On July 13th, 23 South Koreans left Seoul on route to Afghanistan. Their journey to provide medical aid to the people of this war-ravaged nation was meant to last just 10 days. But it was to end in tragedy for two families, anguish for many others, and a political and diplomatic crisis.

Taliban insurgents freed seven remaining South Korean hostages in Afghanistan after a six-week kidnap ordeal. [REUTERS]

Taliban fighters kidnapped the group on the highway from Kabul to Kandahar four days into their trip. Initially they sought the withdrawal of Korean troops from Afghanistan, but later changed their demand to that of freeing Taliban prisoners from Afghan jails, something the Afghan government resolutely refused to do.

As deadlines came and went, and whilst attention was focused on the unfolding events in Afghanistan, Al Jazeera gained exclusive access to the hostages’ fearful families in Korea, who’s nightmare was just beginning. Less than a week after the abduction, the families in Seoul received the news they most feared: one hostage, Pastor Bae Hyung-kyu, the group's leader, had been killed.

Unable to live their normal lives, many of the families gathered together at a special centre in Seoul to provide mutual support and to share their grief. They tell us their stories of their loved ones and their fears for the future.

A South Korean hostage (C) walks with an official from The International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC) after being released by Taliban captors in Janda, some 100kms south of Ghazni. [AFP]

Another death was to follow, before signs of hope emerged on August 13th with the release of two of the female hostages. As the crisis dragged on the South Korean government came under sustained pressure, and direct negotiations began with the Taliban eventually leading to the release of the remaining hostages on August 29th and 30th.

The deal means Korea has agreed to pull its troops from Afghanistan by the end of this year, and to prevent any more Christian charity workers – who are accused of being missionaries – from traveling to Afghanistan.

Now, amid allegations that the government paid a ransom for freeing the captives, Al Jazeera tells the story of those kidnapped in Afghanistan.

Watch Kidnapped here:

Part One:

Part Two:

Kidnapped aired on Sunday 02nd September 2007 at the 2030 GMT.


To contact us click on 'Send your feedback' at the top of the page

Watch Al Jazeera English programmes on YouTube

Join our debate on the Your Views page and leave you comments regarding the South Korean hostages.