The kidnap of 23 South Korean missionaries in Afghanistan is a tragedy, but the events can only be understood in the context of the deployment of South Korean troops to aid the US/Nato occupation.
Taliban forces kidnapped the missionaries on 19 July. Two of the hostages have subsequently been killed.
From an Afghan viewpoint, South Korea is one of the occupation forces and a belligerent country. In December 2001, the then president Kim Dae-jung’s government deployed troops to Afghanistan. More than 200 South Korean troops are currently stationed in Bagram air base with the US military.
For this reason, South Korean missionary activity in Afghanistan is dangerous enough to be dubbed reckless.
South Korea’s Roh Moo-hyun government and the mainstream media have focused on this fact to divert attention from the real issue – the deployment of the troops to support the occupation.
We keep hearing that the real problem is the way the missionaries ignored government warnings or their aggressive attempts to gain converts. We are also reminded that the Taliban is only demanding the release of some Taliban prisoners, not the withdrawal of South Korean troops.
And the South Korean government has effectively refused to accept the Taliban’s demands in accordance with the principles of George Bush and his allies in the “war on terror”.
Meanwhile Bush has declared that the US would crush the Taliban, and it has indeed embarked on military operations near the area where the kidnappers are hiding.
These operations have killed many Afghan civilians, and endangered the lives of the kidnapped.
Of course, kidnapping or the killing innocent civilians is not the right way to resist. South Korea’s anti-war movement doesn’t agree with this method.
There is, however, a problem in the South Korean anti-war movement. The demands that the Taliban release the kidnapped Koreans and that the South Korean government withdraw its troops are given equal weight.
This blurs the movement’s real target and makes its supporters vulnerable to government and media lies.
The campaign to bring the troops back is small compared to the importance of the issue. Most of the campaigners are socialists, who already clearly see the nature of the issues.
However, this incident will make the question of troop deployment to Iraq, Afghanistan and Lebanon one of the key issues in the lead up to the presidential election in mid-December.
If the movement succeeds in pulling out the troops in Afghanistan, it will be a political setback for the US, because it means the US losing one of its most important allies from the Far East. The South Korean presence has contributed to Bush's ability to give an impression that the coalition forces have broad international support.