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A Korean trade official kidnapped by gunmen in Tripoli

Posted January. 21, 2014 05:58,   


Han Seok-woo, the head of the Libya unit of the Korea Trade-Investment Promotion Agency, has been kidnapped by unknown gunmen in the Libyan capital of Tripoli. It is the first time that a Korean is abducted in Libya.

The Ministry of Foreign Affairs said on Monday that four gunmen stopped the car Han was riding in as he was leaving his office at around 5:30 p.m. on Sunday (local time) and took him away to the west of Tripoli. Han’s office car and an Iraqi driver were left behind. A source at the Foreign Ministry said, “The gunmen abducted him without a word.” Immediately after the accident, the Iraqi driver reported this to the Korean Embassy in Libya.

No individual or group claims responsibility. Given Libya`s unstable situation, pro-Gaddafi rebels could be involved but radical Islamist groups such as Al Qaeda cannot be ruled out. It is reported that the kidnappers and the Korean Embassy are contacting indirectly via a third party.

The government is trying to develop a plan given the first kidnapping case since the Park Geun-hye administration inaugurated. The Foreign Ministry reported this case to President Park who is making a state visit to Switzerland. Foreign Minister Yoon Byung-se accompanying the president on the visit, is commanding the ministry in Seoul over the phone.

The Korean government is contacting Libya’s foreign, defense, and intelligence ministries and local militias, requesting them to locate Han’s whereabouts and asking for cooperation in helping him be released safely. A task force has been formed with members from related ministries. KOTRA will send Han Sun-hee, the head of the Middle East Region who also in charge of KOTRA`s Dubai unit, to Tripoli on Monday and he will discuss how to rescue him with the Korean Embassy in Libya.

On Monday, the Korean government issued a special travel warning for Libya, banning South Koreans from traveling to the country. The Foreign Ministry advised South Koreans not to visit Libya and local residents to move to a safe country immediately. As of Saturday, 551 South Koreans live in Libya.