The Taliban had threatened to kill them unless its demands were met by the deadline.
 
Fate of others
 
Hostage killed

South Korea has identified the hostage killed in Afghanistan as Bae Hyung-kyu.

Bullet-riddled body found on Wednesday, the day South Korean media said he would have turned 42

Leader and oldest member of the group of 23 church volunteers

Married with nine-year-old daughter

Christian pastor for six years and founding member of Saemmul church that sent the
Volunteers

Suffered from respiratory ailment

Khowja Seddiqi, the district chief of Qarabagh in Ghazni province, said "efforts are under way to have the others released".
 
Baek said South Korea would soon send a special envoy to Afghanistan to step up co-ordination with Kabul to secure the release of the remaining hostages.
 
But James Bays, Al Jazeera's correspondent in Afghanistan, reported that South Korean negotiators were constrained by the Afghan authorities' refusal to swap prisoners and were unable to offer the Taliban anything they wanted.
 
Hamid Karzai, the Afghan president, has pledged not to exchange prisoners for hostages after being criticised at home and abroad for releasing five Taliban members from jail in March in exchange for an Italian journalist.
 
The South Koreans - 18 women and five men - are Christian volunteers who had been involved in aid work in Afghanistan.
 
They were kidnapped last Thursday while travelling by bus through Ghazni province on the main road south from Kabul.
 
Al Jazeera's Melissa Chan reported from South Korea that questions were being raised about the wisdom of sending out untrained aid volunteers on a summer stint to a war zone.
 

"We've recovered the body. It had 10 bullet holes"

Alishah Ahmadzai, police chief, Ghazni province

About 1,000 people gathered in suburban Seoul around Saemmul church, which sent the volunteers, to pray for their safe return, broadcaster YTN reported.
 
South Korea's Yonhap news agency reported that eight of the hostages had been released, but Qari Mohammad Yousuf, a Taliban spokesman, denied it.
 
Chan said the media had been broadcasting the report on the eight hostages being freed when it was announced that a hostage had been killed, dashing the hopes of the families gathered.
 
Body found
 
Afghan officials confirmed they had recovered the bullet-riddled body of one of the hostages on Wednesday.
 
"Yes, we've recovered the body. It had 10 bullet holes. It was found some 15km from a paved road between Qara Bagh and Giru districts," said Alishah Ahmadzai, the head of police in Ghazni province.
 
Bays reported that the Taliban had claimed responsibility for killing the South Korean hostage to show that it was serious after negotiations broke down.
 
The Taliban accused the Afghan government and South Korean negotiators of failing to act in good faith after they rejected an initial list of eight Taliban fighters to be freed from prison.
 
A policeman searches passengers on the road
which links Ghazni with Kabul [AFP]
"Since Kabul's administration did not listen to our demand and did not free our prisoners, the Taliban shot dead a male Korean hostage," a Taliban spokesman said.
 
"If the administration of Kabul is not ready to release our hostages, then by 1am [local time] the rest of the hostages will be killed," he said.
 
"That time is the last deadline."
 
The Taliban had threatened to kill the hostages unless Afghan authorities agreed to demands to release prisoners in exchange.
 
Three previous deadlines for the hostages' lives had previously passed without consequences.
 
Journalists safe
 
Meanwhile, two journalists, an Afghan-Dane and a German, were said to be safe after reports of being abducted.
 
Christoph Reuter, a German journalist working for Stern magazine, initially reported kidnapped by the Taliban, had sent a text message saying that he was not kidnapped, a spokeswoman for Stern said.
 
He had been out of contact with his employer, raising fears that he and his Afghan translator had been abducted.
 
Afghan officials also said a Danish journalist of Afghan origin had escaped a kidnapping attempt.
 
Last week, two German engineers were kidnapped in the country, one of whom died. Ruediger Diedrich, 43, died under unclear circumstances while in captivity.
 
His body is to be flown back to Germany on Thursday for an autopsy, Martin Jaeger, a spokesman for the German foreign ministry, said.
 
Efforts to release the other engineer were continuing as the Taliban said he was very sick and slipping in and out of consciousness due to diabetes.

Source: Al Jazeera and agencies