S. Korean Hostages Welcomed, Scolded

Koreans held in Afghanistan return home to relieved relatives, angry critics.

Sept. 2, 2007 — -- Nineteen South Korean aid workers, held hostage by the Taliban for 42 days, returned home early Sunday morning to a mixture of sorrow, relief and anger.

The members of The Saemmul Church missionary group ignored their government's warning not to travel to Afghanistan. Two of the male hostages were killed and there were reports that some of the women had been raped.

While they were being held in Afghanistan, there was little open criticism of the missionaries, some of whom were killed. But now that they are safely home, even some family members were critical.

"I thought you would be killed," Cheon Kwang-sil, 77, told her granddaughter Lee Young-kyung, "I told you not to go there."

Young-kyung, 22, was the youngest hostage in the group.

Yoo Kyun-shik, 55, the oldest of the hostage group and unofficial spokesman at the airport, offered an explanation and apology.

"We went there to realize and share the love we have received, albeit in a small way, she said. "[Now we] resolve to live a life that meets public expectations, knowing that we escaped death."

He extended condolences to the families of two hostages who were killed, and whose families were present at the welcoming holding photos of their lost loved ones.

Critics say the episode may have damaged South Korea's standing in the world by forcing the government to negotiate directly with the Taliban, which violates international principles on dealing with terrorists.

Seoul denies paying a ransom for the hostages, but ABC News has learned the government paid the Taliban $950,000, or $50,000 per hostage.

The South Korean government does admit it agreed to pull out a small group of military engineers and medical workers and to end South Korean missionary work in Afghanistan in exchange for the hostages' release.

ABC News' Gretchen Peters in Pakistan and Hanna Siegel in New York contributed to this report.

Top Stories

Top Stories

Top Stories

Top Stories

ABC News Live

ABC News Live

24/7 coverage of breaking news and live events