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Seoul pledges $500,000 for anti-piracy fund

April 24, 2011 - 19:32 By Song Sangho
The Seoul government has pledged to contribute $500,000 to an international anti-piracy trust fund, further expanding its financial role in the fight against pirates off the Somali coast, the Foreign Ministry said Sunday.

South Korea’s envoy, Moon Ha-yong, announced the decision while attending a session of the U.N. Contact Group on Piracy off the Coast of Somalia ― held in Dubai in the United Arab Emirates last Tuesday, the ministry said.

The commitment promised by Seoul is the fourth largest after the Netherlands with $1.4 million, the UAE with $1.4 million and Germany with $750,000.

The trust fund, administered by the U.N. is set to be used to expand court facilities and prisons to better deal with pirates.

During the session, Moon and scores of representatives from some 40 countries and some related civilian organizations discussed joint efforts to better cope with increasing piracy cases that have seriously hampered the overseas trade using sea routes near Somalia.

Many participants agreed there was a need for stronger preventive measures and stern punishments for pirates, according to Moon.

South Korea has suffered from piracy off the Somali coast on a number of occasions in recent years.

On Friday, a South Korean-owned container vessel carrying 20 crewmembers including 14 South Koreans escaped an apparent hijack in the Indian Ocean. This came about three months after a South Korean chemical freighter and its 21 crew were rescued by the Navy days after it had been seized in the Arabian Sea between Oman and India.

Seoul deployed the Cheonghae unit in March 2009 to join an international anti-piracy campaign in the Gulf of Aden off the Somali coast.

With no functioning central administration to control piracy originating from the country, Somalia has been in a state of civil war for two decades since Mohammed Siad Barre was ousted in 1991.

A U.S.-led military intervention to restore order in Somalia began in December 1992. However, the efforts failed and international forces pulled out in 1995 due to the growing danger to troops.

Meanwhile, the number of applicants who want to serve in the Navy has been increasing this year, apparently on the back of a successful naval operation in January to rescue Korean sailors from Somali pirates.

The figure had been declining since the sinking of the corvette Cheonan in March 2010, which killed 46 sailors. The competition ratio as of this month was 3 to 1, up 25 percent from last year’s average ratio of 2.4 to 1.

By Song Sang-ho (