Officers of the Korea Coast Guard on Thursday fired at a Chinese vessel suspected of illegal fishing in South Korean waters, leaving one fisherman injured, the police said Friday.
It was the first time for the Korean authorities to open fire against Chinese fishermen despite growing tensions between the two countries over Chinese boats’ frequent trespassing into Korea’s exclusive economic zone.
According to the maritime police, the 30-ton vessel and another Chinese fishing boat were captured around 3 p.m. in the waters 103 kilometers southwest of Taean, South Chungcheong Province.
The coast guard officers approached the vessel to inspect for evidence of illegal fishing in the EEZ only to face fierce resistance from the fishermen onboard.
Chinese fishing boats bind together to resist a crackdown by the South Korean Coast Guard in the West Sea in December last year. (Yonhap News)
When the officers spotted that some of the crewmen wielded weapons, they opened fire and shot one of the 10 crewmembers on board in the leg. A coast guard officer was also injured. Neither injury is thought to be critical, the police said.
The crewmembers of each vessel are currently being detained, and could face fines worth 30 million won for illegal fishing. The Chinese men responsible for the Korean officer’s injury could be booked for obstruction of public duty.
The strong reaction by the maritime police stems from its resolution to root out any illegalities in Korea’s territorial waters.
After the Navy vessel Cheonan was sunk by a North Korean torpedo in March 2010, the Coast Guard and defense ministry announced a strengthened guard on the seas. Last year, the Coast Guard caught a total of 350 illegal fishing vessels.
There have been reports of clashes between Chinese fishermen and South Korean police in the past, including one in which an officer died. However, this is the first case involving a shooting.
By Bae Ji-sook (email@example.com