It was July 13, 2007, 16 years ago. Pastor Bae Hyeong-gyu and 19 members of Saemmul Church in Bundang-gu, Seongnam-si, Gyeonggi-do, left for Afghanistan, a conflict-affected area, for the purpose of short-term missionary work. Ignored the government’s warning and headed to a country with travel restrictions.
The missionary group that arrived in Kabul on the 14th was joined by three Korean missionaries who were active there. These 23 people (7 males and 16 females) were scheduled to return to Korea on the 23rd after completing their schedules such as volunteering. However, on the 19th, while traveling on a bus from Kabul to Kandahar in the southern region, he was kidnapped by the Taliban.
A spokesperson for the Taliban threatened to kill the hostages if the Korean troops dispatched to Afghanistan do not withdraw by noon on the 21st. At the time, the Korean government invested a lot of money and manpower to bring them back to life, but in the end, not all of them returned alive. This incident, which was recorded as the worst kidnapping case in Korean history, became the motif of the movie ‘Negotiation’ (2023) starring actors Hwang Jung-min and Hyun Bin.
2 hostages killed… The remaining 21 returned safely after ’42 days of kidnapping’
When the South Korean government said it would “withdraw at the end of the year” regarding the withdrawal of South Korean troops dispatched to Afghanistan, the Taliban presented new demands. It was to release the same number of Taliban prisoners (prisoners) as Korean hostages by the 22nd.
The South Korean government task force arrived at the site on the 22nd and extended negotiations by one day until the 25th. However, on the 25th, the Taliban killed Pastor Hyung-gyu Bae (42 years old at the time), saying that the negotiations had broken down. On the 31st, Sim (then 29 years old) was also killed. Both men died from gunshot wounds. The Taliban threatened to kill the rest of the hostages if no positive answer was given to the release of the detainees.
On August 7, the Ministry of Foreign Affairs and Trade designated Afghanistan as a travel ban. On the 10th, face-to-face negotiations between the Korean government and the Taliban began. The standoff with the Taliban showed signs of being resolved only after face-to-face negotiations. Finally, on the 13th, two female hostages who were in poor health were released. It was only 25 days after the kidnapping.
The South Korean government requested the release of the abductees on a humanitarian basis, saying, “Release of Taliban prisoners is beyond its authority”. They arrived safely in Korea on September 2nd.
Agreed to 5 terms of release… ‘Pay the ransom’ depends on whether or not
The South Korean-Taliban negotiating team agreed on five clauses as conditions for release. △Withdrawal of Korean troops dispatched to Afghanistan within the year △Withdrawal of Koreans from non-governmental organization ( NGO ) activities메이저사이트 in Afghanistan within August △Prohibition of Korean Christian missionary activities in Afghanistan △Guarantee of safety in the process of withdrawal of Koreans △Withdrawal of demand for release of Taliban detainees.
At the time, it was not known whether the South Korean government paid ransom for the hostages to the Taliban as a condition of negotiations. However, Al Jazeera’s Kabul correspondent quoted a high-ranking Afghan official as saying, “South Korea paid about 20 million pounds (about 33.3 billion won) to the Taliban.”
Reuters reported, quoting a high-ranking Taliban official, saying, “I received more than 20 million dollars (about 26 billion won) in ransom money,” and “I plan to purchase weapons, reorganize the communication network, and buy vehicles for more attacks.” . An Afghan official claimed through Japan’s Asahi Shimbun that “South Korea paid 2 million dollars (about 2.6 billion won) in exchange for the release of the hostages.”
Souvenir photos in front of the ‘refrain from travel’ warning… Criticism of unilateral missionary activity
After the incident, there was criticism of the Protestant missionary activities that did not consider the local situation. This is because five months before the incident, the Ministry of Foreign Affairs and Trade obtained intelligence that “the Taliban is abducting Koreans for the release of prisoners,” classified Afghanistan as a travel-restricted country, and recommended refraining from visiting.
However, Saemmul Church ignored this and went to Afghanistan by recruiting participants for the short-term mission. At the time of departure, public outcry arose as it became known that the missionary group took a commemorative photo while posing in a V pose in front of the warning sign “refrain from traveling to Afghanistan” installed at Incheon International Airport.
It was estimated that the government spent about 100 million won on transportation costs for the victims, airfare for the returnees, and medical expenses. Among them, the government charged about 62,000 dollars (approximately 56.93 million won at the time) to Saemmul Church.In July 2010, three years after the incident, the victim’s family filed a lawsuit against the state for damages of 350 million won, saying, “The government should have prevented visiting Afghanistan by restricting the use of passports.” However, in April 2011, the court ruled against the plaintiff, saying that “the state does not have to pay compensation.”