UPDATE 1-Pirates steal cash and shoes in Korean cargo ship robbery

SEOUL/SINGAPORE, July 22 (Reuters) - Pirates attacked a South Korean-flagged cargo ship in the South China Sea early on Monday, stealing thousands of dollars in cash and even the sailors' shoes, South Korean authorities said.

Two people sustained minor injuries when seven pirates boarded the CK Bluebell and made off with $13,000 and belongings including mobile phones, clothes and shoes from the 22-strong crew, officials from the Ministry of Oceans and Fisheries said.

The incident took place near the Singapore Strait, a busy sea lane that runs past Singapore, Malaysia and Indonesia, the Yonhap news agency reported.

Piracy in the strategic shipping route has been less common in recent years due to heavier policing.

The dry bulk vessel CK Bluebell set sail from its anchorage off Singapore late on Saturday afternoon, heading northeast for South Korea's Incheon port, according to Refinitiv Eikon ship tracking data.

Singapore police, who manage the island nation's coastguard, and the Maritime and Port Authority of Singapore did not comment immediately on the incident.

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Korean officials said the ship was sailing normally after the robbery.

This month, China’s Ministry of Transport raised its security recommendation for Chinese vessels in the nearby Malacca Strait, between the Malay Peninsula and the Indonesian island of Sumatra.

A Chinese official declined to specify the reason for the new security level, saying only that the decision was the result of comprehensive research taking all factors into account. (Reporting by Josh Smith and Joyce Lee in SEOUL and John Geddie in SINGAPORE Editing by Paul Tait, Robert Birsel)

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