2007 South Korean hostage crisis in Afghanistan

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Korean hostages photo taken before boarding the plane to Afghanistan

The 2007 South Korean hostage crisis in Afghanistan began on July 19, 2007, when 23 South Korean missionaries were captured and held hostage by members of the Taliban while passing through Ghazni Province of Afghanistan. Two male hostages were executed before the deal was reached between the Taliban and the South Korean government. The group, composed of sixteen women and seven men, was captured while traveling from Kandahar to Kabul by bus on a mission sponsored by the Saemmul Presbyterian Church.[1] The crisis began when two local men, who the driver had allowed to board, started shooting to bring the bus to a halt. Over the next month, the hostages were kept in cellars and farmhouses and regularly moved in groups of three to four.[2]

Of the 23 hostages captured, two men, Bae Hyeong-gyu, a 42-year-old South Korean pastor of Saemmul Church, and Shim Seong-min, a 29-year-old South Korean man, were executed on July 25 and July 30, respectively. Later, with negotiations making progress, two women, Kim Gyeong-ja and Kim Ji-na, were released on August 13 and the remaining 19 hostages on August 29 and August 30.[3]

The release of the hostages was secured with a South Korean promise to withdraw its 200 troops from Afghanistan by the end of 2007. Although the South Korean government offered no statement, a Taliban spokesman claimed that the militant group also received some US$20 million in exchange for the safety of the captured missionaries.

Negotiations[edit]

As South Korea was already scheduled to withdraw its 200 troops by the end of the year, the Taliban's initial demand was only that they hold to this plan, but later also sought the release of 23 Taliban militants from prison. South Korean representatives in Washington DC requested a meeting with Afghanistan Kidnap / Ransom experts from SCG International Risk on August 1. SCG then began advising the South Koreans on ways to resolve the crisis.[citation needed]

The Taliban issued and extended several deadlines for the release of the prisoners, after which they threatened to begin killing the hostages. Freedom for the militants was ruled out when it was apparent the Korean negotiators could not secure the release of Afghan prisoners, as Afghan president Hamid Karzai had previously faced criticism for freeing five rebel prisoners in exchange for an Italian hostage.[4]

Face-to-face meetings between the Taliban and South Korea began on August 10, resulting in the release of two female hostages, Kim Ji-na and Kim Gyeong-ja, on August 13. However, on August 18, a spokesman said that the talks had failed and the fates of the hostages were being considered.[5]

Release[edit]

The freedom of the remaining nineteen hostages (fourteen women and five men)[6] was secured on August 28[7] with the participation of Indonesia as a neutral Muslim country. They were eventually released on August 29 and August 30.

After the release, a Taliban official announced that South Korea had paid the Taliban more than US$20 million in ransom for the lives of the hostages.[8] However, South Korea stated that they have made a promise with the Taliban that they would not make any statements about the ransom.[9]

Response[edit]

Public gatherings were held in Korea during the capture to pray for the safety of the hostages. Muslims residing in Korea also expressed their grief regarding the incident and avow that the acts of the Taliban are against the principles of Islam.[10] Many Koreans nevertheless held numerous protests and demonstrations outside the Seoul Central Mosque. [11]

On the other hand, many Koreans were critical of the hostages, as the hostages were conducting Christian missionary service in Islamic Afghanistan despite the Ministry of Foreign Affairs and Trade's repeated warnings that Taliban has plans to kidnap Koreans in order to free imprisoned militants.[12]

Among these criticising the deal from the government as a dangerous precedent was the bishop of Taejon and chairman of Caritas Corea Lazarus You Heung-sik.[13]

The execution of the two hostages also provoked outrage in much of the rest of the world.

Timeline[edit]

