Three ships carrying 16 crew members, including two South Koreans, were seized by Houthi rebels off the southern coast of Yemen, according to the Foreign Ministry on Tuesday.
Houthi rebels told the government that they will release the boats if they are found to be Korean ships after legal procedures are carried out, a ministry official said.
The Navy's destroyer the Kang Gam Chan (Yonhap)
A tugboat and a drilling rig that belong to the Korean firm Woongjin Development Co. as well as a Saudi Arabian-flagged tugboat were seized by the rebels Monday at 3:50 a.m. in waters about 24 kilometers west of Yemen’s Kamaran Island. The crew members and their ships have been towed to the Salif port in Hodeidah, Yemen.
The two Koreans are both men in their 60s, and one was on board each of the two ships owned by the Korean firm at the time of the seizure.
The Houthi rebels reportedly claimed that the vessels violated their territorial waters.
The ships were on the way to the Berbera port in Somalia after departing from Jizan, Saudi Arabia.
The Houthis have in the past targeted oil tankers and military ships belonging to Saudi Arabia and its partners in the coalition fighting in the Yemeni Civil War since 2015, according to the National, a newspaper in Abu Dhabi.
The Woongjin Development Co. was informed of the incident when one of the two Koreans sent a mobile message to the company saying “pirates” had seized the ship.
The head of the rebels’ supreme revolutionary committee, Mohammed al-Houthi, acknowledged the Houthis had seized a vessel in what he called a “suspicious case” off the Yemeni coast.
“The Yemeni coastguard is doing its job to determine whether it … belongs to the aggressors or to South Korea,” he said in a tweet. “If it is for South Korea, they will be released after legal procedures … we assure everyone not to worry about the crew.”
Following reports of the incident and meetings of related ministries, the government deployed its 4,400-ton destroyer the Kang Gam Chan, which is attached to the Navy’s anti-piracy Cheonghae Unit, to carry out rescue efforts. The military unit has been conducting anti-piracy maritime security operations off Oman’s Muscat. The destroyer is expected to reach the spot Thursday.
By Park Han-na (email@example.com