South Korean maritime authorities are to oblige South Korean ships sailing in international waters to build a safe citadel which will protect their crew members if the ship is attacked by pirates. They will also make the carriage of armed guards mandatory for passages through dangerous areas.
These moves come a little late for four South Korean crew members released by Somali pirates last week after 19 months in captivity. They had been captured on the Singapore-managed MT Gemini in April 2011. The ship was released in November 2011 along with all the non-Korean crew members. The Koreans were held back by the pirates as a bargaining chip. They wanted Korea to free five pirates captured by South Korean commandos during a raid to free the Korean vessel MV Samho Jewelry, which was attacked by pirates in 2011. There is no confirmation but reports suggest that when that failed they negotiated a further ransom with the shipowners to free the seafarers.
The four seafarers were kept in bad conditions and said the most difficult times were when pirates made them telephone their families while firing guns and twisting their ears to make them scream. Seafarers on South Korean ships will be a little safer after the new moves come into effect. But they will not help Koreans working on vessels of other nations who get caught up in pirate attacks.