SKorea considering pirate-handling agreement with Somalia

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Seoul, Feb 9 (Yonhap) South Korea is considering forgingagreements with some neighboring countries of Somalia to seektheir help in handling captured pirates, an official saidtoday.

The move came after Seoul was unable to find a countrywilling to accept the five pirates captured in last month''scommando operation to free the South Korean freighter SamhoJewelry and its 21-member crew.

The pirates were then brought to South Korea forinvestigation and trial.

"Wouldn''t it be difficult to continue to bring capturedpirates here if our ships are seized by Somali pirates again?"a foreign ministry official said on condition of anonymity.

"We''re considering forging an MOU (memorandum ofunderstanding) with one or two coastal nations near Somalia,"he said.

The government hopes for an agreement that calls for thepartner nation to take captured pirates and punish them onSouth Korea''s behalf. But details of an agreement could differdepending on negotiations, as countries could be reluctant toget involved in piracy issues or could request economic aid inreturn.

Seoul is considering building a detention center orexpanding development aid to partner countries.

The five pirates under investigation in South Korea wereamong a total of 13 that seized the chemical carrier onJanuary 15. Six days after the hijacking, South Korean navycommandos stormed the ship, killing eight pirates andcapturing the five.

All 21 crew members were rescued alive, though the ship''scaptain was seriously wounded.

After about a week-long investigation, maritime policereferred the pirates to prosecutors.

Under South Korean law, the pirates could be sentenced toat least five years in prison for hijacking the ship and lifeimprisonment or even death for shooting at the captain from aclose distance. (Yonhap)

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