Killing of South Korean Christian in Iraq Stuns the World

( [email protected] ) Jun 29, 2004 07:28 PM EDT

South Korea has stated that it is stunned by the "inhumane" beheading of a Korean hostage, known to be a "devout Christian", in Iraq. Earlier last week US soldiers found the body of 33-year-old Kim Sun-il, five days after he was seized in Falluja, west of Baghdad, by a group led by Jordanian-born militant Abu Musab al-Zarqawi.

The Arabic interpreter, who had the vision of carrying out missionary work in the Arab world, knelt silently and unemotionally before his Muslim militant captors beheaded him. As a Christian, he mixed that work with evangelizing, media reports say.

Kim first studied English at a college that is now Youngsan University, graduating with a diploma in 1992, officials say. He then majored in theology at Kyungsung University, again in his hometown of Pusan, earning a degree in February 1994. Kim, an evangelical Christian, had worked in Iraq for a year as a translator for a South Korean firm supplying goods to the US army.

"He is introverted, kind-hearted and studies hard," his mother said on YTN television prior to his death. She and her husband said their son "lived with no greed."

The death has shocked South Koreans who were hopeful for Kim's release after it was reported that he was still alive after a deadline for his execution had expired.

South Korean television showed Kim's distressed father, mother and other relatives weeping and hugging one another in their home in the Southern port city of Pusan as they learned the news.

The Government has however vowed to stand firm on its decision to send thousands of troops to the war-torn country. South Korea announced on Friday it would send the troop contingent to northern Iraq from August simply for relief operations.

"There is no change in our position and spirit that our troop dispatch to Iraq is for humanitarian relief and rehabilitation," it was announced.

All South Koreans will now be evacuated from Iraq except for essential personnel following the beheading, "To prevent similar incidents, all South Korean nationals in Iraq except for essential personnel will be evacuated," a news conference broadcasted.

Kim's parents had urged the Seoul government to do everything to save their son, who had a degree in theology as well as Arabic and had hoped to be Christian missionary in the Arab world. Kim was also reported to have been ordained as a Christian minister in pursuit of his dream of becoming a missionary in the area.