South Koreans who returned from six weeks of captivity in Afghanistan took their first steps towards recovery by entering a hospital for a health recovery programme today.
Taliban insurgents seized 23 members of a Christian church group at gunpoint on July 19 as they travelled by bus to carry out volunteer aid work for two weeks.
The militants killed two men in the group but later freed two women after South Korea agreed to direct negotiations. The remaining members of the group left Afghanistan on Friday.
Initial check-ups showed the 19 former hostages who arrived back in South Korea yesterday are in overall good condition, though exhausted due to their long-term captivity, said Cha Seung-gyun, the head of the Seoul hospital where they were admitted.
Cha said it takes up to five months for people kidnapped for about 15 days to resume their daily lives, adding that they will undergo intensive psychiatric treatment for the next two weeks.
Some of the hostages have spoken broadly of their captivity since being released, including how they were kept apart, regularly moved around to different locations and the general conditions in which they were held.
They also came under pressure to renounce their faith and convert to Islam, a pastor at the ex-hostages’ church was quoted by Yonhap news agency as saying today.
“Some of the hostages were badly beaten by refusing the Taliban’s demand to convert,” Park Eun-jo, a pastor at the Presbyterian Saemmul Community Church, told Yonhap, citing the hostages’ own stories.
Park also told Yonhap that the Taliban tried to sexually assault some of the women, but that two of the male hostages fought them off.