The youth pastor who was leading the group of 22 South Korean aid volunteers in Afghanistan was killed for refusing to convert to Islam, the head pastor of the church revealed after the final 19 former hostages arrived home.
“Among the 19 hostages who returned on the second (of September), some were asked by the Taliban to convert and when they rejected, they were assaulted and severely beaten,” reported Park Eun-jo, pastor of hostages’ home church – Saemmul Presbyterian Church in Bundang, just south of the South Korean capital Seoul.
“I heard from the hostages that they were threatened with death,” he added, according to the Seoul-based Christian Today newspaper. “Especially it is known that the reason Pastor Bae Hyung-kyu was murdered was because he refused the Taliban’s demand to convert.”
A hospital chief also said on Monday that some of the 5 South Korean men freed from captivity last week reported being beaten by their Taliban abductors for refusing to convert to Islam and for protecting their female colleagues.
“We found through medical checks that some male hostages were beaten,” Cha Seung-gyun told reporters, according to Agence France-Presse.
“They said they were beaten at first for refusing to take part in Islamic prayers or for rejecting a demand to convert.”
Meanwhile, medical examinations showed no signs that the last 12 women were raped and none reported being sexually harassed despite reports from the first two released hostages – both women – who said they were repeatedly raped by their captors, according to an ABC News report on Saturday.
Mirajuddin Pathan, the governor of Ghazni province, had also said he received reports that “various Taliban commanders were fighting over the women hostages” and that “[t]hey were abused over and over," according to ABC News.
Although Park had heard that some of the female hostages were in danger of being raped, he said they were able to “overcome the crisis” through strong resistance.
Furthermore, at least two male hostages were beaten or threatened with death when they refused to leave behind female hostages, according to hospital chief Cha.
While all the men were said to have fully recovered and now show no external signs of their beating, Cha reported that six or seven female hostages show symptoms of insomnia and depression and continue to worry about their lives even after returning to Korea. Moreover, some of the patients still suffer from shock from news that two of their male colleagues were murdered.
The hospital chief predicts that the former hostages will need about two weeks of treatment.
More reports on the freed hostages’ six-week ordeal have been emerging since the release of the final 19 aid workers – 14 women and five men – last week and their safe return to their homeland on Sunday.
The original group of 23 Korean Christian volunteers had been kidnapped by Taliban militants on July 19 while on their way to provide free medical aid to poor Afghans. Over the course of their 40-day captivity, the rebels killed two men and freed two women before releasing the last groups of hostages last Wednesday and Thursday.
To free the remaining hostages, South Korea promised to ban Korean missionaries from Afghanistan and pledged to pull out its 210 troops by the end of the year – a move it was already planning to make prior to the hostage crisis.
Ally countries such as Canada, Germany and Afghanistan have publicly criticized Seoul for negotiating with the Taliban – which they consider a terrorist group – and seemingly giving into them.
Contributors Michelle Vu in Washington and Lee Dae-won in Seoul contributed to this report.