SEOUL, South Korea
Public anger in South Korea has escalated a day after a Chinese boat captain stabbed a South Korean coast guardsman to death and seriously injured another with a knife. The captain is charged with murder while resisting arrest by coastal police patrolling illegal Chinese fishing boats at the West Sea’s exclusive economic zone.
In one indication of South Korean rage, a 34-year-old man smashed his SUV three times into a police bus guarding the Chinese Embassy inSeoul. And South Korean headlines today strongly criticized the increasing number Chinese fishermen and their growing violence in recent years.
“They were pirates, not fishermen,” wrote Joongang Daily Newspaper. Chosun Ilbo newspaper ran a picture and a story of the murdered coast guard officer who led one of the 68 navy vessels patrolling thousands of illegal fishing boats around the Korean peninsula.
“In concern for diplomatic tensions, (our naval police) try to peacefully restrict the armed fishermen risking their lives,” wrote its editorial pointing out that the Chinese normally carry sharpened bamboo sticks, axes, sickles, and steel pipes in their boats. “They are becoming brutal and organizational day by day.”
South Korean President Lee Myung-bak pledged to get tough and strengthen measures to ensure safety of coast guard officers. The Chinese Foreign Ministry in Beijing expressed “regret” over the death today, a day after furious criticism from the Korean public and demands for public apology.
Tensions in and around the waters on the Korean peninsula have risen in the past years as Chinese fishing boats roam to catch more fish. North Korea has been selling rights to fish in its territory to the Chinese government charging $41,900 per boat, according to Joongang Daily newspaper.
But these boats often illegally cross into South Korean territory known to be rich with blue crabs, anchovies, and croaker, said coast guard spokesman Kim Dong-Jin. The number of Chinese boats caught this year alone increased to 439, up 43 percent from the same period last year.