Kotra official abducted in Libya said to be ‘safe’

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Kotra official abducted in Libya said to be ‘safe’

The abducted head of the Libya office of the Korea Trade-Investment Promotion Agency (Kotra) has been confirmed to be alive and supposedly safe, according to the Ministry of Foreign Affairs yesterday.

Han Seok-woo was kidnapped from his car by four unidentified gunmen late Sunday afternoon on his way home from work in the Libyan capital of Tripoli. His Iraqi chauffeur, who was left behind with his car, reported the case to the Korean Embassy there.

The government did not explain how they ascertained that Han was safe because of its policy of confidentiality in dealing with kidnapping cases for the safety of the abductee.

Kim Tai-young, spokesman of the ministry, said, “The government is putting all efforts into the speedy, safe return of the abducted individual.”

He added that the Foreign Ministry, Kotra and the Libyan government were “in close cooperation” in order to secure Han’s release. Local media reported that Han’s kidnappers came from a small-size militia that abducts people for ransom.

Some earlier news reports said Al Qaeda might be behind the abduction. But a foreign affairs official said, “We are examining different scenarios, but we cannot flatly say it’s a political-motivated terrorist act.”

Kotra sent two officials to Libya yesterday after the Libyan Foreign Ministry speedily issued visas.

The Kotra officials will manage the Tripoli office and give support to Han’s family as his return is negotiated. Since 2012, Han has manned Kotra’s Libya office by himself and worked with interns.

This is the first case of an abduction since the founding of Kotra in 1962, according to the trade agency.

The Foreign Ministry on Monday issued a special travel warning about Libya. It warned the 551 Korean residents living there to move to a safer place since it “expects an increase in instability in public order in the short-term.”

Since the ouster and death of dictator Muammar el-Qaddafi, Libya has faced ongoing instability and escalating violence.

BY SARAH KIM [sarahkim@joongang.co.kr]

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