SEOUL — Seven South Koreans were missing on Friday after their helicopter took off from islets disputed with Japan and crashed into the sea moments later, Seoul officials said.
The aircraft had just picked an injured fisherman up from Dokdo, which is known as Takeshima in Japan, when it went down on Thursday night.
The South's coast guard, members of the National Fire Agency and civilian boats were searching for survivors, while the defence ministry had also sent planes and divers to the area, a spokesman for the South's National Fire Agency said.
The crashed chopper is a Eurocopter EC225, made by the European aerospace corporation Airbus.
The seven people on board were five rescuers, the fisherman and a civilian.
"The patient was on a fishing boat when he lost one of his fingers through an accident, and the crew took him to Dokdo and waited for the rescue helicopter there," the official said.
"The patient needed an immediate medical operation that could have only been done at facilities on the mainland."
Seoul has controlled the islets of Dokdo in the Sea of Japan - or East Sea - since 1945, when Tokyo's brutal colonial rule on the peninsula ended, while Tokyo still claims sovereignty over them. — AFP