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Korea Coast Guard Apprehends 22 Chinese Nationals Entering Daecheon Port

Korea Coast Guard bust
Courtesy Korea Coast Guard

Published Oct 3, 2023 7:19 PM by The Maritime Executive

South Korean police are investigating the motives and origins of two dozen Chinese nationals who attempted to enter the country by sea on Tuesday. 

Just before 0200 hours, a boat carrying 22 Chinese citizens arrived off the coast of Daecheon, a beach resort community on the Yellow Sea coast of South Korea. The Korea Coast Guard had been tipped off by military forces about the boat's movements in advance, and officers were waiting. 

The boat's occupants jumped overboard and attempted to escape the scene, according to the local coast guard unit. 21 were apprehended in the water, on the shore or in a nearby parking lot. One individual got away and hailed a taxi, which brought him to the town of Ansan, some 70 miles to the north. The taxi driver suspected that something was amiss and tipped off the police, and the last suspect was under arrest by 0900. 

"We have so far confirmed that these are all Chinese nationals who departed from China," a Coast Guard official in Boryeong told Yonhap. "We are investigating the exact location of their departure and the details of their illegal entry."

According to Yonhap, the Korea Coast Guard suspects that the boat came from near Weihai, Shandong, about 200 nautical miles from Daecheon on the other side of the Yellow Sea. Korean officials have asked their Chinese counterparts for help in investigating the smuggling boat's operators, who managed to evade capture and fled Korean waters. 

An anti-espionage investigation is under way to rule out the possibility of infiltration. Any criminal inquiry will be pursued once this preliminary step is complete, according to Yonhap's China-market news service. 

Chinese maritime migrants have been apprehended in South Korea before, though not in the numbers encountered in the English Channel or the Central Mediterranean. In 2020, after air routes for migration from China shut down due to the pandemic, officials identified at least 18 Chinese nationals and three boats used to make a crossing from China. As of 2021, there were about 400,000 undocumented migrant workers (of all nationalities) in South Korea. 

In mid-August, a Chinese political dissident made a 160-mile crossing from Shandong to Incheon on a Jet-Ski. Kwon Pyong, 35, escaped China by sea after serving a jail term for political speech: he had been imprisoned in 2017 for wearing a t-shirt that criticized Chinese leader Xi Jinping.