News | 08.02.2011

Translation and Piracy

Friday 21st of January saw the conclusion to South Korea’s dramatic rescue of the crew of the Samho Jewelry, who were being held hostage by pirates on board the hijacked ship 800 miles off the coast of Somalia.

During the operation the South Korean Lynx helicopter blared out a recording in Somali: “Throw down your weapons. Then you will be spared.” This caused two of the pirates to surrender peacefully. The helicopter also spoke to the hostages in Korean, a language not spoken by the pirates, telling them to lie down, which allowed the commandos to distinguish who was hostage and who was captor.

None of the South Korean Navy’s unit involved in the operation spoke Somali; the South Korean government searched the country for translators, finding two, who then wrote messages which were passed to a Somali speaking Korean resident in Oman who made the recordings.

The rescue mission resulted in 8 pirates dead, 5 captured, 3 commandos with minor injuries, and all 21 hostages rescued. However, without this method of relay interpreting and translation the casualties on both sides would undoubtedly have been much higher.

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