The Seoul government needs to take more radical measures to prevent Chinese fishermen from illegally operating in Korean waters. It should no longer keep its lukewarm stance on the matter. It has already invited the anger of local fisherman by cozying up to Beijing in a move to avoid diplomatic friction between the two countries.
Chinese fishermen are getting much bolder and intrude into South Korea’s Exclusive Economic Zone (EEZ) in the West Sea. They take advantage of Korea’s inaction in rooting out illegal fishing. They also tend to use more violence to resist seizure by the Korea Coast Guard, usually wielding shovels, sickles, axes and steel pipes against local law enforcement officials.
Their violence culminated in the death of a Cost Guard member in September 2008. The incident took place when the victim tried to capture a 17-ton Chinese fishing boat illegally operating in the EEZ. He was found dead in the sea after a Chinese fisherman hit him in the head with a shovel.
Regrettably, the Korean authorities have done little to hold Beijing responsible for the illegal fishing. They have failed to press the Chinese government to take sincere action to prevent such a tragic incident from happening again. They have only become an underdog under the high-handed tactics of China. They did not even refute a far-fetched Chinese claim that the Coast Guard had waged a barbaric and violent crackdown on Chinese fishermen.
To a large extent, the government’s diplomatic incompetence and its lack of will to stamp out illegal fishing have aggravated the situation. The number of illegally-fishing Chinese vessels has kept soaring. It is almost impossible to get an accurate numbers because too many Chinese boats cross into Korean waters. Only 294 boats have been seized with 2,905 Chinese arrested in the first 10 months of the year.
This autumn, several hundreds of Chinese vessels intrude into the Korean EEZ every day to catch all the skate near Hong Island in southwestern seas. In a nutshell, the West Sea has become the breeding ground for illegal fishing by the Chinese. Illegal fishing poses a serious challenge not only to the nation’s territorial integrity but also to its fishery resources. Local fishermen suffer heavily due to the illegal operations.
Cooperation from the Chinese authorities is indispensable to tackling the issue. Seoul officials should make diplomatic efforts to prod Beijing to take the necessary steps to stop Chinese fishermen from entering Korean waters. At the same time, they are required to declare an all-out war against illegal fishermen ― no matter who they are ― in order to better protect the nation’s seas and marine resources.
- 21 North Koreans found on boat in South Korean waters (ctv.ca)
- Coast Guard aiding disabled Seattle-based fishing vessel (thenewstribune.com)