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Seoul Refuses to be Intimidated by Kidnapping of Korean in Iraq - 2004-06-21

South Korea is dispatching a six-member delegation to the Middle East in an attempt to gain the release of one its nationals kidnapped in Iraq. But the South Korean government says the kidnapping will not deter it from its plan to send additional troops to Iraq.

South Korea's Foreign Ministry says a government delegation is en route to Jordan to try to gain the release of 33-year-old Kim Sun-il, an interpreter for South Korea's Gana Trading Company.

Insurgents holding Mr. Kim say he will be killed if Seoul does not agree to halt its planned dispatch of 3,000 troops to Iraq this summer to join the 670 already there.

In videotape from the Middle Eastern satellite network Al-Jazeera, being broadcast repeatedly on South Korean television, Mr. Kim is heard pleading for his life to be spared.

"Korean soldiers, please, please get out of here?I don't want to die," he says.

South Korean President Roh Moo-hyun on Monday said his government will not be intimidated by the kidnapping, and vowed to send the additional troops as scheduled.

South Korea's Vice Foreign Minister Choi Young-jin also said the dispatch will go ahead, and said Seoul is seeking the help of Iraq's Arab neighbors to save Mr. Kim. "Our government is asking your cooperation to help us in securing the safe release of Kim Sun-il."

But Kim Jong-kyu, the kidnapped man's father, told South Korean television that his son's safety should be the government's first priority. Mr. Kim says the government should arrange his son's release quickly in order to save his life.

Several Japanese civilians kidnapped in Iraq in April were also threatened with death, but were eventually released unharmed.

If South Korea's troop dispatch does go ahead, South Korea will be the third largest contributor to the U.S.-led coalition in Iraq, after the United States itself and Britain.

Yonhap News Service in South Korea has quoted the president of the hostage's company as saying some ten other foreigners are being held by the same kidnappers, including a European journalist and employees of a construction subsidiary of the U.S. firm Halliburton.