Wednesday, August 29, 2007

Korea and the Taliban are friends(?)

Given the gravity of this situation, I know it's in poor taste to open on a comic note, but I find this weirdly relevant: over at the Metropolitician, Mike is hosting a YouTube vid of a preview for the new Harold and Kumar movie, cleverly titled "Harold and Kumar 2." The preview shows Harold (Korean) and Kumar (Indian) on a plane on their way to a weed-filled Amsterdam holiday when an old woman takes one look at Kumar and screams, "Terrorist!" Not long after, we see shots of Harold and Kumar in detention, with a smug federal agent purring, "North Korea and Al Qaeda workin' together... this is bigger than I thought!" I laughed my balls inside-out watching the first movie, so I have high hopes for the sequel.

But it's interesting to witness life mirroring art: Al Qaeda's most famous collaborators, the Taliban, appear to have reached a deal with North Korea's most famous collaborators, the current South Korean government, regarding the fate of the 19 remaining hostages. The hostages are to be released at some undefined point, according to the Chosun Ilbo. The Chosun goes on to talk about what's on everyone's mind:

However, there was speculation of other, under-the-table agreements. Asked about a prisoner swap the kidnappers had earlier demanded, the spokesman simply said, “In consideration of the Afghan government’s position, the Korean government proposed a feasible method to the Taliban and has been negotiating sincerely” with the Islamist group.

Other bloggers have already commented on what this might mean. For my part, I'll express relief that the hostages are supposed to come home, though I feel some trepidation about the fact that the particulars of the agreement apparently haven't been worked out yet.

I admit I'm morbidly curious as to what the South Korean reaction to the arrival of the hostages will be. My Korean coworkers have confirmed rumors that many Koreans probably will not receive these people warmly upon their return. One reason I heard was, "They've been wasting our tax money" by getting in trouble and forcing the Korean government to negotiate. I'm also curious as to whether Christian missionaries will continue to conduct covert mission work in Afghanistan. The current SK-Taliban deal includes an injunction against further Korean mission work there; all Koreans doing any mission-related work must leave the country by "late this month," which I take to mean "by the end of August." Will dedicated missionaries actually leave the country? Will all missionaries, even the ones in small, isolated villages, be aware that a departure order has been issued?

This isn't over.



Anonymous said...

From what I have heard, there is (and has been) a ban on traveling to Afghanistan. This isn't such a big deal for Koreans, since travel bans to most places in the world were the norm until not all that long ago. I'm guessing that this would mean the withdrawal of Korean missionaries currently in Afghanistan as well.

Apparently, phasing Korean troops out of Afghanistan was also part of the deal. But from what my wife says, the Korean government had already been planning on doing all of these things, so they didn't really "give up" anything in the negotiating process. I don't know if this is true or not--it might just be spin, but if it is true then there is a possibility that certain terms of the negotiation have been kept secret (a payoff?). But this is all hearsay and speculation.

Whatever the case, it makes me very uneasy how willing the Korean government was to negotiate with the Talibastards. Then again, I suppose I shouldn't really be surprised.

I doubt the hostages are going to be getting a warm welcome upon their return. I'm glad that they are coming home safely, but now that they are safe I think people are going to see the situation even more dispassionately--as a bunch of foolish people who caused their nation and government a lot of grief. It will be interesting to see if the Christian community welcomes them as heroes or simply expresses relief at them being home.

Anonymous said...

The Japanese were the same when there were some hostages in Iraq- the reaction was What were those idiots doing somewhere so dangerous anyway? Then again, they try to get the families of platform jump suicides to pay for the inconvenience caused too...

Having to work out the subtext of every government pronouncement seems to be yet another similarity between N and S Korea- and Japan, come to think of it...

Cappy said...

Just surfed in via Elisson's excellent blog. Man, this is da bomb!