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China fisherman gets 30 years for S. Korea murder

Chinese fisherman jailed (© 2009 AFP)

A Chinese fisherman was jailed for 30 years on Thursday for murdering a South Korean coastguard officer during an operation to stop illegal fishing, court authorities said.

Cheng Dawei, a 43-year-old fishing boat skipper, was also fined 20 million won ($17,500) by the court in the western port city of Incheon.

The skipper fatally stabbed one officer with a knife and seriously wounded another on December 12, after they boarded his boat inside South Korea’s exclusive economic zone in the Yellow Sea.

It was the second time a South Korean coastguard had died at the hands of Chinese fishermen in less than four years and the incident sparked widespread public anger.

Seoul urged Beijing to take stronger action against illegal fishing and lawmakers sought tougher punishment of violators.

Prosecutors had demanded the death penalty for Cheng.

“One coastguard member was killed and another was seriously wounded, causing great shock and distress not only to their relatives but the Korean people as a whole,” the court said in its judgement.

“Stern punishment is inevitable in order to prevent any recurrence.”

The judges said Cheng regretted his actions and had compensated the victim’s relatives “but he must take heavy responsibility for killing an officer and seriously injuring another”.

Nine other Chinese crew members were sentenced to jail terms ranging from 18 months to five years for obstructing the coastguard raid, in addition to fines of between 10 to 20 million won.

South Korea has announced plans to spend 932.4 billion won between 2012 and 2015 on better equipping its forces as part of a crackdown on poaching, including issuing more firearms.

It seized 475 boats last year compared with 370 in 2010. When stopped, Chinese crews in the past have often fought back with metal pipes and knives or lashed their boats together to deter boarders.

During a visit to Beijing by the South’s President Lee Myung-Bak in January, the two nations agreed to regular consultations to resolve the issue of illegal fishing by Chinese boats.

Signature : SEOUL (AFP)

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