Can hostages be saved?Terror continues in Afghanistan as the Taliban, having kidnapped 23 Koreans, threaten to kill the hostages unless their demands are met. They first demanded the withdrawal of Korean troops from Afghanistan, two days ago and that 23 Taliban prisoners be released by 11:30 p.m. yesterday.
The Taliban is a militia that began as a student Islamic fundamentalist organization in Afghanistan. Once the de facto ruling force of Afghanistan, it was ousted by a U.S. led coalition in 2001.
But it recently began regaining its influence. It remains an object of terror. During the process of recovering its former control it has kidnapped and killed foreigners. It is said that the Taliban has already executed several foreigners, including four Albanians who worked for a German company. Its threat to kill the Korean captives is not likely a bluff.
The Korean government must take these demands seriously, even if the demands of the Taliban cannot be easily met. Its first demand, the removal of Korean troops in Afghanistan, could not be accomplished within a day. In that regard, it is a great relief that the Korean government announced that Korean troops were scheduled to leave the country by the end of the year, and that the Taliban understood our words.
The problem is its second demand, since there can be subtle differences between the positions of the Afghan government and other countries whose nationals have been kidnapped. The release of an Italian newspaperreporter in March is an example. The Afghan government initially did not meet the Taliban demand to release five Taliban prisoners in return for the release of the hostage with enthusiasm. Later, due to the worries that Italian troops might pull out of the country, the government agreed to liberate the five prisoners. There was criticism from other countries on that decision, and the Afghan government is known to have a policy not to release Taliban prisoners. If that is true, it is a dire obstacle for the safe return of the Koreans.
The Korean government should cooperate with the Afghan government and with its allies such as the United States.
So far the Korean government has taken appropriate measures, particularly in that the president delivered a timely message to the kidnappers that the Korean troops are about to complete their mission and pull out.
Additionally, the government must implement more deliberate plans to prevent such a mishap from occurring again. The government seems to have not warned strongly enough about the dangers in Afghanistan, for it merely advised citizens against travel to Afghanistan, instead of banning travel to the country.
It is also urgent that some Christian branches in Korea review their understanding of the situation.
They might argue that their religious mission and volunteer work are virtues they should not compromise as Christians.
However, there are other virtues required as community members.
They should ask themselves if it is a virtue to drive their families and society into worry and confusion.