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Rescued captain recovers consciousness

The captain of a rescued South Korean freight vessel has regained his consciousness and has begun to recognize some family members 13 days after he was wounded, his medical team said Thursday. 

Medical staff take care of Seok Hae-kyun, the wounded captain of a rescued South Korean freighter, at Ajou University Hospital in Suwon, Gyeonggi Province Wednesday. (Yonhap News)
Medical staff take care of Seok Hae-kyun, the wounded captain of a rescued South Korean freighter, at Ajou University Hospital in Suwon, Gyeonggi Province Wednesday. (Yonhap News)


The 58-year-old captain, Seok Hae-kyun, who was shot by Somali pirates during an hours-long rescue operation last month, remains in stable condition although the respirator has not been fully removed, doctors said.

South Korea’s 11,500-ton chemical freighter Samho Jewelry and its 21 crew members were rescued on Jan. 21 by the Navy days after it was seized in waters between Oman and India.

All crewmen were rescued alive in the hours-long rescue operation, but the captain, one of the eight South Koreans on board, was shot by the pirates and seriously wounded. He returned to South Korea last week and went through surgery.

“We began to remove the respirator as the captain recovered consciousness by reacting to his wife’s voice,” a member of his medical team said, asking not to be named until the hospital’s official announcement. “But we’ll have to wait for further recovery.”

The hospital had previously said blood poisoning and slow blood clotting due to large bullet wounds were slowly down the captain’s recovery. Orthopedic surgeries will be carried out once Seok regains full consciousness, it said.

Six bullet wounds were found on the captain’s stomach, legs and arms when he arrived at the South Korean hospital over the weekend, doctors say.

Five Somali pirates, one of whom is suspected of shooting at the captain, are currently being investigated by the South Korean police and are expected to receive either the death penalty or imprisonment for life. The South Korean Navy killed eight other pirates who were on board during the rescue operation.

The captured pirates, currently being investigated in Busan, have admitted charges of hijacking the ship and keeping the crewmen detained, but deny shooting the captain.

By Shin Hae-in (hayney@heraldcorp.com)



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