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(3rd LD) Lee orders gov't to resolve hijacking of Korean freighter
SEOUL, Jan. 16 (Yonhap) -- President Lee Myung-bak on Sunday instructed his government to take all possible measures to resolve the hijacking of a South Korean freighter, which was apparently seized by Somali pirates in the Arabian Sea on Saturday, presidential aides said.

   Lee issued the instruction after returning from a provincial trip, as South Korea's 4,500-ton destroyer Choi Young, which belongs to the Cheonghae Unit, was in the process of moving toward the hijacked freighter, said the aides.

   The Samho Jewelry, an 11,500-ton chemical freighter, was en route to Sri Lanka from the United Arab Emirates carrying 21 crew members when it was seized in waters between Oman and India on Saturday.

   "President Lee was briefed on the government's countermeasures for the hijacking of the Samho Jewelry as well as the dispatch of the Choi Young destroyer," said a presidential secretary.

   "The government will comprehensively deal with the incident. South Korea's destroyer cannot stand idle as our commercial ship has been hijacked."

   According to government sources in Seoul, the Choi Young has begun to sail toward the Samho Jewelry and is expected to reach waters near the hijacked ship in two days.

   The Cheonghae Unit, with some 300 troops and a destroyer, has been in charge of patrolling the pirate-infested waters off Somalia since its deployment in early 2009 under a U.S.-led multinational campaign. Named after a ninth-century Korean naval base, the unit comprises a destroyer, a Lynx helicopter and special maritime forces.

  
The Samho Jewelry (Yonhap file photo)



Meanwhile, Seoul's foreign ministry said Sunday that the government will sternly deal with the hijacking of the Samho Jewelry and will not pay any ransom to gain its release. The ministry also confirmed the safety of all crew members of the freighter.

   "The (South Korean) government will never hold negotiations with the pirates. Also, it will stick to the principles of not paying any ransom to the pirates," said a ministry official.

   "The location of the ship was found, and the 21 crew members, including eight South Koreans, were all confirmed to be safe through communications between the Samho Jewelry and its owner Samho Shipping Co. We understand it was Somali pirates who hijacked the ship," the official said.

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