​ North Korea hijack in international waters Russian yacht ELFIN, Japan sea

May 14, 2016 at 08:25 by Mikhail Voytenko in Maritime Security

North Korean Coast Guard ship on May 14 intercepted in high seas Russian sailing yacht ELFIN, and towed her, or is towing, to nearest North Korean port. Yacht was returning from Busan after taking part in regatta, and was, at the time of hijacking, sailing some 80-85 nm off North Korean coast. It’s one more case of what can be classified as State Piracy, when a State is detaining foreign ships without any legal justification, violating all rules and international laws.

Russia already demanded the release of the yacht, but there is still no reaction from Pyongyang. Obviously, Pyongyang is still assessing situation and figuring out, how to turn incident to the best of its’ interests. Such incidents are not something unusual, they happen quite regularly. It won’t be ever known who initiated detention, and why. If somebody believes that Pyongyang is behind any such incident, that nothing in North Korea can happen without Pyongyang knowledge and permission, this somebody is greatly mistaken. Detention in this case, or others, may be initiated by local authorities, political or military. It may even be the initiative of Coast Guard ship’s skipper, who’s hoping to get reward for his vigilance and commitment to the Great Cause of Party and Comrade Kim Jong-un.
There’s a strong materialistic motivation in all North Korean detentions, too. Everything of any value is “confiscated”, from food and supplies like paint or soap, to crew’s personal belongings. One may say, that there is not much to plunder on board of a small sailing yacht with 5 crew. This one doesn’t know, what real North Korean poverty means. I know, I’ve been there, not as a tourist, but as a sailor.
Actually, North Korea is a danger to international shipping (mainly for small and middle-sized regional freighters) in Japan sea, for a long time. In winter season, vessels are often caught in severe northwest storms, and the best cover is North Korean coast, but alas, waters near coast are too risky of possible detention, vessel may be intercepted and held in detention in North Korean port for weeks or even months. Vessels are caught between hammer and anvil, and if a danger of sinking in storm is too real, vessels turn to coast, praying they won’t be hijacked. Hapless owners of vessels which were hijacked, suffered not only from detention itself, but from all kinds of extortion, from petty in form of “presents”, to big ones, in form of “fine”, usually.
Voytenko Mikhail
May 14, 2016

​  North Korea hijack in international waters Russian yacht ELFIN, Japan sea

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