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He Screamed, “I Want to Live,” But It Was All in Vain

Posted June. 23, 2004 21:14,   


Mr. Kim Sun-il, 34, was searching for the cheapest air ticket back to Korea via a stop in London, England. He started his life in Iraq on June 15 last year as an Arabic translator at Gana General Trading Co. which supplied food products to the American army stationed in Iraq.

Kim phoned his family on April 30 and said, “I will return when the contract is over, around late June or early July.” That was his last phone call. On May 20, he emailed his friend in London and said that he plans to “go back to Korea after stopping in Jordan and then London in late June.”

Where Has He Been for About 20 Days? –

Kim’s whereabouts have been unknown since May 31. Gana Trading coworkers saw him before that day. Therefore, the earliest date that he may have been kidnapped by the Iraqi militant group “Al-Tawhid and Jihad (Monotheism and Jihad)” is May 31.

It was confusing to figure out the kidnapping date because Gana Trading CEO Kim Chun-ho kept saying different things about it. He previously said that “Sun-il was kidnapped on his way back to Baghdad coming back from his business trip to Camp Ribgee, 200 km west from Baghdad, with employees from Kellogg Brown & Route (KBR), a daughter company of an American munitions company, Halliburton on June 17,” but later restated it on June 23, saying, “I knew of his abduction on June 10.”

He attempted a closed negotiation for the release of Kim Sun-il with the militant group, including going to Mosul and other places himself while not notifying the Korean embassy in Iraq of the incident. The abduction of Kim Sun-il was known to the public when Al-Jazeera TV broadcast the videotape in which the militant group threatened to kill him in the morning of June 21. All the way, Kim Sun-il was heart-burnt from the fear of not knowing when death might hit him.

“I Want to Live” –

Kim screamed, “I don’t want to die. My life is important” in the videotape broadcast on Al-Jazeera at 4 a.m. on June 21. He was frightened of not knowing when he might die. The kidnappers demanded the withdrawal of the Korean forces and for Korea to back down on the plan to send additional troops. They offered 24 hours of negotiation until sunset in Iraq (4 a.m. on June 22).

The government held a National Security Council (NSC) meeting at 10 a.m. June 21 and said that they “are not changing in the principle of sending the troops” after it received the news of the abduction and the conditions of his release. Then the shadow of death started to draw on Kim. It seems that the militant group had the “execution” of Kim in mind, demanding the impossible as the conditions of release.

Despair after Hope –

There was a thread of hope despite all of this. The government and the private parties tried every channel to seek the release of Kim until the deadline of 4 a.m. on June 22, and Al-Arabiya TV broadcasted on 6 p.m. of June 22 that “the militant group has decided to extend the deadline.”

It was also with civilian efforts such as that of NKTS, a Korean security company that has ties with Iraqi political circles.

Nevertheless, it seems that the militant group had killed Kim right after identifying that the Korean government wouldn’t change its plan of sending troops in the morning of June 22. Kim was last seen in another videotape at 1:40 a.m. on June 23 broadcast on Al-Jazeera TV. Kim’s body, decapitated, was found about 10:20 p.m. of June 22 by the American army. The militant group did not stop the act of brutality until the last moment, setting a booby trap that is triggered when touching the body.

Ho-Gab Lee gdt@donga.com