'Kim Suk-kyoon, Superindendent
General of Korea Coast Guard'
* Korea Times
Indonesia, Malaysia Advised to Fight Piracy
By Park Si-soo, Staff Reporter
Nov. 11, 2009
Forty percent of the world's pirate attacks take place in Asia, particularly in the Straits of Malacca, one of the world's busiest sea lanes, and the reluctance by two countries close to it — Malaysia and Indonesia — to open their territorial waters to international anti-piracy forces is a big headache, said a Korean expert on the subject.
"Most countries surrounding the area are Islamic, and they commonly dislike opening their territorial waters to armed vessels from other countries," said Kim Suk-kyoon, superintendent general of the Korea Coast Guard, in an interview with The Korea Times, Wednesday.
"Their bitter experience of being colonized by Western powers is partially to blame, but, nonetheless, their inaction makes it harder to crack down on piracy in Asia."
According to the International Maritime Bureau (IMB), a total of 3,521 piracy cases were reported around the world between 1998 and 2008. Of them, nearly 41 percent, or 1,435, took place in Asian regions, particularly the Straits of Malacca.
Over the same period, thirty percent of piracy cases against Korean vessels took place in Asian waters.
Kim was one of a handful of key advisors in Korea's role in joining an international armada to combat pirates operating in waters off Somalia. Since March, a Korean Navy destroyer with 300 crewmembers has teamed up with multinational forces to combat piracy there. It marked the first-ever overseas combat deployment by the Korean Navy.
"Piracy is a universal crime. To Korea, as the world's 13th largest economy, joining in the anti-piracy operations is sort of a duty," Kim said. "More than 90 percent of products are either imported or exported through maritime logistics. As one of the major beneficiaries of maritime trade, Korea's participation was not only for us but also global prosperity."
Last month, Seychelles President James Michel spoke of his appreciation for Korea's anti-piracy efforts in a summit with President Lee Myung-bak.
Kim is one of a few piracy experts in Korea with a doctorate degree. He earned the degree in 2004 from Hanyang University in Seoul with an English-language dissertation titled, "Building a Multilateral Framework to Combat Piracy in Asia."
In the paper, the 44-year-old urged Asian countries to raise funds to launch a joint maritime police force responsible for cracking down on Asian piracy and escorting commercial vessels passing through piracy-prone waters, particularly the Straits of Malacca - a narrow 805-kilometer stretch of water between Malaysia and the Indonesian island of Sumatra.
He raised concerns over the fact that piracy, mainly committed by people from impoverished countries to make a living, is becoming more organized and being used as a source of funds to finance terrorism organizations.
"Piracy in the past was committed by simply armed pirates to steal products carried by vessels, while today, it is much more brutal, violent and systematic," Kim said. "Today's pirates are armed with portable radar and an international information network. With the help of high-end technology and the network they gather information on the most lucrative target vessel and, once selected, brutally attack, killing passengers, and in some cases taking over the vessel to resell it at higher price."
He recently completed a paper discussing the correlation between maritime disputes and North Korea and South Korea relations. It's expected to be published in the journal "Ocean Development & International Law" sometime in the next few months.
"I am sure maritime affairs will stand at the center of key global issues in the near future. In this sense, the Korean government should pay more attention to maritime affairs for consistent and peaceful growth," he said.