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Rescue the kidnapped Korean trade official in Libya

Posted January. 21, 2014 05:23,   


Han Seok-woo, the head of the Libya unit of the Korea Trade-Investment Promotion Agency (KOTRA), was kidnapped by four gunmen on Sunday. They stopped the car in which Han was in as he was leaving his office and took him away leaving his Iraqi driver and the car behind. Kidnapping a foreign civilian is an anti-human crime by itself. The kidnappers did not identify themselves and the purpose of the kidnapping yet, but what is important here is Han’s safety. Seoul should contact the kidnappers immediately to secure his safety.

Libya seemed to relish the “Arab Spring” for a while after Muammar Gaddafi was killed by rebels in 2011. The country is in extreme instability after the military overthrew the Islamic government elected by Libyans. The interim government declared an emergency in the Libyan capital, Tripoli, for two days in November last year due to the bloody clashes by armed groups. Korea can increase its global presence thanks to government officials who did not leave the country in spite of the instability, such as Han.

Korea has had 13 kidnapping cases outside the country since 2004. Hostages were released safely in most cases, but there were some tragic situations. Koreans across the world can perform their duty in the belief that their home country will take care of them in emergencies. The government should do its best to deal with the abduction case to which all Koreans at home and abroad are paying attention.

Libyans have a positive image of Korea as Korean companies have been involved in many infrastructure projects in their country including a grand waterway. The Korean government needs to ask the Libyan government, factions, and Libyans for help. The Korean government has been neutral to the pro-Gaddafi groups and the incumbent government without any involvement in Libyan civil war. The abduction case could be related to religion given that Libya is an Islamic country. Though Quran says, “No one can harm others,” we cannot simply rely on this because it has many militant factions and groups. Asking for help to Libyan religious groups can be helpful for Han`s release.

Libya has 551 Korean nationals now. The Korean government should also take an action to protect its people to prevent another accident. Koreans also should refrain from visiting Libya for some time and cooperate with the government’s special travel warning alert to Libya.