The captain of a Chinese fishing boat was killed yesterday during an operation to apprehend his vessel said to be operating illegally off South Korea’s west coast, the South Korean coast guard said.
Eight shots were fired when coast guard officers boarded the Chinese boat in the Yellow Sea. They said no bullet wounds or bleeding was found on the captain but hospital officials said he appeared to have been killed by a bullet to his right lung.
A brawl broke out after a dozen officers boarded the boat in South Korea’s western exclusive economic zone, which extends 370 kilometers from shore, according to the coast guard.
The Chinese captain began resisting “violently” when four other Chinese fishing boats pulled up nearby and sent their crew members on board the ship being inspected, said coast guard officer Cho Nam-yong.
The Chinese fishermen wielded knives and beer bottles and had wounded some of the officers after knocking off their helmets. Five South Korean officers received minor injuries, the coast guard said.
One of the South Korean officers fired eight shots after three blanks but didn’t specifically aim at the captain, according to the coast guard.
The 45-year-old Chinese national was airlifted to hospital but pronounced dead about 30 minutes later, according to officials at the Mokpo Hankook Hospital. Officials said a bullet in Song Houmu’s abdomen had penetrated his lungs, liver and kidney.
South Korea’s foreign ministry informed the Chinese Embassy in Seoul of the incident and expressed regret over the captain’s death, according to ministry officials.
Chinese fishing boats have been going farther afield to feed growing domestic demand for seafood as catches have decreased in waters close to China’s shores.
In 2012, a Chinese fisherman died after being hit by a rubber bullet fired by a South Korean guardsman during a similar inspection. A year earlier, a South Korean coast guard officer was killed in a clash with Chinese fishermen in South Korean waters.
South Korea and China are at odds over a set of submerged rocks. However, no serious diplomatic disputes have arisen.