Bring him home

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Bring him home

A Korean worker has been detained in Libya for 29 days after being kidnapped by a local militia group last month. The news was reported belatedly. Korean media has been aware of the incident, but refrained from reporting on it at the request of government authorities, which feared it would complicate negotiations.

We have sad memories of our citizens kidnapped overseas. The murder in 2004 of Kim Sun-il, an employee of a Korean contractor providing supplies to the U.S. Forces in Iraq, left scars on our hearts. Three years later, 21 out of 23 local church members on a mission to Afghanistan were released for a massive ransom, but two were killed. Since 2007, a series of kidnappings of Korean sailors by pirates took place around the Indian Ocean near Africa.

The Korean government’s wishy-washy responses cost lives. Kim was beheaded while the Korean government announced a plan to send troops to Iraq as a negotiation was going on between his company and the kidnappers. The case in Afghanistan was eventually resolved through negotiations and a ransom after two had been killed. The government set a precedent in which it was willing to pay ransoms after negotiations.

Dealing with kidnappings is complicated. Developed countries take different positions on paying ransoms. The United States, the U.K. and Japan refuse to pay ransom to rescue their nationals, while European countries, except Britain, show the tendency to try to buy their hostages’ freedom. Each has its own logic.

Nevertheless, the government must do its best to rescue our hostages. When two Japanese were kidnapped by the Islamic State in 2004, Prime Minister Shinzo Abe immediately returned from a trip to the Middle East and presided over an emergency meeting with ministers. He even made phone calls to leaders of Jordan, Turkey and Egypt to seek their cooperation.

Compared to Japan’s urgent reaction, our government appears laid back. It hurriedly sent the Cheonghae anti-piracy unit to waters off Libya from the East Africa Sea, but the Libyan kidnapping was not conducted by pirates.

Blue House spokesperson Kim Eui-kyeom said the government was “paying heed to the silence of the desert” and that the government saw the hostage “wet his deepening thirst by swallowing a few gulps of water.” We are dumbfounded at such rhetoric. The Blue House must find a way to bring our hostage home instead of showing off its literary skills.

JoongAng Ilbo, Aug. 3, Page 30
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