The South Korean Government is sending a delegation to NZ to probe allegations of violence and sexual harassment against the crew and wasteful fishing practices aboard Korean-owned foreign charter vessels (FCVs).
Prime Minister John Key said the NZ government will address alleged abuse on its own and that he may consider banning foreign vessels from New Zealand’s territorial waters.¨
“As you may know, the Korean Government has been closely monitoring the situation,” Korean Ambassador Yongkyu Park said to Key at the embassy in Wellington, 3 News reports. “We take these allegations and this situation very seriously.”
It is alleged that officers on one vessel sexually and physically abused the mainly Indonesian crew of 32 men.
The National Human Rights Commission of Korea already visited New Zealand to investigate and last week acknowledged there was a “possibility” a Korean crew member on Oyang 75 sexually abused six Indonesian crew members, Fairfax NZ News reports.
In addition, a NZ ministerial inquiry identified cases of crew underpayment. Further, officers from the Oyang 75 and 77 were charged with fish dumping and misreporting their catch.
“Personally, I am concerned because this is an issue that concerns our basic values and the Korean people’s character – national character,” Park lamented.
Korea is thus sending a team of officials headed by a representative from the Korean prime minister’s office to New Zealand and to Indonesia to investigate. They will interview crews and hold talks with state governments.
“They’re obviously taking this very seriously and I think that they see that the actions of some of their companies could have collateral damage on the reputation of Korea,” Key stated.
New Zealand is already looking into the use of FCVs in its waters and will soon announce more decisions on their operations. The country is in the process of working out a free trade deal with Korea, its fifth-largest trading partner.
Meanwhile, Labour is suspicious of the Korean investigation and what it will accomplish. “I’m sceptical because I think this will be high-level meetings with the government that we won’t hear about,” explained Darien Fenton, labour issues spokesperson.
Park insisted that Korea would hold guilty parties or companies accountable. He said the investigation will be thorough and independent once the delegation arrives in New Zealand in two weeks.