BEIJING: Passengers on Sunday began leaving a Chinese luxury cruise liner that has been stuck in South Korea for the past two days because of a legal dispute.
More than 2,300 passengers and crew members were stranded when a South Korean district court ordered the ship detained in the port of Jeju on Friday.
Four flights set off from Beijing on Sunday to bring back the passengers, according to the microblog of Chinese tour operator HNA Cruise. Four chartered planes will make two trips each, which will be enough to carry all the passengers and crew, according to a woman who answered the company's emergency hotline. She gave only her surname, Zhao.
China Central Television reported on its lunchtime news that 450 people had already left and were waiting at the airport.
The cruise liner had set off from Tianjin, a port city near Beijing, on Wednesday and was scheduled to sail around South Korea islands and ports before returning to Tianjin six days later.
HNA Cruise said the Jeju court acted upon a request of a Chinese company over legal disputes but did not elaborate. The ship was supposed to depart Jeju on Friday.
South Korea's Yonhap news agency said a Chinese creditor has entrusted an unidentified South Korean company to make the court request.
HNA has blamed a subsidiary of the iron and steel enterprise Jiangsu Shagang Group Co., Ltd. for the court action.
Officials at Shagang Group and Jeju district court could not be reached for comment.