Fri, Feb 18, 2011 - Page 5 News List

South Korean sailor recently released by pirates dies in Kenya

CAPTIVITY HELL:The chief engineer of the ‘Keummi 305’ died one day after his ship arrived in Mombasa, after being seized four months ago

AFP, SEOUL

A South Korean sailor freed last week from four months’ captivity by Somali pirates has died in an apparent fall from his Kenya hotel room, Seoul’s foreign ministry said yesterday.

Kim Yong-hyun, chief engineer of the 241-tonne Keummi 305, appears to have fallen from his third-floor hotel room on Wednesday, the ministry said.

“The exact cause of his death is not known and an investigation by Kenyan police is under way” at the request of South Korean diplomats, a ministry official told reporters on condition of anonymity.

Kim, 68, was one of 43 crew members — two Koreans, two Chinese and 39 Kenyans — freed on Feb. 9, four months after their fishing trawler was hijacked in Kenyan waters.

The boat arrived on Tuesday in the Kenyan port of Mombasa under escort by a Finnish warship.

Captain Kim Dae-geun, 54, has described his months in captivity as “hell,” saying he feared constantly for his life because his captors continually threatened the crew with loaded guns.

He also told Yonhap news agency that the pirates had forced him to take part in four other hijacking attempts, two of which were successful.

The reasons for the trawler’s release are unclear, but sources have said the pirates may have seen little hope of ransom since the boat’s owner had gone bankrupt and could have found it difficult to feed the crew.

Since 2006 at least three South Korean vessels have been seized and released after ransoms were paid.

Somali pirates hijacked a South Korean chemical tanker in the Arabian Sea on Jan. 15, but the ship and its crew were rescued by South Korean naval commandos in a dramatic raid six days later.

Eight pirates were killed while all 21 crew were rescued, although the captain was shot and seriously injured.

Five captured Somalis were taken to South Korea and are awaiting trial.

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