A Chinese fisherman was killed on Friday during a scuffle with South Korea’s Coast Guard.
According to early news reports, the incident took place 90 miles west of Wangdeung-do, an island off the coast of western South Korea. It began when South Korean Coast Guard ship discovered a Chinese boat– which was captained by the fisherman who later died– illegally fishing in South Korean waters.
The coast guard vessel tried to seize the 80-ton boat for fishing illegally, but soon found itself being surrounded by 4 Chinese fishing boats who arrived at the scene. A violent tussle then ensued between the fishermen and the South Korean Coast Guard vessel. Coast Guard officials told South Korea’s Yonhap News Agency that the Chinese fishermen used “homemade weapons” to prevent the Coast Guard officers from boarding their ship. They also tried to strangle a Coast Guard officer, according to Yonhap.
At some point in the mayhem, a South Korean officer fired warning shots with a pistol, but inadvertently hit the captain of the boat which was illegally fishing. A helicopter lifted the wounded captain to a nearby hospital where he was ultimately pronounced dead.
A Chinese Foreign Ministry spokesperson has already said that Beijing is “deeply shocked and dissatisfied with the violent actions that resulted in the death.” The spokesperson also suggested that budding Sino-South Korean relations would be imperiled if Seoul fails to deal with the issue in a “serious and sincere and proper” way. China’s consulate general in Gwanju, a South Korean city, also told reporters that “I heard of the incident this morning. It is really regrettable, and I am really sad.”
China and South Korea’s bilateral relationship has experienced something of a renaissance since Park Geun-hye took over as South Korea’s president earlier last year. However, Chinese fishermen illegally shipping in South Korean waters has continued to be an ongoing issue for the bilateral relationship. According to the BBC, “South Korea’s coast guard detained more than 180 Chinese vessels found fishing in the Yellow Sea” last year. There has also been past incidents where scuffles between these fisherman and South Korea’s resulted in the death of someone. Indeed, last year a South Korean court sentenced a Chinese fishermen to 30 years in jail after he stabbed and killed a South Korean Coast Guard officer.