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A Korean Vessel Rescued from Somali Pirates, Worries of Retaliation Grow

Last Friday, South Korean special forces successfully rescued its 21 crew members who had been held as hostages by Somali pirates in the Arabian Sea. During a military raid, eight pirates were killed and five captured. When the news was heard, most Koreans cheered and joined the festive atmosphere. Prudent net users raised concerns over possible retaliation from pirates and complained about the mainstream media who, too busy praising the government's feat, neglected important domestic issues and belittled the efforts of individuals who have actually saved the crews.

Image by Andymangold, Originally posted to Flickr, Licensed under the Creative Commons Attribution 2.0

Many Korean news shows played a live video and related images of the rescue mission on the hijacked Korean freighter, ‘Samho Jewelery’, for more than 20-30 minutes of their regular 50 minutes news segments. It was fairly interesting to watch on day 1. But as the pirate news continued throughout the next day and the next, all the praise seemed to be going to the President who ordered the mission, prompting audiences to say ‘enough!’.

In a public discussion forum site, net user ID:Larry Diamond criticized the KBS (Korea Broadcasting Station, one of three major broadcasting stations in Korea) for ignoring severe domestic issues, such as the foot-and-mouth disease. South Korea is facing its worst foot-and-mouth outbreak and almost two million cattle have been culled.

저 역시 청해부대가 기분 좋은 소식을 전해줌에 있어 큰 박수를 보내는 입장입니다. 그러나[…]어제 토요일! KBS 9시뉴스는 20여분동안 온통 이번 사건으로 도배했고, 국내뉴스전달은 없었습니다. […] KBS뉴스는 해외언론의 반응과 이명박정부의 신속한 대응이라는 귀결문구로 결국 나는 관영매체다!라고 전국민을 상대로 선포한것이나 다름없습니다. […]이제 정도껏합시다. 토요일 KBS뉴스에서 사라진 구제역 뉴스! 정말 심각합니다…. 구정을 앞두고 차라리 고향내려가지 않기! 캠페인방송하는게 구제역 막는 지름길인지도 모를 갈림길에 서 있는 상태입니다.

I am giving a round of great applause to the Chunghae (:Korea's Navy task force) troops for granting us this welcoming news. BUT […] yesterday (Saturday), KBS filled their news segments exclusively with reports on this pirate rescue case, and shared no time on domestic issues. […] KBS concluded the news show by quoting foreign press (positive) comments on the government and (praising) Lee Myung Bak administration’s prompt response, as if it is declaring itself as a state-controlled media in front of Korean public. […] It is more than enough. The foot-and-mouth stories went missing from KBS news on Saturday…. With the Lunar New Years holiday approaching, [note: its from Feb.2-4 in Korea] we are standing at a critical point, and KBS (could have) done some kind of public campaign to discourage people from visiting their hometowns in order to halt the spread of the disease (to clean areas).

On same public forum site, Daum's Agora, net user ID: BaeksuBaeksu posted an article blaming mainstream media for overselling the current administration's accomplishment.

무엇보다 이번 피랍사건을 해결한 청해호 일원과 UDT 대원들에게 격려와 박수를 보넵니다. 근데 현재의 언론이나 일부 몇몇 아고라인들의 MB의 업적만들기적 칭송에 정말 고개를 젓지 않을수가 없네요. 일단 이일 자체에 있어서는 MB가 잘못한 것은 아닙니다. 잘한 일이지요.[…]하지만 이것은 한 국가의 통수권자이자 통솔자로서 자국민을 보호하기위한 어떠한 대통령이라도 내릴수 있는 결정입니다.[…] 이번작전의 성공은 MB에 결정에 따라 잘된 것이 아니라,작전 자체를 사상자가 없이 성공적으로 치루어낸 각부 관계기관과 현장의 대원들의 몫이 되어야 마땅한 것입니다.

First and foremost, I send words of encouragement and appreciation to the Cheng-hae and UDT (Underwater Demolition Team) members for solving the hijacked vessel case. But the mainstream media and some of the Agorians (: Daum Agora's net users) are busy lauding this as if this feat was solely MB’s (:Korean President’s initials) accomplishment. This kind of attitude makes people shake their heads. Of course, it is not MB’s fault. It is something he had done right. […] But this decision is what any President should be able to make, as the supreme commander and as the head of the state to protect its citizen.[…] The military operation was done successfully not only because MB made a right decision, but also because everyone from concerned departments and each individual from the special forces have managed their parts successfully at the scene without injuring our people.

What concerns Koreans more than bugging news reports is the fact that there are still other Korean crew members who held as hostages by Somali pirates. Net users have filed an online petition[ko] urging the government to rescue seamen from the Guemmi, a Korean vessel hijacked last October.

Blogger Cyberbong 75, even though he titled his post as ‘Extremely Amazing Rescue’, called for caution about possible revenge.

하지만 문제는 이제부터입니다. 90년대 중반 말라카 해협에서 일본의 S사 상선을 공격했던 해적들이 그 배의 선원들에게 진압을 당하여 체포된 이 후 S사의 배가 지나갈 때 마다 해적의 위협에 특히 더 시달려야 했습니다. 해적들에겐 자신들만의 마케팅이라고 할까요. 특유의 리번제 성향이 있기 때문에 당분간은 우리나라 상선에 대한 위협이 더욱 거세일 것입니다. 물론 이런 작전을 몇 번만 더 성공적으로 수행하게 되면 ‘감히 건들어선 안되는 나라의 배'라는 인식을 심어줄 수 있습니다.

Actually, it is the beginning of the problem. Around the Strait of Malacca, a Japanese vessel that belonged to S (:initial) corporation had been attacked by the pirates in the mid 90's. Those pirates were captured by the crew members and later arrested. But after that incident, any vessel from the S corporation received severe threats from the pirates when they passed through nearby waters. The pirates have their own (marketing) strategies, or a tendency to revenge. The Korean vessels in future will face intensified threats from them. But if we continue to succeed in military operations several more times, they will perceive our vessels ‘as ships from a country we should not dare to touch.’ [note:It is unclear what ‘S’ stands for but it is true that another Japanese ship was hijacked in 2005 in the Strait of Malacca]

In line with this speculation, Reuters reported this morning that Somali pirates have threatened to kill any South Korean seamen that they take hostage in future to pay back the death of their fellow pirates. Pirates from two bases on the Somali coast said they were taking hostages further inland to block future rescue attempts, the report added.

However, some bloggers, such as Nest of pnix, reasoned that it is implausible to expect killings from pirates. The blogger explained that since the Somali pirates share a very basic level of camaraderie, the weak emotional bond between pirates will not prevent them from obtaining ransom from countries, which is their top priority.

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