Skip to main content

Impounded Chinese cruise ship finally leaves South Korea

By Chuck Thompson and Ke Feng, CNN
September 17, 2013 -- Updated 0259 GMT (1059 HKT)
The Henna has been called China's first luxury cruise liner, but its passengers were subjected to a rude wait over the weekend.
The Henna has been called China's first luxury cruise liner, but its passengers were subjected to a rude wait over the weekend.
STORY HIGHLIGHTS
  • Detained in South Korea since Friday, China's first luxury cruise ship has finally left port for home
  • Planes were dispatched to fly passengers and crew back to China
  • Impounding is part of legal dispute between two Chinese shipping companies
  • The story has attracted massive attention on Chinese social media

(CNN) -- After being detained in the South Korean port of Jeju since Friday, the Chinese luxury cruise ship, Henna, finally set sail just after 7:30 p.m. local time on Monday.

The ship is now headed back to China and expected to arrive at the Tianjin Dongjiang International Cruise Port near Beijing at 11 a.m. on Wednesday.

The departure was confirmed by the ship's operator, HNA Tourism Cruise and Yacht Management Corp.

According to HNA, by the time of departure, 1,558 passengers had been flown back to China after their vacations were interrupted by a South Korean court order and unexpected detainment.

Perhaps the most shocking news surrounding the departure is that 87 resolute passengers, undeterred by the international commotion and four days in Jeju, were so determined to finish their trips that they chose to return to China with the ship.

Henna saga

The Henna was impounded in Jeju on Friday by a local court following a seizure application filed by Chinese state-owned shipping company, Jiangsu Shagang Group, against Beijing-based travel organizer HNA Tourism, according to China's state news agency, Xinhua.

Jiangsu Shagang Group filed the application with South Korean authorities due to a legal dispute with HNA Tourism, related to a legal proceeding over outstanding lease payments with an HNA subsidiary, Grand China Shipping.

The Henna is under the ownership of Sanya Artemis Yacht Entertainment Co., Ltd, a subsidiary of HNA Tourism.

At least seven airplanes were dispatched to fly the 1,659 passengers and approximately 650 crew members back to China, according to a statement from HNA Tourism.

They shouldn't let the tourists suffer no matter what happened! This (shows) a lack of respect to the Chinese.
Weibo post

Passengers will receive compensation of approximately RMB 2,000 (about $250) for the stunted trip, said the company.

Difficult detention

China state media reported that during the ship's weekend detention, two passengers suffered heart attacks; according to HNA, however, only one passenger suffered a heart attack. A child suffered from a fever. All were taken to a local Korean hospital for treatment.

An HNA Tourism spokesperson told CNN the company believes the timing for the seizure was "deliberate."

The Jiangsu Shagang Group filed its application on Friday at 4 p.m. local time, knowing many public offices would soon be closed for the weekend, according to an HNA spokesperson.

HNA says the timing led directly to the suffering and inconvenience of its passengers. 

According to HNA (link in Chinese only), the company paid an RMB 16,880,000 ($2.75 million) bond by 3 a.m. on Saturday to release the ship, after receiving the detention notice. However, the Jeju court delayed payment of the funds over the weekend.

Representatives from the Jiangsu Shagang Group were unavailable for comment.

Described by HNA as China's first luxury cruise ship, the Henna made its maiden voyage in January of this year.

'Lack of respect' toward Chinese

On its official Weibo page, HNA says South Korean authorities ignored the rights of Chinese tourists and acted "inappropriately" in dealing with the issue. 

According to state-owned China Youth Daily, China accounts for 35% of tourists in South Korea, and that number is on the rise.

The story of the Henna has gone viral on Chinese social media networks. Many Chinese Netizens question the detention order issued by the South Koreans.

"They shouldn't let the tourists suffer no matter what happened! This (shows) a lack of respect to the Chinese," posted one commenter.

Anger has also been directed at HNA, following Chinese media reports that HNA's unpaid debt was the primary reason for the legal dispute.

"Someone loaned money to a villain, the villain doesn't want to return. Then, you ask people to shush, and not talk about it aloud," posted another Chinese netizen.

South Korean officials in Jeju said that while the incident was regrettable, they weren't concerned about long-term damage to South Korea's reputation as a holiday destination for Chinese travelers.

ADVERTISEMENT
Part of complete coverage on
September 18, 2014 -- Updated 1200 GMT (2000 HKT)
A foreign language can be the best aphrodisiac, so we traveled the world in search of the hottest accents.
September 22, 2014 -- Updated 0212 GMT (1012 HKT)
Hidden from the rest of the world for decades, Myanmar's Lethwei boxing is experiencing a revival globally.
September 17, 2014 -- Updated 1117 GMT (1917 HKT)
This aging cargo work whale makes more than 60 flights each week, carrying parts for all of the Airbus programs.
September 16, 2014 -- Updated 1132 GMT (1932 HKT)
Vikings, vicious politics and vindaloo curries -- Scotland isn't all tartan and bagpipes.
September 15, 2014 -- Updated 0026 GMT (0826 HKT)
Former brothels, public toilets and war bunkers now provide eccentric watering holes for those willing to drink deep.
September 18, 2014 -- Updated 0304 GMT (1104 HKT)
Ushaka Marine World, Durban, South Africa
Joburg is trendy, Cape Town is glamorous, but Durban has style -- and a restaurant inside a shark tank.
September 12, 2014 -- Updated 0756 GMT (1556 HKT)
Tirana's nightlife
Former Tirana stronghold of a totalitarian leader now home to a pulsing clubs and bar scene.
September 12, 2014 -- Updated 0338 GMT (1138 HKT)
Whether filled with electric blue sulfur flames or hissing lava, these mega mountains offer incredible vistas.
September 10, 2014 -- Updated 0040 GMT (0840 HKT)
This once-a-year luxury cruise visits untouched islands and never-snorkeled reefs.
September 9, 2014 -- Updated 1305 GMT (2105 HKT)
Peter J. Goutiere was just shy of 30 years old when he piloted a Douglas C-47 from Miami to Kolkata, India.
September 1, 2014 -- Updated 2247 GMT (0647 HKT)
Breathtaking scenery, championship design -- many of the courses dropped into the Canadian Rockies are among the most memorable in the world.
September 2, 2014 -- Updated 1306 GMT (2106 HKT)
A floating hippo in the Thames river designed by artist Florentijn Hofman
Why Florentijn Hofman is sending a giant beast into London's River Thames.
September 2, 2014 -- Updated 1607 GMT (0007 HKT)
Scrap all those other bucket lists you've been compiling and start saving -- these memorable-for-a-lifetime trips don't come cheap, or easy.
September 6, 2014 -- Updated 0042 GMT (0842 HKT)
A squabble over a device that limits how far a seat can recline has brought inflight etiquette into the spotlight again.
August 29, 2014 -- Updated 1023 GMT (1823 HKT)
Thirst for victory competes with thirst for booze in event where competitors raise their glasses long before they cross the finish line.
ADVERTISEMENT