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Seoul considers fining S. Korean sailors operating in West Africa


The South Korean government is considering whether to impose fines on its citizens if they fish in the waters off West Africa, in response to repeated maritime abductions in the region, local reports said Wednesday.

The ministries of Foreign Affairs and Fisheries have been discussing the matter with other concerned agencies, seeking a way to dissuade Korean sailors from fishing in the perilous waters, primarily in the Gulf of Guinea, the report said, citing unnamed sources. The fines could amount to millions of won, it said.

The government is also considering whether to revoke the maritime licenses of sailors who get caught operating in the area.

But any such measures could take a while to implement, as they would require revisions to the law.

Since July 3, Seoul has designated the Gulf of Guinea, which borders the coasts of Cameroon, Nigeria, Togo, Ghana and Benin, as “waters highly prone to piracy” and advised seafarers against fishing there. The government also recently dispatched a Coast Guard official to the Korean Embassy in Ghana to deal with issues related to piracy. 

Despite the warnings, some 140 Korean sailors are thought to be operating in the region.

Two Koreans kidnapped in waters off Ghana in August were released recently. Several Korean sailors were abducted in the region in May and June as well.

Though piracy has decreased worldwide, it continues to increase in the fish-rich Gulf of Guinea, which now accounts for 90 percent of all maritime kidnappings in the world, according to the International Maritime Bureau.

By Ahn Sung-mi (