Mother of Slain Korean: ‘The Govt Killed My Son’

SEOUL – The failed attempt to rescue a South Korean hostage in Iraq, before he was beheaded, has prompted lawmakers in South Korea to launch an investigation into government agencies for their alleged inaction after first hearing news of the abduction.

This investigation comes as the nation begins to mourn the death of 33-year-old Kim Sun-Il who was working as an Arabic translator in Iraq.

“The government killed my son,” wailed Shin Young-Ja, 63, mother of the dead South Korean, as she viewed her son’s coffin after it arrived in the country from Iraq over the weekend.

“How could my son be killed when the government said he was alive?” she wept as the coffin was carried by police honor guards to a hospital in Kim’s hometown of Busan, south of Seoul.

Over the weekend tens of thousands South Koreans, many of them in tears, paid tribute to Kim in candlelight vigils at the city center.

Many of the mourners were carrying placards bearing the words “No More Killing,” “We Love Iraqi People,” “Scrap Plan for Sending More Troops to Iraq” and “Let Us Know The Truth.”

According to his friends, the 33-year-old Kim went to Iraq to make some money to pay for his post-graduate education in Seoul. He wanted to specialize in simultaneous translation from Arabic to English.

Kim was also a devout Christian and told his family he wanted to be an evangelist in Iraq after brushing up on his Arabic language skills.

His friends also told IPS he was in love with an Iraqi Christian and had plans to marry her.

South Koreans are reeling in anger over Kim’s brutal killing by his Iraqi captors after President Roh Moo-Hyun refused their demands to cancel the deployment of more than 3,000 extra South Korean troops to Iraq starting in August.

Kim worked for a South Korean supplier to the American military and the South Korean government said he was abducted on June 15 while making a delivery in the Iraqi city of Fallujah.

His captors from Jamaat al-Tawhid and Jihad (Monotheism and Jihad), the militant group led by Abu Musab al-Zarqawi in Iraq, threatened to behead him if Seoul did not cancel its plans by June 22 to send troops to Iraq.

South Koreans were horrified on June 20 when they saw a video broadcast of Kim pleading for his life in English.

The footage carried by the Arabic-language television network al-Jazeera had Kim crying in English, “Korean soldiers, please get out of here. I don’t want to die. I don’t want to die. I know that your life is important, but my life is important.”

The deadline passed and Kim’s beheaded body was found on the road between Baghdad and Fallujah.

But reports are now emerging that the South Korean was kidnapped three weeks before he was killed.

Media reports said that Kim was abducted on May 31, rather than June 15, and that South Korean diplomats were informed by an international news agency before militants issued their demands through al-Jazeera.

“At the center of the mess is the Ministry of Foreign Affairs and Trade as the agency primarily responsible for the safety of Korean citizens abroad,” said The Korea Herald daily in an editorial on Monday.

“Its credibility has been fatally damaged since two of its officials were belatedly found to have received telephone calls from the Associated Press asking if they knew whether any Korean man named Kim Sun-Il was missing in Iraq,” added the daily.

The Korean Herald said the two officials did not even report the inquiry to their superiors or make any effort to check the whereabouts of the person in question.

“This is a sheer lesson of how powerless and clumsy the South Korean government is [in coping with the hostage situation],” said Kim Ki-Shik from the NGO People’s Power 21.

“This makes us think hard about whether we can put lives of another 3,000 young people at risk just for the war that is false and causeless,” he told IPS.

This bungle has prompted South Korea’s lawmakers to agree to launch a one-month parliamentary investigation into the government’s failed attempt to rescue Kim.

The agreement was reached Sunday between the ruling Uri Party and the main opposition Grand National Party.

Uri’s deputy parliamentary leader Lee Jong Kul, told reporters, the inquiry by 20 opposition and ruling party lawmakers would begin on Wednesday.

The rival parties have also agreed to send a parliamentary team to Iraq to investigate South Korea’s embassy in the war- torn country.

Observers indicate South Korea has only nine government officials stationed at its embassy in Baghdad when it is trying to send 3,000 troops more this year.

President Roh Moo Hyun has also ordered South Korean auditors to launch an inspection of government agencies – including the Foreign Ministry, the Defense Ministry and the National Security Council.

South Korea agreed last year to a U.S. request to deploy troops in support of the United States-led coalition in Iraq, a decision ratified by parliament in February.

A poll of 1,100 South Korean adults by the MBC TV broadcaster on Sunday found that 56.5 percent of the respondents opposed the government’s plan for additional troop deployment to Iraq, while 40.7 percent did not.

Of those who opposed, 25.7 percent of them said they previously did not oppose the deployment but after Kim’s killing they changed their minds.

“Let’s pull together,” said Choi Min-Hoe of the Citizen’s Coalition for Democratic Media. “If we gather together two million or three million at the candlelight vigils, we will be able to stop the deployment,” the activist told IPS.