Wednesday, March 15, 2006

South Korean journalist kidnapped in Gaza

After about a day in the kidnappers' custody, Mr. Yong has been released unharmed. Two French journalists and a Canadian aid worker were also released. Their captors apologized (and that makes it all better, right?).

A South Korean television reporter appeared unharmed after being seized by Palestinian gunmen in the Gaza Strip, according to a short video shown in Korea today.

The Foreign Ministry says that KBS correspondent Yong Taeyoung was taken hostage at a hotel in the northern beach area of the Gaza Strip where he was staying with his cameraman.

Yong's seizure was reported to South Korean diplomats in Israel by his cameraman, Shin Sangchul, who narrowly escaped the raid by a group of insurgents believed to be linked to the Popular Front for the Liberation of Palestine (PFLP). Shin was initially under the protection of the Palestinian police and was later transferred to South Korean authorities in Israel.

Brief television footage, provided by Reuters news agency, showed Yong and a few other foreign hostages answering questions while holding a microphone with a logo in Arabic. He told the camera:

Although I am being held hostage because of the worsening relations between Israel and Palestine, I hope to see good results from the South Korean government's efforts.
To many Koreans, this is no doubt reminiscent of what happened to Kim Sun-il, a South Korean employee for an American contractor in Iraq, who was proselytizing on his spare time.

South Korean officials have said they are hopeful that the South Korean hostage would be set free unharmed, saying he did not appear to have been targeted, though I half suspect that "not targeting South Korean" sentiment could be wishful thinking.

Yong was one of nine foreign nationals initially taken hostage in the recent unrest in Gaza. Three, including two French journalists, remain capitve while the rest have been released. Yong has been allowed to make several phone calls to the South Korean embassy in Israel to say he is well and faces no immediate threats.

South Korean Foreign Minister Ban Ki-moon, who visited the Palestinian city of Ramallah in June, telephoned the Palestinian foreign minister from Argentina, where he is on official business, and asked for the Palestinian government's cooperation in working toward the reporter's release.

The violence leading to the seizure occurred in the area early Tuesday after Israeli forces used bulldozers to storm a prison in Jericho less than half an hour after British and U.S. monitors at the facility withdrew.

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