China luxury cruise trapped in S Korea over financial row

China luxury cruise trapped in S Korea over financial row

SEOUL - Hundreds of Chinese cruise tourists were returning home via emergency flights Sunday after their ship was stranded in South Korea for days following a legal dispute.

The 47,000-tonnes cruise Henna - carrying some 1,600 passengers and 650 crews - has been held at South Korea's southern resort island of Jeju since its arrival on Friday.

The luxury liner set off from China's northeastern port of Tianjin on Friday to sail around the Korean peninsula before returning six days later.

But a Jeju court banned the ship from leaving after a seizure request was made by Hong Kong-based Shagang Shipping following a "dispute," the Beijing-based operator of the ship, HNA Cruise, said in a statement.

The company did not elaborate on the details of the dispute.

A South Korean agent of HNA Cruise told AFP it had chartered eight flights using a 290-seat capacity plane between Jeju and Beijing throughout Sunday.

"Hundreds" were leaving via flights on Sunday while some others may choose to return home in the ship when it is released, the agent added.

HNA Cruise was in the process of paying a deposit of 3 billion won (S$3.4 million) to the Jeju court to secure the release of the ship, Yonhap news agency said.

The Chinese company was also preparing compensation plans for the passengers, HNA Cruise said in the statement on Saturday.

A growing number of Chinese tourists have visited neighbouring South Korea, especially the southern island of Jeju.

About 2.8 million Chinese visited the South in 2012, nearly a quarter of some 11 million foreigners who travelled the country last year.

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