Long-Distance Relay Translation Aids Fight Against Pirates

      January 27, 2011 11:11

      Loudhailers from the Korean Navy's Lynx helicopter blared the words "Throw down your weapons. Then you will be spared." in Somali during a pre-dawn rescue last Friday of the crew of a Korean freighter from Somali pirates. Shortly afterwards two pirates emerged with their hands on their heads.

      No members of the Navy's crack Cheonghae Unit speak Somali, so government officials searched for people in Korea who knew the language. They found two, who were asked to write a message urging the pirates to give themselves up. The message was then delivered to a Korean resident in Oman who knew Somali, recorded and sent to the Cheonghae Unit.

      This relay interpretation method are also being used in the interrogation of the Somali pirates. The pirates are currently held aboard the Samho Jewelry and en route to Oman. "The prisoners can't understand English, let alone Korean, so the interrogation has to be done in Somali," a government source said. "So their comments are recorded and transmitted to Korea, where they are interpreted and sent back to the Cheonghae Unit."

      The process takes a long time, but the prisoners are illiterate, making it necessary to postpone full-fledged questioning.

      "We're unable to properly interrogate the pirates because we don't have anyone who can speak Somali," Defense Minister Kim Kwan-jin admitted Wednesday.

      But the fact that the pirates cannot understand Korean aided the rescue operation, because the loudhailers aboard the Lynx helicopter also repeatedly blasted out messages in Korean instructing the crew to lie down and remain there. That allowed the commandos to distinguish between the Korean crew and the Somali pirates, who remained standing.

      Meanwhile, government officials met Wednesday and decided to bring the five captured pirates to Korea early next month to face trial.

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