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Wednesday, 10 October, 2001, 09:14 GMT 10:14 UK
S Korea says sorry over dumped corpses
South Korean police escort handcuffed Chinese to immigration authorities
Survivors said they were after jobs in South Korea
By Caroline Gluck in Seoul

The South Korean government has apologised to China over an incident in which the bodies of 25 illegal Chinese immigrants were allegedly dumped at sea.

The group suffocated while hiding in the storage tank of a fishing vessel as they were being smuggled into South Korea on Sunday, off the south-western port of Yeosu.

The police authorities have detained the captain and crew for questioning.

Patrol boats have been combing the waters off the coast of Yeosu for the past two days, but have so far failed to make any recoveries.

The circumstances surrounding the incident have shocked the South Korean public. On Wednesday the government issued a statement expressing regret over what it called an inhumane and criminal act.

Trafficking rings

The authorities said they would thoroughly investigate and punish those involved in the crime, and pledged to work closely with the Chinese Government in retrieving the bodies.

They also said they would step up efforts to break up organised human trafficking rings, which have been blamed for the increase in the number of illegal immigrants entering South Korea.

The people who suffocated were among 60 Chinese and ethnic Korean Chinese migrants were been smuggled onto the Korean fishing vessel Taechangho at the weekend.

Surviving passengers told police that they had paid money to brokers promised to find them well-paid jobs in South Korea. They said they had spent seven days at sea and were fed just a few pieces of stale bread and rice.

The many islands of Korea's south-west coast have long been used as routes for illegal Chinese immigrants hoping to make a better life in South Korea.

See also:

09 Oct 01 | Asia-Pacific
S Koreans search for dumped corpses
08 Oct 01 | Asia-Pacific
Smugglers 'dump 26 Chinese at sea'
27 Jun 01 | Asia-Pacific
Beijing pressed on Korean asylum
26 Jun 01 | Asia-Pacific
China's North Koreans in hiding
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