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Old August 23, 2007, 02:31 PM
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Post Koreans Beg for Hostages' Release: Al Jazeera Report

Koreans beg for hostages' release

Two South Korean women, held hostage for weeks by the Taliban in Afghanistan, have appealed for the release of the other 19 hostages.

Speaking exclusively to Al Jazeera, in an interview broadcast on Thursday, Kim Kyung-ja and Kim Jee-na said the relief they felt at their release was overshadowed by the plight of the remaining hostages.

"You probably think we are happy now, with our families. In fact, we can hardly sleep at night," said Kim Jee-na.

"I understand that Islamic teachings give priority to life and family. Please release our co-workers as soon as possible."

Lee Jee-young, one of the hostages and who had also been working as a translator for the group, gave up her place as one of the hostages to be freed.

"We were very worried when we heard that Jee-yong volunteered to be left behind," said Kim Jee-na.

"But the Taliban allowed Jee-yong to write a letter to her family which consoled her and gave her some hope that she would come home soon."

Painful decision

The freed women said they had not been treated badly by the Taliban while in captivity and "were given basic things such as food, medication and some blankets".

But they also said it was painfully difficult to leave their friends in captivity.

"Rather than being happy, my heart was breaking," Kim Kyung-ja said, holding back tears.

"I was thinking of the remaining 19 hostages."

The women were part of a group of 23 South Korean aid workers who were taken hostage by Taliban fighters in July as their tour bus travelled along the Kabul-Kandahar highway in Afghanistan's Ghazni province.

The group, all members of a Christian church in Seoul, had travelled to Afghanistan to provide aid work.

"We were looking after the patients and children playing soccer games at the hospital located in Mazari Sharif," the women said.

"We were planning to continue our work at the hospital and kindergarten after moving to Kandahar."

In exchange for the hostages, the Taliban demanded the withdrawal of South Korean troops from the country and the release of prisoners held by the Afghan authorities.

But negotiations reached a deadlock on several occasions and a number of deadlines set by the Taliban passed without those demands being met.

Hostages killed

The Taliban has already killed two of the hostages.

Bae Hyung-kyu, the group's leader, was killed and his bullet-riddled body was left close to the road where the group was kidnapped.

Qari Mohammad Yousuf, a Taliban spokesman, said at the time that Bae had been killed "because the government did not listen to our demands".

Later, after another deadline passed, the Taliban killed Shim Seong-min, another male hostage.

The Taliban continues to demand that the Afghan authorities release prisoners in exchange for the remaining hostages, demands that the Afghan authorities have refused.

"And do not curse those who call on other than GOD, lest they blaspheme and curse GOD, out of ignorance. We have adorned the works of every group in their eyes. Ultimately, they return to their Lord, then He informs them of everything they had done." (Qur'an 6:108)
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