Lawmakers of the National Assembly Defense Committee suggested in a roundtable with Defense Minister Kim Kwan-jin Monday that the government consider exchanging the five Somali pirates captured in the Navy commandos’ raid on the Samho Jewelry Friday with the crew of the Geummi 305 now in captivity in Somalia. Minister Kim said it was a good idea, but we do not think so.
Ruling and opposition party members said the Navy should not deliver the captured pirates to any third country but should bring them home to put them on trial under international law and the Korean Criminal Code. But while taking due legal procedures, Rep. Park Sang-chun of the opposition Democratic Party said, the government should try to use the Somalis for an exchange with the Geummi crew, consisting of two Koreans, two Chinese and 39 Kenyans.
But the problem is with whom the authorities can negotiate, aside from the question of legitimacy of such an asymmetrical exchange. Somalia now has a U.N.-backed government but, tied up fighting a civil war, it is not in control of pirates that operate in several almost independent groups. There is little chance that the group that had seized the Samho Jewelry belongs to the same force that had abducted the Geummi 305 in October last year.
Experts estimate that about 1,000 armed men, consisting of local fishermen, former militiamen and ship technicians, are engaged in piracy in at least five different groups. Only the most powerful among them, called the Somali Marines, is known to be maintaining a semblance of military organization.
The Korean company that had owned the 250-ton Geummi 305 went bankrupt shortly after its abduction on Oct. 9. Negotiations between the company’s former agent in Nairobi, Kenya, and the pirates have brought down the ransom from the initial $6 million down to somewhere between $600,000 to $400,000, according to the agent. Our lawmakers had better try to raise the money for what should be the last payment to pirates.