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With One Korean Hostage Dead, Ban Ki-moon Calls Afghan President Karzai Again

Byline: Matthew Russell Lee of Inner City Press at the UN: News Analysis

UNITED NATIONS, JULY 25 -- With the Taliban in Afghanistan holding South Korean hostages, UN Secretary General Ban Ki-moon on July 21 told the press he had spoken with President Karzai and urged him to do his "utmost" to secure their release.

            On July 25, amid news reports that one of the hostages had been killed, Inner City Press asked Ban's deputy spokesperson if Mr. Ban had spoke with Karzai again, and if the death had been confirmed. The spokesperson said that Ban had spoken again with President Karzai, but that the UN had no independent confirmation of the death. Video here, from Minute 9.

Mr. Ban and deputy chief of staff after Afghanistan meeting, July 2007

            Later on July 25, the office of South Korea president Roh Moo-hyun issued a statement that it "bitterly deplores the killing of a South Korean national by kidnappers in Afghanistan. The kidnappers blamed for the killing will never avoid all responsibility for that inhumane act." The kidnappers "will be held accountable for taking the life of a Korean citizen," said chief presidential secretary for security affairs Baek Jong-chun, now slated to travel to Afghanistan.

            The victim was found July 25 with 10 bullet holes in his head, stomach and chest in the Mushaki area of Qarabagh district in Ghazni province, said Abdul Rahman, an Afghan police officer. The foreign ministry identified the murder victim as Bae Hyung-Kyu, pastor of the Saem-Mul Presbyterian church and leader of the group taken hostage on July 19.

            Since then, staffers from the South Korean mission to the UN in New York indicated that their focus was on seeking there release of the 23 Korean hostages of the Taliban in Afghanistan. The scuttlebutt is that there are efforts to make it a pan-Korea issue (just as the Korean Crafts show still in the UN's lobby is portrayed as peninsula-wide), and to sound out what are said to be remaining North Korean ties with the Taliban. We'll see.

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