Missing Koreans were on missionary visa run

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Missing Koreans were on missionary visa run

As the hunt continues for the missing AirAsia flight 8501 and its 162 passengers and crew, Yeosu First Presbyterian Church and a mission organization disclosed more details Monday about the three Koreans onboard.

The three Koreans are Park Seong-beom, 37, his wife Lee Kyung-hwa, 34, and their 11-month-old daughter Park Yu-na. The two organizations said Park and Lee were doing missionary work in Indonesia and they are believed to have been going to Singapore to extend their visas. They were working on three-month tourist visas because visas for missionary work are not allowed in the Islamic country.

The Presbyterian church in Yeosu, South Jeolla, said Park attended the church from his childhood years and he chose to work as a lay missionary in foreign countries rather than becoming a pastor.

“Park has been committed to missionary work from his teenage years,” said Pastor Kim Jong-heon of the church. “When he was staying in Korea, he did administrative work to support missionaries in foreign countries.”

Beginning his first mission work at an early age, he traveled to Southeast Asian countries to promote Christianity after finishing his military duty with the Korea International Cooperation Agency.

Park was trained as a missionary at Insiders, a mission organization for Southeast Asian countries, and met his wife Lee there. Park went to Cambodia in 2008 for four years and eight month while Lee worked in Malaysia, said the organization.

“The two met at this organization,” said an official at Insiders. “We all pray for their return.”

The couple came back to Korea and got married in October 2012 in Uijeongbu, Gyeonggi. Their daughter Yu-na was born in January this year. After spending two sabbatical years in Korea, the family decided to work in Indonesia and left Korea in October.

The two missionaries were reportedly on a training course to begin work in the archipelago nation, but weren’t able to start their duties before they boarded AirAsia flight 8501 to renew their visas in Singapore.

Indonesian authorities suspect the plane crashed near Belitung Island, which is in the middle of its flight route, due to bad weather. Thunderstorms are common in the region during the island nation’s rainy season.

BY KIM BONG-MOON [bongmoon@joongang.co.kr]

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