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Report: Somali pirates hijack South Korean vessel

By the CNN Wire Staff
  • The "Keummi 305" was fishing in Kenyan waters
  • The waters were considered safe from piracy
  • A crew of 43 is on board
  • South Korea
  • Pirates
  • Somalia
  • Kenya

(CNN) -- A South Korean fishing boat was hijacked by Somali pirates off the coast of Africa, South Korea's Yonhap news agency reported Sunday, citing the nation's foreign ministry.

The 241-ton trawler "Keummi 305," with a crew of 43, was hijacked October 9 while fishing in Kenyan waters, about 16 kilometers (10 miles) off the coast of Lamu, Kenya, near the Indian Ocean, Yonhap said. The crew is comprised of 39 Kenyans, two South Koreans and two Chinese, according to the news agency.

Citing a South Korean citizen living in Mombasa, Kenya, Yonhap reported the boat was taken to Harardhere, a pirate base north of the Somalian capital of Mogadishu.

"Given past instances, it would put the hostages in even more danger if the government tried to negotiate directly with the pirates," a ministry official told Yonhap. "We're trying to find out more about the incident using all possible channels."

One of the South Koreans aboard the boat is a 54-year-old captain who is the president of Keummi Fishers, a company based in Busan, South Korea, Yonhap said. Officials at the Keummi boat dealership told the news agency the company had closed its Busan office in 2007 because of financial difficulties, and the captain, with the surname Kim, had been steering the ship himself for two years as a cost-cutting measure.

A boat dealership official told Yonhap they have received no communication from the pirates but expect to soon.

The Keummi 305 was in waters more than 400 kilometers (248 miles) away from the pirates' base, according to the news agency. The waters were considered safe because of the distance, as well as regular patrols conducted by the Kenyan navy.

Six South Korean boats or vessels have been hijacked by Somali pirates since 2006, Yonhap said. Most recently, the supertanker Samho Dream, with 19 Filipinos and five South Koreans on board, was seized in April in the Indian Ocean. It remains in captivity, the news agency said.