Korea 'Paid US$20 Million to Taliban'
The Korean government paid more than US$20 million in ransom to Taliban kidnappers for the release of 19 Korean hostages in Afghanistan, Reuters and Japan’s Kyodo News said Saturday quoting a senior Taliban figure.
Both news agencies cited remarks by a member of the 10-man leadership council of the Taliban, which are headed by the elusive Mullah Omar. “With it we will purchase arms, get our communication network renewed and buy vehicles to carry out more suicide attacks,” the senior militant figure told Reuters. “The money will also address to some extent the financial difficulties we have had.”
Meanwhile, in an indirect phone conversation with Yonhap News on Sunday, a purported Taliban spokesman calling himself Qari Yousuf Ahmadi threatened to attack the Korean embassy or other Korean facilities in Afghanistan if the country does not keep its promise to withdraw all Korean Christian missionaries from the country by the end of August. Ahmadi said he had information that some Koreans remain in the war-torn country.
What the Afghan Hostage Crisis has Cost Korea
Digital Chosun Ilbo English Editorial September 4, 2007
The Afghan hostage crisis has ended, but the aftermath lingers. Germany, Canada and other countries are openly criticizing the Korean government for having negotiated directly with a terrorist group. Even though one of its citizens is in captivity by the Taliban, Germany’s chancellor made it clear that her country will not handle the situation as Korea did. The U.S. government drew the line early on, saying it will not participate in talks between the Korean government and the Taliban. It had no intention of violating their principle. Rumors that the Korean government paid a ransom for the release of the hostages are tremendously embarrassing for Korea. Amid all this, the actions by the chief of Korea’s intelligence agency were more suited for a cheesy spy movie.
Korea lost a lot through this incident. Its status has tumbled to that of a nation that openly cuts deals with terrorists. Now, terrorist groups from all corners of the globe will put Koreans on the top of their list as potential kidnap targets, for political or financial gain. With 12 million Koreans traveling abroad each year, this is not an ungrounded concern. The scheduled withdrawal of the Dasan engineering unit and the Dong-eui medical unit ended up looking as if it came in response to the Taliban’s demands. The sweat and sacrifice that our troops gave in Afghanistan over the past five years has gone to waste.
Korea is responsible for punching a gaping hole in the global line of defense drawn against terrorism, giving the Taliban an international stage for its propaganda warfare. Now the militants plan to abduct and kill more nationals from foreign countries whose troops serve under NATO and the U.S. military in the country, a spokesman for the movement warned Monday. With the Taliban in high spirits, the trust the international community had in Korea crashed and burned. For a very long time, Korea will have to live with the disgrace of having pleaded with the government of Afghanistan to free Taliban prisoners and the fact that the whole world found out about it.
Our biggest loss is that Korea has been imprinted in the minds of the international community as a country without principle. Regardless of its size, if a country gains a reputation for protecting principles despite external pressure, then no group will take it lightly. There are many small countries in the world that fit that description and exercise significant influence on the international community. This is the road Korea should take, stuck as it is between the world’s superpowers. But we strayed significantly from this path.
If there is anything we can gain from this incident, it is the realization that whether our country can live up to its principles depends on the actions and character of our citizens. No government or country can endure the challenge posed by 23 people who are kidnapped after disobeying fundamental rules.
The reason why small but respected countries in the world stick to their principles despite unbearable hardships is because they have learned that it is more economical and effective in the long term. Only when its citizens obey fundamental rules can a country gain more respect, and that in turn reduces the cost of living in a rough world.