South Korea releases impounded China cruise ship

In this photo released by China's Xinhua news agency, the detained Chinese cruise liner Henna is docked at Jeju port, South Korea on Sunday, Sept 15, 2013. A Chinese luxury cruise ship impounded in South Korea for days due to a legal dispute has
In this photo released by China's Xinhua news agency, the detained Chinese cruise liner Henna is docked at Jeju port, South Korea on Sunday, Sept 15, 2013. A Chinese luxury cruise ship impounded in South Korea for days due to a legal dispute has been released and returned to China, an official said on Tuesday, Sept 17, 2013. -- PHOTO: AP

SEOUL (AFP) - A Chinese luxury cruise ship impounded in South Korea for days due to a legal dispute has been released and returned to China, an official said on Tuesday.

The 47,000-tonne cruise liner Henna - that was carrying 1,600 passengers - had been held at South Korea's southern resort island of Jeju since arriving on Friday.

It had been scheduled to return to China after sailing around the Korean peninsula.

But a Jeju court banned the ship from leaving after a seizure request was made by Hong Kong-based Shagang Shipping, citing an apparent debt default.

The Beijing-based operator of the ship, HNA Cruise, paid a bond of 3.0 billion won (S$3.4 million) to the court, which then released the ship on Monday, a South Korean HNA agent said.

A large number of passengers had already returned to China on special chartered flights organised by HNA.

About 2.8 million Chinese visited South Korea in 2012, more than a quarter of the total 11 million foreign tourist arrivals.