December 02, 2022
Evergreen

Somali Piracy Offering Koreas An Opportunity?

It was recently reported that Somali pirates have been holding the crew of the North Korean cargo ship Chilsanbong Cheonnyeonho since it was captured on March 31 2010.  Ten months on and the ship remains detained, with hefty ransom demands likely still outstanding.   With no records found at maritime insurance tracker Seasearcher, the possibility that the crew may now be facing abandonment is becoming evermore likely.   Recently South Korea dramatically rescued of one of its own vessels captured by pirates in January. Might the case of the Chilsanbong now offer the Koreas an opportunity for military cooperation at a time of increasing tension?

Based on close-range combat skills accrued from decades-long training exercises to fight against North Korean ships, South Korea's counter-raid in January was a major success, resulting in the death or capture of 13 Somali pirates and subsequent rescue of all 21 hostages aboard.  In a further show of firm-handedness, captured pirates were quickly flown to South Korea to face trial for their crimes.  Following the sinking of the Cheonan and the recent Yeonpyeong shelling, the well-publicized nature of the rescue mission may have been an intentional South Korean attempt to restore naval deterrence over North Korea. Internally, it may have also helped improve the credibility of the ROK Navy, with the Asia Times suggesting that the brazen operation would "silence domestic criticisms" of naval competence.