  • On July 19, 2007, a number of South Korean citizens are reported to have been captured by the Taliban from a public bus traveling in the Ghazni Province, from Kandahar to Kabul, and held hostage.[14]
  • On July 20 the Taliban demanded that all South Korean forces be withdrawn from Afghanistan within 24 hours and also that Afghan president Hamid Karzai release all Taliban inmates.[citation needed]
  • On July 21 South Korean president Roh Moo-hyun gave a national televised speech informing the public of the kidnappings.[citation needed] The Taliban reduced its demand to twenty-three Taliban prisoners in exchange for the lives of the hostages.
  • On July 24 the Taliban demanded a sum of $100,000 in exchange for the right to contact the hostages via phone. The South Korean government refuses.[citation needed]
  • On July 25 one of the South Korean hostages was executed. South Korea's foreign ministry identified the victim as 42-year-old South Korean pastor Bae Hyeong-gyu, who was the leader of the group.[15]
  • On July 29 a final deadline was set by the Taliban for July 30, 0730 GMT.[16]
  • On July 30 the Taliban extended the deadline for the seventh time by 4 hours to 1130 GMT to give Afghan officials more time to negotiate.[17] A Taliban spokesperson later announced another male hostage had been killed because the government did not cede to the group's demands.[18][19] This was later confirmed when the body of 29-year-old Shim Seong-min was found in the village of Arzoo (50 miles from where the kidnapping took place).[20]
  • On July 31 the deadline was extended to August 1, 0730 GMT.[21]
  • On August 1 South Korean officials meet with SCG International Risk Kidnap / Ransom consultants at the South Korean Embassy in Washington DC.
  • On August 1, 1200 GMT, another deadline passed, while the local governor said the Taliban militants have agreed to a face-to-face meeting requested by South Korea's ambassador".[22] North Korea also called for the release of the hostages.[23]
  • On August 2, 1200 GMT, Korean hostage negotiators agreed to direct talks with Taliban kidnappers in Afghanistan.[24]
  • On August 10, 1600 GMT, the Taliban began the first round of face-to-face talks with a South Korean team concerning the hostages. The talks were held in an area under the control of the Afghan government in Ghazni province.[25] Two top Taliban leaders and four South Korean officials met at the office of the Afghan Red Crescent in Ghazni, along with four members of the International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC).[26]
  • On August 13, two female hostages were released as a goodwill gesture.[27] The Taliban had originally decided to free Lee Ji-yeong, but she allowed another hostage to take her place.[28]
  • On August 18, the Taliban announced that the face-to-face talks with the South Koreans had failed and that they were considering the fate of the remaining hostages.
  • On August 28, a breakthrough in the negotiations was announced with the Taliban agreeing to release the remaining hostages on the condition that South Korea withdraw its two-hundred non-combat troops within the year and suspend missionary work in Afghanistan. Indonesia was a neutral Muslim party in these negotiations.
  • On August 29, a total of twelve hostages were released.[29]
  • On August 30, the remaining seven hostages were released, bringing an end to the crisis.
  • On September 1, South Korean President Roh Moo Hyun called Afghan President Hamid Karzai and Indonesian President Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono to thank them for their help in getting the hostages released. Karzai praised the negotiation of the South Korea government.[30]
  • In December 2009, the South Korean defence ministry announced the army would return to Afghanistan with 350 troops in 2010 to protect South Korean civilian engineers working on reconstruction. These troops would not engage in any fighting except to protect the aid team and be backed by helicopters, armoured vehicles and an unmanned reconnaissance drone to protect the 100 civilian engineers and 40 police. The South Korean contingent would be based in Parwan province, just north of Kabul for 30 months from July 1, 2010.[31]

List of hostages[edit]

Romanized name Name in Hangul Name in Hanja Gender Birth year Status
Bae Hyeong-gyu 배형규 裵亨圭 Male 1965 killed on July 25, 2007
Shim Seong-min 심성민 沈聖珉 Male 1978 killed on July 30, 2007
Kim Gyeong-ja 김경자 金慶子 Female 1970 released on August 13, 2007
Kim Ji-na 김지나 金智娜 Female 1975 released on August 13, 2007
Ryu Gyeong-shik 류경식 柳慶植 Male 1952 released on August 29, 2007
Ko Sei-hoon 고세훈 高世勳 Male 1980 released on August 29, 2007
Lyu Jeong-hwa 유정화 柳貞和 Female 1968 released on August 29, 2007
Lee Seon-yeong 이선영 李善英 Female 1970 released on August 29, 2007
Lee Ji-yeong 이지영 李智英 Female 1970 released on August 29, 2007
(offered to be freed August 13)
Han Ji-yeong 한지영 韓智英 Female 1973 released on August 29, 2007
Lee Jeong-ran 이정란 李貞蘭 Female 1974 released on August 29, 2007
Lim Hyeon-ju 임현주 林賢珠 Female 1975 released on August 29, 2007
Cha Hye-jin 차혜진 車惠珍 Female 1976 released on August 29, 2007
An Hye-jin 안혜진 安惠珍 Female 1976 released on August 29, 2007
Seo Myeong-hwa 서명화 徐明和 Female 1978 released on August 29, 2007
Lee Ju-yeon 이주연 李週妍 Female 1980 released on August 29, 2007
Je Chang-hee 제창희 諸昌熙 Male 1969 released on August 30, 2007
Song Byeong-woo 송병우 宋炳宇 Male 1974 released on August 30, 2007
Seo Gyeong-seok 서경석 徐京石 Male 1980 released on August 30, 2007
Kim Yoon-yeong 김윤영 金允英 Female 1972 released on August 30, 2007
Pak Hye-yeong 박혜영 朴惠英 Female 1972 released on August 30, 2007
Lee Seong-eun 이성은 李成恩 Female 1983 released on August 30, 2007
Lee Yeong-gyeong 이영경 李英慶 Female 1985 released on August 30, 2007

