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August 29, 2007
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Headline News of August 29, 2007
Three South Korean kidnapped by the Taleban cover their faces after been released in Ghazni
Taleban rebels in Afghanistan free 12 of the 19 South Korean hostages they have been holding since July.

 
China's Cao Gangchuan begins a visit to Japan, the first by a Chinese defence minister in over nine years.
Brussels decides to retain import tariffs on Chinese-made energy-efficient light bulbs for another year.

 
BBC news transcript with photos
Transcript in the news of August 29, 2007 (With some misspelled words)  
Taleban release S Korean hostages
Three South Korean kidnapped by the Taleban cover their faces after been released in Ghazni
These three women were the first to be freed on Wednesday
Taleban rebels in Afghanistan have released 12 South Koreans - 10 women and two men - out of a group of 19 hostages that they have been holding.

The hostages have been released in three groups throughout the day. They are said to be in good health.

The three women and one man from the latest group to be freed were said to be "hugely relieved" at their release.

The Taleban said the remaining seven hostages would be released soon. The group was initially seized in July.

The hostages were released with the mediation of tribal elders in separate locations.

The first two groups of hostages were handed over to officials of the International Committee of the Red Cross and were then taken to meet South Korean government officials in Ghazni.

Haji Zahir, a tribal elder who has been acting as a mediator, told the BBC he and two other elders had travelled to meet the Taleban and bring the first three women by car to Ghazni.

The second group of hostages was then released in the Shabaz area of Ghazni province, close to the village of Ghazni itself.

South Korean hostages held by Taleban (file photo)
The South Koreans were doing voluntary work in Afghanistan

 

The head of the Afghanistan branch of the International Committee of the Red Cross told the BBC that the third group was released late in the day in the same part of Ghazni province in which the Koreans were first kidnapped in mid July.

Earlier, Lee Jeong-hoon, whose sister Lee Ji-young was one of the first to be released, spoke of her feelings on hearing of the news.

"... I told my parents and they were crying and saying she's coming back alive. I was relieved, but I hope the remaining 16 hostages can return safely and healthy," she said.

Deal

The releases come a day after the South Korean government said it had reached a deal with the Taleban.

South Korea has agreed to withdraw troops from Afghanistan as scheduled by the end of the year. It also said it would end all missionary work in the country and stop its citizens from travelling there.

Map of Afghanistan

There has been no mention of money being paid, but it is thought that a ransom may have been part of the deal, says the BBC's Alastair Leithead in Kabul.

The Taleban appear to have dropped their earlier demand that Taleban members be released from Afghan prisons in exchange for the hostages' freedom.

A Taleban representative, Mullah Basheer, said all 19 would be released "step by step" in the coming week.

"One of our main demands has not been accepted, but our other demands were welcomed. All of the Koreans will be released in less than a week."

Speaking in Japan, German Chancellor Angela Merkel said her government would not change its strategy in light of the release of the hostages.

One German national is still being held in Afghanistan. Another German national, who was kidnapped at the same time, died of a heart attack.

"The federal government is trying hard to obtain the release of the hostages we have in Afghanistan," Ms Merkel said.

"All necessary efforts are being made. In my view, the situation concerning the South Korean hostages will not change in the way we are dealing with it. We are, through the crisis committee, very much involved and engaged and making everything possible for the liberation of the hostages."

Hostages killed

The militants kidnapped 23 South Koreans on 19 July as they travelled by bus on the main Kandahar to Kabul highway.

They subsequently killed two male hostages and later freed two women following a first round of talks.

The hostages are thought to be held in several different locations in Ghazni province.

Some 200 South Korean non-combat personnel are deployed in the country to help with reconstruction efforts. Seoul had already decided, before the kidnap, to end the deployment.


S Koreans rethink missionary work
By Kevin Kim
BBC News, Seoul

 

South Korean hostages held by Taleban (file photo)
The South Korean Christians were doing voluntary work in Afghanistan
When South Korean TV broadcast news that hostages held by the Taleban were to be released, cheers of joy echoed through the church where the families of the Christian aid workers had been waiting for more than a month.

As South Koreans went to work on Wednesday morning, they could not escape the news of the deal struck to free 12 of the 19 hostages.

The government expects the remaining seven hostages to be freed in the coming days.

The headline of one newspaper said that a 40-day nightmare was finally over, and a collective sense of anxiety finally turned into a sense of relief.

But what lessons have been learned from the ordeal?

New approach

Even as vigils were held to pray for the safe return of the hostages, many difficult questions were also asked about Christian missionaries ignoring official warnings about threats to their safety.

I think we really have to refrain from going to countries where the government says it's too dangerous
 
Baek Joo Han, student

"I have been on Christian aid missions myself," said Baek Joo-han, a 22-year-old university student in Seoul.

"Other countries may see us as dogmatic and being too selfish, but we are going to other countries to help people out of pure love. We shouldn't be doing things that are bad for our country, though.

"I think we really have to refrain from going to countries where the government says it's too dangerous," he said.

Some 25% of the South Korean population is Christian, about 15,000 of whom work as missionaries overseas.

But some Christian leaders believe South Korea now has to re-assess some of its missionary work in culturally sensitive areas.

HOSTAGE TIMELINE
19 July: 23 South Korean Christian aid workers seized on bus in Ghazni province
26 July: Body of hostage Pastor Bae Hyung-kyu is found
31 July: Second hostage Shim Sung-min, 29, found shot dead
13 August: Two hostages freed
29 August: 12 of remaining 19 hostages released

Dr Steve Moon, the director at the Korea Research Institute for Mission, says the hostage incident will help South Korean missionaries become more mature.

"South Korean missionaries have been fairly free up to now to spread the gospel in areas where Western evangelicals have difficulty accessing.

"But now there are greater risks of identities of the South Korean missionaries becoming exposed. There will need to be greater transparency," Dr Moon says.

But it is not entirely a happy ending.

Questions are already being asked over whether the lives of two men who were killed in the initial weeks of the kidnapping could have been saved had the government engaged in negotiations with the Taleban sooner.

 

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* Because production of these transcripts depend on a variety of factors, there are occasional spelling errors.


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