ROK Pledges to Punish Snakeheads

Severe punishment will be meted out to the perpetrators of the human trafficking scandal which led to the deaths of 25 Chinese stowaways at sea off the Korean peninsula.

The promise came from the government of Republic of Korea (ROK) which also vowed to properly handle the remaining problems of the tragedy.

Baik Young-ki, legal counsellor of the ROK Embassy in China described the incident as a "very severe case.''

Baik said the local police are still hunting the human smuggling ring based in the southern port of Yosu and the ROK side has pledged to take steps to prevent a repeat and hunt down human trafficking organizations.

ROK police arrested Lee Pan-keun, 44, the skipper of the Taechangho, and seven crew members. They also detained 34 Chinese survivors from the human-smuggling boat.

ROK Government spokesman Park Joon-Young said it was a horrible and inhumanitarian crime and pledged to maintain close consultations with the Chinese government in the search for bodies and the investigation.

The stowaways were quoted by local press as saying they had each promised to pay up to 10 million won (US$8,800) to the smugglers after finding jobs in the Republic of Korea.

The Chinese Embassy in the ROK has sent officials to Yosu to collect information from the survivors.

Shang Yuhe, consul of the embassy, said consul officials and ROK police had visited the survivors and concluded their questioning and they were now finalizing plans to repatriate them to China next week.

He said the Chinese government was doing its best to bring them back as soon as possible.

Many of the 60 stowaways -- including the 25 who died -- were from eastern China's Fujian Province. In Fuzhou's Laorong Village, relatives and villagers of the stowaways were deeply shocked by the news.

Anxiously waiting for updated information about his son, Chen Zhenfeng said he had no contact with him for a month. He said Chen Yiguang planned to emigrate to the US and needed to reach the ROK to board a connecting ship.

He said the family still owes around 5,000 yuan (US$600), which he had to borrow to pay to the "snakehead'' who smuggled his son out of China. They had agreed to pay the smugglers upwards of 60,000 yuan (US$7,200) if Chen Yiguang arrived in the US successfully.

In the village of Fengxiang, Chen Chuanmei is clutching her son Zhu Xiaoxin's photo while tears stream down her face. "If I had known he was planning to emigrate, I would rather have died than have allowed him to go.''

According to the villagers, most of the stowaways believed the ROK-bound journey would lead them to a better life.

However, they paid the ultimate price for daring to pursue this dream and were probably deceived by "snake heads.''

Filling the void left by Korean workers in 3-D (dirty, difficult and dangerous) jobs are foreign laborers.

According to Justice Ministry statistics of the ROK, about 200,000 illegal aliens residing in the Republic of Korea are from southeast Asia and China. They usually work in 3-D jobs. Many are reported to suffer from abusive and inhumane treatment from employers who take advantage of the migrant workers' illegal status.

(China Daily 10/13/2001)

In This Series

China Welcomes Inter-Korean Talks

New Agreement Reached Between Korean Countries

China Drops Hammer on Illegal Emigration

Sino-Korean Pact to Protect Fish Stocks

Driver Is Convicted of Guilty in Deaths in Dover


East China Province Clamps Down on Human Smuggling

Dutch Driver Faces Manslaughter Charges

Dover Disaster Suspect Captured


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