SEOUL, South Korea – Two South Korean ex-hostages begged for the release of 19 of their fellow church volunteers still held captive in Afghanistan, saying in an interview broadcast Thursday that their anguish for the others overshadowed the relief of being freed.Kim Kyung-ja, 37, and Kim Jee-na, 32, were among 23 South Koreans seized in southern Afghanistan last month by Taliban fighters who demanded the withdrawal of South Korean troops from the country and the release of prisoners in exchange for freeing the hostages.
In their first one-on-one interview since returning home, the women told the pan-Arab satellite channel Al-Jazeera that the relief and joy they felt upon their release was overshadowed by their concern for the others.
“When we were released, rather than being happy, my heart was breaking as I thought about the 19 others,” said Kim Kyung-ja, fighting back tears. She pleaded for their quick release.
Kim Jee-na, seated on a hospital bed next to Kim Kyung-ja, said she hadn’t yet had a good night’s sleep.
“Since returning home, it’s been impossible for me to sleep even one night peacefully,” she told Al-Jazeera.
Two hostages from the group, both men, have been killed by their captors, and 19 others â€” 14 women and five men â€” remain captive.
Last Monday, the Taliban released the two South Korean women in what it called a “goodwill gesture” â€” but talks between the Taliban and Afghan negotiators broke down several days later.
After undergoing medical care in Afghanistan, the two women returned to South Korea last Friday and were being treated at a military hospital.
The two women were part of a South Korean church group that Kim Gina said was providing aid to Afghan patients and children.
Recounting their time in captivity, Kim Kyung-ja said the hostages were not mistreated. “They provided us with basic necessities: food, medicine, water, bedding; they didn’t mistreat us.”
Kim Jee-na appealed for the release of the others and begged that they be allowed to return to their families, saying: “From what I’ve heard, Islam teaches respect for life and for family.”