SOUTH KOREAN HOSTAGE CONFIRMED DEAD IN IRAQ


2004.06.22
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The South Korean government has confirmed the death of one of its nationals working in Iraq, translator Kim Sun-il, RFA reports. An armed group in Iraq calling itself the Party of Divine Unity and Jihad was reported to have carried out its threat to behead Kim after Seoul rejected its demands to withdraw its troops from Iraq.

The South Korean Foreign Ministry confirmed that Kim's body was found by the U.S. military between Baghdad and Fallujah, west of the capital, at 10:20 p.m. Tuesday Korea time (5:20 p.m. Iraq time), Shin Bong-kil, spokesman for the Foreign Ministry, told reporters.

The South Korean embassy in Bagdad confirmed that the body was Kim by studying a picture of the remains it received by e-mail, Shin said. "It breaks our heart that we have to announce this unfortunate news," he said.

The Arabic-language satellite channel Al Jazeera carried videotaped pictures Tuesday of armed and masked men surrounding an apparently Korean hostage, blindfolded and sitting on his knees in front of them.

"We had threatened you, but you...insisted on remaining subservient to the tyrant of the age," Al Jazeera quoted the group as saying in a statement.

"He who gives a warning is excused. This is the fruit of your actions. Stop lying and deception. Your army is here [in Iraq] not for the sake of the Iraqis, but for the sake of damned America," said the statement.

The group�known in Arabic as Jama'at al-Tawhid wal Jihad�had earlier threatened that Kim would be beheaded if their demands were not met. In a video shown on Al Jazeera early Monday, the 33-year-old hostage was shown pleading for his life.

The group is led by Abu Musab al-Zarqawi, who has been accused by Washington of links to al Qaeda.

Kim, an Arabic speaker and evangelical Christian, had worked in Iraq for a year as a translator for a Korean firm supplying goods to the U.S. army.

He was seized on June 17 in Fallujah, a flashpoint city in the anti-U.S. insurgency. A Seoul commerce ministry spokeswoman said all South Koreans working for companies in Iraq were likely to leave the country by early next month.

South Korea has 670 military medics and engineers in Iraq and plans to send another 3,000 troops. #####

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