ISIS training missing Korean: NISAn 18-year-old Korean man who disappeared in Turkey last month is currently receiving training by the Islamic State (ISIS), the national spy agency said.
The young man is the first known Korean recruit by the violent jihadist group, and the Korean government is stepping up legal measures to prevent impressionable Korean youth from falling into the group’s bloodied hands.
Lee Byung-kee, director of the National Intelligence Service (NIS), told a National Assembly meeting Tuesday that the missing teen identified by the surname Kim joined ISIS, according to a lawmaker on the parliamentary intelligence committee.
“Kim has been detected in a general training camp in ISIS territory, in a training unit,” Lee told the committee. But his exact location has not been confirmed.
The NIS said Kim could be punished for violation of the passport act if he returns to Korea for leaving for Turkey and then illegally entering another country.
Several Ministry of Foreign Affairs sources said Wednesday that the government has also concluded that Kim could be subject to prosecution under the criminal law for joining ISIS.
After consultation with the Ministry of Justice, officials found that Article 111 of the Korean Criminal Act on “Private War against a Foreign Country” may be applicable to Kim’s case, or Article 114 on “Organization of a Criminal Group.”
Article 111 states: “A person who wages a private war against a foreign country shall be punished by limited imprisonment.”
Article 114 says: “A person who organizes a group whose purpose is to commit a crime, or who joins such a group, shall receive a punishment specified.”
Kim, by having joined ISIS, could be sentenced to up to three years in prison or fined up to 5 million won.
Kim, who disappeared on Jan. 10 in Turkey, was immediately suspected by Korean authorities of crossing the Syrian border to join ISIS. He had spent months researching how to become a member of the extremist group online.
ISIS is renowned for its recruitment, drawing in the young and impressionable from many nations with messages of glory, power and bloodthirstiness.
U.S. intelligence officials recently estimated ISIS has recruited over 20,000 youths from 90 countries. Kim is the first confirmed Korean recruit.
Kim, a middle school dropout, arrived in Turkey on Jan. 8 with a family friend, a 45-year-old identified by the surname Hong. He told his parents that he wanted to meet a pen pal called “Hassan.”
Turkish police found CCTV showing Kim on Jan. 10 leaving his hotel in Kilis, a city in southern Turkey bordering Syria, and getting into a car with an unidentified man. Kim was last spotted at a small village for Syrian refugees later that day.
On Jan. 12, his guardian Hong reported to the Korean Embassy in Ankara that Kim had gone missing.
By examining his Internet searches and SNS activity, Korean police found Kim had a deep interest in the radical Islamic group over the past year.
“Because there is no precedent for punishing an individual joining a terrorist organization in a foreign country, there may be differences in legal interpretations,” said a foreign affairs official. “However, both technically and in principle, this case should be legally punishable.”
Analysts here said Kim’s recruitment by ISIS may signal the group is planning to extend its outreach to other countries in East Asia.
Kim’s mother told the JoongAng Ilbo on Tuesday after hearing news of her son, “I am worried and frustrated to the point I cannot breathe.”
BY SARAH KIM [email@example.com]