South Korean crew members of a cargo ship that was rescued from Somali pirates in a dramatic commando raid returned home yesterday in time for the Lunar New Year holiday.
Television footage showed the seven crew members hugging their families in tearful reunions at the airport in the port of Busan.
The crew were taken to a coastguard office in Busan to help the country’s first legal attempt to punish foreign pirates.
The pirates hijacked the chemical carrier Samho Jewelry in the Arabian Sea on Jan. 15, but the ship and its crew were rescued by South Korean naval commandos six days later.
Eight pirates were killed, while all 21 crew were rescued — eight South Koreans, two Indonesians and 11 from Myanmar. Police said the pirates shot and critically wounded captain Seok Hae-kyun.
Five Somalis were flown to Busan on Sunday and arrested on charges of maritime robbery, attempted murder and ship hijacking.
They could face life in prison if convicted of shooting Seok. Investigators are also looking into whether the pirates targeted the Samho Jewelry after learning that a South Korean supertanker owned by the same firm was freed after a large ransom was paid.
The 300,000-tonne Samho Dream and its 24 crew were released last year after a reported US$9 million payment.