SEOUL (Reuters) - A Chinese fisherman was killed on Friday in a South Korean coastguard operation to apprehend his vessel which was operating illegally off South Korea’s west coast, the South Korean coastguard said, drawing an angry response from China.
Coastguard officers fired eight bullets when they raided the boat in the Yellow Sea. While the coastguard said no bullet wound or bleeding was found on the crew member, a hospital official said he appeared to have been killed by a bullet to his right lung.
The coastguard said an autopsy would determine the cause of death.
The killing will irritate relations between the two countries but is unlikely to derail efforts to forge a stronger economic partnership. China is South Korea’s biggest trading partner.
Chinese Foreign Ministry spokesman Hong Lei said the government was “shocked” and “extremely dissatisfied” at what had happened and had lodged a formal protest.
“We demand that South Korea immediately carry out an earnest and thorough investigation and severely punish the person responsible, and report to China in a timely manner the result of the probe,” Hong told a daily news briefing.
South Korea’s foreign ministry notified China and offered condolences to the fisherman’s family, a ministry official said.
South Korea’s coastguard regularly chases Chinese fishing boats out of its western seas and violence does sometimes occur.
“It appears that the today’s situation was more serious than usual,” one coastguard official told Reuters by telephone.
A South Korean coastguard officer was stabbed to death by a Chinese fisherman in 2011 and the following year a Chinese fisherman died from injuries in a confrontation with the coastguard. That led to a Chinese government complaint.
Reporting by Ju-min Park; Additional reporting by Ben Blanchard in BEIJING; Editing by Tony Munroe, Robert Birsel and Clarence Fernandez