Government of India welcomes the verdict of the Daejon High Court, Republic of Korea, delivered on 11 June 2009 in which the two Indian seafarers - Captain J. S. Chawla and Chief Officer Chetan Syam of the marine vessel "Hebei Spirit" have been held "not guilty" on the charge of criminal negligence leading to destruction of property. This verdict once again vindicates the position of the two Indian seafarers that there was no criminal negligence on their part in the accident involving their ship.
Government of India understands that the lawyers of the Indian seafarers have already approached the Prosecution for lifting the exit ban on them.
It is hoped that the exit ban on the two seafarers will be lifted and that they will be able to return home soon.
The Korea Times has more:
The two returned to India on Friday, June 13, two days after the verdict, receiving torrents of support and attention.Shyrock had a lengthy piece in the Times in January, and to pick off where that excerpt left off:
"The Hindu," a local media outlet that reported their arrivals, described the scene as this:
``While Captain Chawal flashed victory signs to the media, Chetan's younger son burst into tears, overwhelmed by the huge media presence. However, he later danced to the drumbeats of the victory rally held outside Mumbai's international airport.''
Chawla was quoted as saying, ``During the interrogation, I thought I would never be able to get back home. The interrogation was conducted in Korean, which we could not follow. Even the judge kept shouting at me; he was not fair. We also received little support from the Indian Consulate in South Korea.
The embassy denounced his comment as non-true.
The case attracted international criticism, especially from international trade unions and shipping management groups.
The international community has strongly objected to the rulings by the Korean courts, describing the guilty verdict as ``scapegoating'' and the sailors as ``passive victims.''
Ecologist Mark Shryock, who followed the case closely, once wrote to The Korea Times, saying, ``They are rapidly becoming international heroes, while at the same time Korea grows more and more unpopular. The irony is that while their case is gaining international momentum on a daily basis, in Korea, the imprisonment of Chawla and Chetan has prompted little interest.''
But scrutiny of the case should be raised in Korea immediately because it is beginning to damage Korea's public image abroad. There has been much talk lately about branding Korea. Unfortunately, this issue is branding Korea in the worst ways possible.
The shipping world is starting to threaten the halting of all shipments to Korea. This is in addition to an already well-organized movement in the shipping world and India to create a global boycott of Korean goods.
The U.K. newspaper, the Financial Times, recently published an article saying that, ``If the boycott movement grows, Korea will be placed in a very serious situation, as it imports all of its energy from abroad."
Korea should be seriously concerned over this possible scenario. But Korea should also be concerned that at a time of a global financial crisis the international financial media is beginning to print speculation of the possible financial consequences of such boycotts.
I can say personally that I have met with a group of internationally connected bankers who feel this issue is already hurting Korea and has the potential to be catastrophic.
In addition to this, thousands have already gathered in protest rallies in India. Calls for a boycott of Korean products are now numerous and growing daily. This is now spreading beyond just the shipping industry and India, and is beginning to be heard in growing sectors around the world.
Toward the end he appealed to the "branding" angle, so near and dear to local politicians and mouthpieces:
To much of the rest of the world, this verdict is such a mockery of justice that collusion seems the only plausible answer. Korea needs to understand it can no longer afford this kind of justice and that the cultural need for this kind of justice had better be rethought.
This issue is not going to go away and the longer Korea detains these men, the greater the negative branding is going to be.
Interestingly South Korea and India are currently working on a free trade agreement, though neither the newspaper articles nor the Indian Embassy's press release make any mention of this case, which one would think would likely come up.