Seoul to recognize Singaporean shipper for Somali hostage release
The Korean government will recognize and honor the owner of a Singaporean shipping company for his efforts to successfully rescue Korean sailors from Somali pirates, foreign ministry officials said Wednesday.
Four South Korean crew members were kidnapped by Somali pirates on April 30, 2011 aboard the MT Gemini, a tanker operated by Singapore-based Glory Ship Management, and after 582 days of captivity, they were set free on Dec. 1 after the firm paid an unspecified amount of ransom.
"We sent a letter right after the sailors' arrival here to Soh Wei Liang, the general manager of the company, to express gratitude for his dedication to the release," said a foreign ministry official in charge of the matter. "A medal or a commendation by the foreign minister will likely be awarded next month."
On behalf of the South Korean government, which maintains a policy of not directly engaging with pirates, despite its assistance in ransom talks between the ship owner and the pirates, the shipping company led the long and arduous negotiations.
"Soh Wei Liang had showed his firm determination for a successful rescue mission, saying he will stake everything he has for their release," the official said.
During the talks, he maintained close contact with Seoul officials and the crew members' families in the southern port city of Busan to brief them on the developments, he added.
"A series of negotiations in a sincere and responsible way greatly contributed to the safe release of the crew members. Visiting the family members in Busan twice, Soh Wei Liang showed his determined attitude and that helped the family members endure pain," said another foreign ministry official who was involved in the rescue operation. (Yonhap)