South Korea's foreign ministry Monday condemned Somali pirates who hijacked a South Korean ship and its 25 Asian crew four months ago, releasing them only after a huge ransom was paid.
The condemnation came after the ministry confirmed late Sunday the safe release of the Dongwon-ho No. 628, a 351-tonne tuna ship, and all its crew after 117 days in captivity.
"The crew were all safe and healthy," Lee Joon-Gyu, head of the ministry's consular affairs bureau, told reporters.
"The government strongly condemns the international piracy of kidnapping and detaining innocent crew for a long period of time to get financial rewards," he said.
The Seoul government refused to disclose the ransom, but Somali elder Abdi Ilmi told AFP on Monday that 800,000 dollars (about 627,000 euros) had been paid for the release of the ship and crew.
The foreign ministry confirmed late Sunday that the released South Korean ship was escorted by a US warship from Somali waters to Kenya.
Dongwon Fisheries, owner and operator of the ship, said all 25 crew were unharmed and allowed to return home soon after medical checks in Kenya.
The ship -- carrying eight Koreans, five Vietnamese, nine Indonesians and three Chinese -- was hijacked by local militiamen on April 4 in the Indian Ocean off the Somali coast.
The pirates, calling themselves the Defenders of Somali Territorial Waters and loyal to regional warlord Abdi Mohamed Afweyne, said the ship had illegally entered Somali waters for fishing. They demanded one million dollars for its release.
Officials said the largely powerless transitional government, based in the southcentral town of Baidoa, had licensed Dongwon-ho No.628 to fish for tuna.
The coastline of Somalia has joined those of Indonesia and Bangladesh as the world's most dangerous hotspots for high seas ambushes.
Somalia has had no functioning central administration since the 1991 ousting of strongman Mohamed Siad Barre.