By Benjamin Cost
Fierce protesting raged outside Seoul’s Chinese embassy yesterday in response to the Dec 12 killing of a South Korean serviceman by the Chinese captain of a mainland fishing vessel. The coastguard officer, Lee Cheong-ho, was allegedly stabbed repeatedly during a tussle with Chinese crew members while on a mission to end an illicit fishing operation in South Korean waters.
Lee died shortly thereafter, and another stabbed guard remains in unknown condition. But despite murder allegations and incriminating fingerprints taken from the knife’s handle, the accused Chinese skipper refuses to admit implication in the killing.
Naturally, his denial has ignited China-directed outrage among South Korea’s populace, who staged a demonstration over 300 strong at their Chinese embassy’s steps. In the ensuing protest, vengeful Korean citizens bore anti-Chinese banners, while some reportedly ripped Chinese flags apart with their teeth. One rioter was detained for ramming his car into a bus multiple times. The angry protesters called on the “Chinese government to compensate the dead coast guard and apologize immediately.” If not, they vowed to boycott Chinese products.
Luckily, China appears to have heeded their request, as Beijing stated yesterday:
“The Chinese side regrets the incident caused the death of a South Korean coast guard. China will work with their South Korean counterparts during the investigation and handle the case properly.”
And with mounting evidence, conviction appears quite probable for the fishing vessel captain who, if proved guilty, might face a death sentence. But even the captain’s condemnation may not be enough to resolve the tumultuous relationship between China and South Korea regarding illegal fishing.
Global Times reports:
According to figures from the KCG, about 430 Chinese vessels have been seized for illegal fishing in the Yellow Sea this year, up from 370 cases last year.
And according to the Guardian:
The skirmishes are often violent. Last December, Beijing demanded compensation after a Chinese fisherman was killed and another went missing during a confrontation between South Korean coastguards and 50 vessels that were suspected of fishing illegally.
At this rate, it could be a while before these testy waters become tranquil. Hopefully, demonstrators will refrain from harming any animals or livestock while venting their anger outside the Chinese embassy in Seoul.