Neighbourly Approach

South Korea is considering forging agreements with some neighboring countries of Somalia to seek their help in handling captured pirates, according to official sources.

The move came after Seoul was unable to find a country willing to accept the five pirates captured in last month’s commando operation to free the South Korean freighter Samho Jewelry and its 21-member crew.

The pirates were then brought to South Korea for investigation and trial.

“Wouldn’t it be difficult to continue to bring captured pirates here if our ships are seized by Somali pirates again?” a foreign ministry official said on condition of anonymity. “We’re considering forging an MOU (memorandum of understanding) with one or two coastal nations near Somalia.”

The government hopes for an agreement that calls for the partner nation to take captured pirates and punish them on South Korea’s behalf. But details of an agreement could differ depending on negotiations, as countries could be reluctant to get involved in piracy issues or could request economic aid in return.

Seoul is considering building a detention center or expanding development aid to partner countries.

The five pirates under investigation in South Korea were among a total of 13 that seized the chemical carrier on Jan. 15. Six days after the hijacking, South Korean navy commandos stormed the ship, killing eight pirates and capturing the five.

All 21 crew members were rescued alive, though the ship’s captain was seriously wounded.

After about a week-long investigation, maritime police referred the pirates to prosecutors.

Under South Korean law, the pirates could be sentenced to at least five years in prison for hijacking the ship and life imprisonment or even death for shooting at the captain from a close distance.

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