullet fired into the air when Chinese fishermen used knives and iron bars to resist arrest by South Korean officers, Yonhap reported.

"We did our best to keep Zhang alive, but he died. We feel sorry about that," the South Korean news agency quoted the Coast Guard as saying.

Some 30 Chinese boats were illegally fishing in South Korean waters near Hongdo Island when a 3,000-ton coast guard ship launched a raid on the Luyingyu, a South Korean coast guard spokesman told AFP.

According to Yonhap, in a message to the Chinese embassy in Seoul, the South Korean government said, "Putting the responsibility and blame for the incident aside, the South Korean government expresses regret that an unfortunate incident happened and offers its condolences to the bereaved."

South Korean media also reported that the Chinese government has expressed strong discontent over the Chinese fisherman's death, and the South Korean government has said it hoped this incident won't escalate into a diplomatic dispute.

Li Mingliang, who works in the fishing business in Shandong Province across the sea from the Korean Peninsula, told the Global Times that he is sure that the Luyingyu came from Dongying, Shandong.

Though some admit crossing the border to fish in South Korean waters does occur among some Chinese fishermen, especially after mid-October, others have questioned the use of force by South Korean authorities.

Zhou Wenhua, head of the Jiaojiang Seagull Ocean Fishing company in Taizhou, Zhejiang Province, told the Global Times that the South Korean Coast Guard has used harsher measures in dealing with Chinese fishermen.

"In the past, Chinese fishermen, including myself, were allowed to seek shelter from storms in South Korean waters.  Now, it's totally forbidden," Zhou said. "Also, they upgraded their law enforcement equipment from non-lethal devices to riot guns and bullets now."

Zhou said his company has issued stricter instructions to the fishermen not to cross the forbidden areas without appropriate certificates in order to avoid unnecessary conflicts.

Chinese fishermen have been involved in a lethal conflict with South Korean law enforcement officers before.

Cheng Dawei, captain of a fishing boat from Shandong, was sentenced to 30 years in jail in April for killing Lee Cheong-ho, a South Korean coast guard, with a knife and seriously injuring another officer when they boarded his boat during a raid on December 12. The term was reduced to 23 years in September.

According to South Korean media, South Korean authorities held 534 fishing boats they believed to have illegally operated on their waters, up 44 percent from the previous year. The fishermen were charged $13 million in fines last year.

Zhang Liangui, a professor at the Party School of the Central Committee of the CPC, told the Global Times that the frequent disputes also have something to do with South Korea's special sensitivity over sovereignty issues. They see fishing rights as an integral part of sovereignty, and whenever it is infringed upon, they respond strongly, he said.

Both Chinese fishermen and South Korean Coast Guard should refrain from acting too extremely, he added.

Park Gayoung contributed to this story

Posted in: Diplomacy

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