N.Koreans Hold 3 Chinese Trawlers to Ransom

Three Chinese fishing vessels have been seized by North Koreans and are being held to ransom, CCTV reported on Wednesday. The unidentified North Koreans demanded 1.2 million yuan or W220 million.

According to Chinese media reports, one boat left Liaoning and was seized by the North Koreans around 4:30 a.m. on May 8 when they were fishing in waters 123 degrees 57 minutes east and 38 degrees and five minutes north. Two more Chinese fishing vessels were seized later that day. A total of 29 crew were aboard the three vessels. Crew of other Chinese trawlers that managed to escape the scene alerted maritime police back home.

CCTV said the fishing boats were seized in Chinese waters. The North Korean abductors handed a satellite phone to the fishermen, who phoned their family and told them they would be freed if the ransom was paid. They said they were already in North Korean waters.

It is common for Chinese fishing boats to be seized by South Korean maritime police while fishing illegally in the South's waters but very rare for them to be seized by North Korea.

The Chinese Foreign Ministry said it was trying to assess the situation and keep in contact with North Korea to resolve the dispute.

englishnews@chosun.com / May 17, 2012 10:35 KST

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