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(2nd LD) S. Korean Coast Guard finds body near Daecheong Island

All Headlines 15:20 April 03, 2010

(ATTN: UPDATES with more details throughout)

SEOUL, April 3 (Yonhap) -- South Korea's Coast Guard said Saturday that it has identified the body of a crew member of a fishing boat that sank while returning from a search for clues to last week's naval disaster.

The body, found floating 74 kilometers southwest of Daecheong Island, has been identified as that of 55-year-old Kim Jong-pyong, a member of the 99-ton Kumyang 98 fishing boat that is believed to have sunk late Friday.

The fishing boat with a crew of nine, including two Indonesian nationals, was one of several vessels employed by authorities to help search for evidence that could shed light on why the 1,200 ton Navy corvette Cheonan sank on March 26 near the maritime border with North Korea.

The boat was charged with using its fishing nets to search for debris from the naval wreckage along the sea bottom.

"The ship was lost several hours after it concluded its search," an official from the maritime law enforcement agency said, stressing that the latest sinking was not directly related to the Cheonan affair.

The Taiyo-1 -- a Cambodian-registered freighter -- has been detained by authorities in relation to the sinking of the South Korean fishing boat.

The 1,472 ton freighter was intercepted at 2 a.m. and escorted to Daecheong Island, where authorities were to question the crew and check the ship. Reports indicate that there were signs of a collision on the starboard side of the forward hull.

"The captain did not admit to a collision, but conceded he felt some kind of impact," a South Korean officer said. He added that an underwater search will be carried out to see if there are other signs of a collision.

The Coast Guard is currently using helicopters and patrol boats to search for the other members of the Kumyang 98 crew and said it found several pieces of debris that could have come from the fishing boat.

The Ministry for Food, Agriculture, Forestry and Fisheries, meanwhile, said it has sent one 500-ton fisheries control ship to waters near where the boat may have sunk to try to help find the crew.

The ministry said two other control vessels will join the search starting early Sunday. It also said that both the fishing boat and the crew have been insured.


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