When you think of significant moments of North Korea and United States relations images that probably flash to your mind are images from the horrific Korean War, President George Bush declaring the country as a member of the “Axis of Evil” or perhaps more recent feel-good moments such as the summits between Chairman Kim Jong Un and President Donald Trump. What probably does not jump to your head is the Dai Hong Dan incident.
The little known Dai Hong Dan incident is a rare moment of North Korean and American cooperation against a common enemy. Although the incident did not make significant news or have any longlasting effects on the two countries’ relations, the story is still none the less interesting.
Early on the morning of the 29th of October 2007, the 6390-ton and 122 metre-long cargo ship MV Dai Hong Dan built-in and registered in Chongin City, North Korea, was sailing approximately 110 kilometres northeast of Somalia’s capital Mogadishu through pirate-infested waters after having dropped off all of its cargo in Mogadishu.
Seven armed Somali Pirates disguised as guards approached the North Korean vessel, boarded and detained the 22 North Korean crew members forcing them into the steering and engine rooms. After detaining the crew, the Somali pirates then sent the ship in the direction of open water and demanded a ransom of 15,000 dollars be paid to secure the safe release of the vessel and its crew.
Responding to the MV Dai Hong Dan’s distress signal the next day was the USS James E. Williams, an Arleigh Burke-class destroyer in the United States Navy.
Pictured Above: the USS James E. Williams and a Sikorsky SH-60/MH-60 Seahawk
The American ship approached the North Korean vessel and deployed a Sikorsky SH-60/MH-60 Seahawk helicopter equipped with a VBSS (Visit, Board, Search, and Seizure) to take out the pirates, free the North Koreans from their captors and regain control of the ship.
While the American rescue team was approaching the ship in their helicopter, the North Korean sailors managed to seize some weapons way from the Somali Pirates, and a gunfight broke on board the boat. After a prolonged exchange of fire, two pirates were killed, with the rest being wounded and captured. Six North Koreans were also wounded in the gunfight, with three sustaining life-threatening gunshot wounds requiring urgent medical attention.
The injured North Korean sailors received first aid assistance from United States Navy medical personnel before being transferred to a hospital in Mogadishu for recovery and further care.
Aftermath of the Incident
In the aftermath of the incident, KCNA (Korean Central News Agency) released an unprecedented statement (especially for the time) expressing gratitude to the United States for their assistance in freeing the crew and strongly emphasizing US-DPRK Cooperation on the incident.
While the event was largely overshadowed by other events happening related to North Korea, such as the countries ongoing nuclear testing and the detainment of American journalists and ex-President Bill Clintons subsequent visit to secure their release, the Dai Hong Dan incident was a sliver of light in what was otherwise a difficult time for the two nations’ relations.