Afghan honestyNineteen South Koreans freed by the Taliban finally returned home to their loved ones Sunday. It is with great relief that we can now discuss this incident in the past tense. Now, it is time to be honest.
The fundamental nature of this incident is terrorism on the part of the Taliban, and we will not forget the atrocity that group committed.
That being said, we also cannot help mentioning the reckless nature of overseas missions conducted by Christian churches in Korea. When the church that dispatched the mission team said they went to Afghanistan for purely humanitarian reasons and without religious motives, we accepted the statement in silence for the sake of the captives. However, why was a Bible in the Pashtun language found in the bus they were riding in?
By ignoring the government’s warning and rashly carrying out a mission in a politically unstable Muslim country, the captives have laid a great burden on their country. By violating international principles and directly negotiating with a terrorist group, our country has invited censure from other countries. Korean churches cannot escape the scathing criticism that their aggressive missionary work put the lives of several innocent young people in dire jeopardy.
We believe the government did its best against all odds. However, there were certain points that left much to be desired. The most regrettable reaction was the president’s announcement shortly after the kidnapping that Korea would withdraw its troops from Afghanistan within the year. By announcing this, the president freely gave up one of our most valuable negotiation cards.
Had our government firmly stated from the start that no negotiations would be held if a single Korean life was lost, there was a chance that we could have prevented the tragic deaths of two captives. If the customs and immigration authorities had been a little stricter in enforcing the ban on Korean nationals traveling to Afghanistan, perhaps this whole incident would not have happened. The limits of our diplomatic relations with Muslim countries and our lack of experts on Korean-Islamic relations were also shortcomings that hindered us throughout this incident.
Despite the unsatisfactory and regrettable points of this incident, our society should not engage in vicious mudslinging and blaming of one another. All parties involved should reflect on what they did wrong in this incident and concentrate on how to make their wrongs right, so that this kind of tragedy will not happen again.