Sailor freed by pirates dies in Kenya

February 17, 2011 12:00 am

, SEOUL, Feb 17 – A South Korean sailor freed last week from four months\’ captivity by Somali pirates died Thursday in an apparent fall from his Kenya hotel room, Seoul\’s foreign ministry said.

Kim Yong-Hyun, chief engineer of the 241-ton Keummi 305, appears to have fallen from the veranda of his third-floor room, a ministry statement said.

"The exact cause of his death is not known and an investigation by Kenyan police is under way" at the request of South Korean diplomats, it said, adding that no suicide note was found.

Kim, 68, was one of 43 crew members — two Koreans, two Chinese and 39 Kenyans — freed on February 9, four months after their fishing trawler was hijacked in Kenyan waters.

The boat arrived Tuesday in the Kenyan port of Mombasa under escort by a Finnish warship.

Its captain Kim Dae-Geun, 54, has described his months in captivity as "hell", saying he feared constantly for his life because his captors continually threatened the crew with loaded guns.

The chief engineer had dinner Wednesday with the captain, who noticed nothing unusual about his companion, the ministry said.

Yonhap news agency, quoting an unidentified official, said the engineer had been pondering whether to return to South Korea after the captain asked him to continue working in Kenya.

The reasons for the trawler\’s release are unclear. But sources have said the pirates may have seen little hope of ransom since the boat\’s owner had gone bankrupt, and could have found it difficult to feed the crew.

Since 2006 at least three South Korean vessels have been seized and released after ransoms were paid.

Somali pirates hijacked a South Korean chemical tanker in the Arabian Sea on January 15, but the ship and its crew were rescued by South Korean naval commandos in a dramatic raid six days later.

Eight pirates were killed while all 21 crew were rescued, although the captain was shot and seriously injured. Five Somalis were taken to South Korea and are awaiting trial.


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