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Negotiations for Release of Kidnapped Daewoo Workers Underway

Negotiations for Release of Kidnapped Daewoo Workers Underway

Posted May. 05, 2007 03:02,   


The negotiations to release employees of Daewoo Engineering and Construction abducted by an armed group in Nigeria are reportedly proceeding smoothly.

The first round of negotiations was held from noon (local time) to 9:00 p.m. on May 3, 10 hours after the Korean workers were abducted. The second round began yesterday morning.

Therefore, there is cautious optimism about a possible early release of the abductees.

Negotiations Resume-

The first round of negotiations was held after the armed group contacted the Rivers State government. Afam, where the workers were kidnapped, is located in the Rivers State.

The negotiations began in earnest after one of the abductees, General Manager Ha Ik-hwan, called Daewoo, saying, “We are safe,” via cell phone at 11:00 a.m. on May 3.

Feeling that the militant group was ready to come to the negotiating table, the company informed the state government of the kidnapping. Tracking down the whereabouts of the armed group, the government proposed negotiations. The company has not been directly involved in the negotiations, but has been informed of the safety of the abductees and the progress of the negotiations.

The company said, “The state government delegation and the militant group had a nine-hour-long negotiation, yet failed to reach an agreement. So, they resumed the negotiations yesterday morning, local time,” adding, “All abductees are confirmed to be safe and the atmosphere of the negotiations is fine.”

Because of the nature of hostage negotiations, the nature of the armed group and their demands are not being publicized.

But the abductors are assumed to be an organization associated with an influential local politician, as they are reportedly making political demands, rather than ransom demands, and the MEND, Nigeria’s largest military clique, claims that they are not responsible for the incident.

Residents of southern Nigeria, where the Daewoo’s construction site is located, are opposing the central government’s plan to develop natural resources there, demanding independence for the region.

Chances of Early Release-

Daewoo expects the abductees to be released early since the workers kidnapped last June and this January were released after two and three days, respectively.

In particular, the company believes that an early release is highly likely because this incident has a lot in common with the previous two, and because negotiations are going smoothly.

Indeed, there are considerable commonalities between the January kidnapping and the recent incident.

In January also, the negotiations began after one of the kidnap victims called the company, saying, “All the Korean abductees are safe.” Other common features are that the company found out the whereabouts of the kidnappers through a local private network that the company built on the day that the incident took place, and that the state government is actively involved in negotiations.

However, there are concerns that the negotiations could be prolonged because the armed group is making political demands rather than demanding ransom. But the company says, “So far, the situation is optimistic, and we’re doing our utmost for an early release of the workers.”

Meanwhile, the Ministry of Construction and Transportation plans to dispatch officials who will directly handle the safety of Korean workers there. The first dispatched official will be Lee Seong-hae, a team leader of Headquarters of Construction Affairs at the Construction Ministry.