Following North Korea’s sale to China of fishing rights in large areas of surrounding seas, competition among North Korean fishing boats for what is left has led to robberies and other clashes, sources say.
Fishermen who formerly fished freely in resource-rich areas are now crowded into smaller zones where competition is “intense,” a source in North Hamgyong province told RFA’s Korean Service.
“Big fishing boats, small fishing boats, steel ships, wooden ships, and other kinds of boats now sail out to increase their catch, and marine accidents constantly take place,” RFA’s source said, speaking on condition of anonymity.
In addition, fishing boats attached to North Korean military units now frequently approach privately owned vessels and “commit acts of piracy by violently taking fish and gas,” the source said.
“The Ninth Corps Fisheries Base has a 500-horsepower fishing boat, a 200-horsepower fishing boat, and other big fishing boats,” the source said.
“When there is a decrease in their own catch, the military fishing boats attack and rob civilian fishing boats affiliated with the Chongjin Fishery Company, the Yu-Gi-Hang-Man Fishery Company, and the Go-Mal-San Fishery Company,” he said.
'Acts of brutality'
Pressured by these thefts, and to meet their own quotas, large private fishing firms will then sometimes turn on smaller firms to recoup their losses, a second source said.
“Fishing boats affiliated with the larger company will commit acts of brutality by attacking small private boats and robbing them of their fish,” the source, speaking from South Hamgyong province, said.
“This is because they are robbed of their own fish by North Korean military fishing boats, and also because of company pressure to meet their quotas,” the source said.
Other acts of violence, including murder, now also frequently occur, the source said.
“In late October, a fisherman and a ship-owner employed by the Sinpo Fishery Company fought over wages, with the fisherman—who was recently discharged from the army—saying it was unfair he was paid less than half of what was paid to others, only because he had spent fewer years on the job.”
“The ship-owner threw him into the sea,” he said.
Reported by Jieun Kim for RFA’s Korean Service. Translated by Soo Min Jo. Written in English by Richard Finney.