The news that a South Korean naval group, the Cheonghae Unit, rescued a North Korean merchant ship from pirates off the coast of Somalia makes us feel proud as it bears remarkable significance. The incident shows that, as members of the international community, South and North Korea have a lot in which they can cooperate not only on the Korean peninsula but also in many places around the world.
The Munmu the Great destroyer immediately went into action upon receiving a call from the North Korean ship through the international communications system used by commercial ships. It accomplished the mission more than successfully. Under the U.N. Convention on the Law of the Sea, it is a duty to rescue a ship facing the threat of abduction regardless of its nationality.
The Korean naval unit also saved a Denmark-registered vessel from pirates on April 17. In the North Korean ship rescue, the South Koreans probably responded more urgently because they were assisting their Korean brethren. Afterwards, the ship`s helicopter continued to patrol the area until the pirates retreated and assisted the North Korean ship, which had deviated from its route trying to flee from the pirates, to return to its route.
The North Koreans asked the South Korean naval unit to keep protecting them until they pass through the area. The Cheonghae Unit told them that it would continue to stay on guard and that it was ready to provide any more assistance if necessary. The North Koreans expressed their appreciation. These conversations show that the Cheonghae Unit truly cared about the North Korean ship and that the North Koreans had a high level of trust in the South Korean Navy.
That the South Korean naval unit flawlessly carried out its duty under international law and offered humanitarian assistance as well as brotherly love carries significant implications. This could provide a good example for resolving the heightened tension between the two Koreas.
It is impressive that the members of the Cheonghae Unit are doing their job of deterring pirates in the sea far away from home while successfully safeguarding about 500 South Korean ships passing through the area annually. The naval unit is basically engaged in military operation but its sailors are acting as diplomats promoting the nation`s image in the international community.
[ May 5, 2009 ]