See also[edit]

References[edit]

  1. ^ "Korean Missionaries under Fire". Time Magazine. July 27, 2007. Retrieved September 8, 2007. 
  2. ^ "South Korean hostage apologizes for being captured". CBC News. August 31, 2007. Retrieved August 31, 2007. 
  3. ^ Shah, Amir (April 29, 2007). "Taliban to free 19 S. Korean hostages". The Associated Press. Retrieved August 29, 2007. [dead link]
  4. ^ Witte, Griff (August 30, 2007). "Taliban Begins to Free South Korean Hostages". The Washington Post. Retrieved September 1, 2007. 
  5. ^ "Taliban say Korean hostage talks fail". China Daily. Reuters. August 18, 2007. Retrieved August 18, 2007. 
  6. ^ Shah, Taimoor (August 13, 2007). "Taliban Release 2 Korean Hostages". The New York Times. Retrieved August 13, 2007. 
  7. ^ "Taleban 'agree to free' hostages". BBC News. August 28, 2007. 
  8. ^ "Taliban say S.Korea paid over $20 mln ransom". Reuters. September 1, 2007. 
  9. ^ "Seoul would not talk about ransom". Naver News. September 6, 2007. 
  10. ^ Muslims here pray for safe homecoming of 22 hostages, JoongAng Daily, July 30, 2007.
  11. ^ "South Korean hostage talks 'likely'". Al-Jazeera. August 3, 2007. Retrieved August 12, 2007. 
  12. ^ Sang-Hun, Choe (September 2, 2007). "Freed by Taliban, 19 South Korean Hostages Will Face Relief and Anger Back Home". The New York Times. 
  13. ^ http://www.asianews.it/index.php?l=en&art=10166&size=A
  14. ^ "South Koreans held in Afghanistan". BBC News. July 20, 2007. 
  15. ^ "S Korea urges hostages' release". BBC News. July 26, 2007. 
  16. ^ "Taliban: Hostages will die Monday". CNN. Reuters. July 29, 2007. Retrieved July 29, 2007. 
  17. ^ "Taliban extends S. Korean hostage deadline 3 hrs". The Jerusalem Post. Associated Press. July 30, 2007. Retrieved July 30, 2007. 
  18. ^ "Taliban says Korean hostage killed". Al Jazeera. Agence France-Presse. July 30, 2007. Retrieved July 30, 2007. 
  19. ^ "Seoul confirms death of second hostage". United Press International. July 31, 2007. Retrieved August 12, 2007. 
  20. ^ "Second Korean hostage found dead". BBC News. July 31, 2007. Retrieved July 31, 2007. 
  21. ^ Azimy, Yousuf (July 31, 2007). "Afghans recover body of slain Korean hostage". Reuters. Retrieved July 31, 2007. 
  22. ^ Shah, Amir (August 1, 2007). "Afghan Army Prepares for Military Action". Associated Press. Retrieved August 1, 2007. 
  23. ^ "NKorea calls for release of SKorean hostages in Afghanistan". International Herald Tribune (The Associated Press). August 1, 2007. Retrieved August 2, 2007. 
  24. ^ "Korea Agrees to Direct Talks With Taliban". Chosunilbo. August 2, 2007. Retrieved August 2, 2007. [dead link]
  25. ^ "Taliban, Korean team begin talks over hostages". Reuters. August 10, 2007. Retrieved August 10, 2007. 
  26. ^ "Taliban, Koreans Meet on Hostages". Associated Press. August 10, 2007. 
  27. ^ "Taliban frees 2 South Korean hostages". Associated Press. August 13, 2007. 
  28. ^ "Selfless Hostage Identified". Digital Chosunilbo. August 24, 2007. Archived from the original on August 26, 2007. Retrieved August 24, 2007. 
  29. ^ "Taliban release 12 Korean hostages". Reuters. August 29, 2007. 
  30. ^ "Pres. Roh Thanks Afghan, Indonesian Leaders". KBS Global. September 1, 2007. Retrieved on September 3, 2007. 
  31. ^ "South Korea troops to Afghanistan". BBC News. December 8, 2009.