South Korea says two hostages freed by Taleban insurgents in Afghanistan are now under South Korean protection. VOA's Kurt Achin reports from Seoul, where authorities still face the problem of getting 19 other captives out of danger.

An Afghan nightmare is over for 37-year-old Kim Kyung-ja and 32-year-old Kim Ji-na.

The two were released by Taleban insurgents who kidnapped them nearly a month ago in Afghanistan. They had been reported to be ill.

South Korean Foreign Ministry Spokesman Cho Hee-yong says they are now in South Korean protection, after being transported to a safe area by members of the International Committee of the Red Cross.

He says South Korea is relieved the two women are safe. He calls for Taleban militants to free the rest of the hostages immediately.

Family members of the two freed hostages expressed a sigh of relief.

The brother of Kim Ji-na told reporters he is glad to hear that his sister will come back to Korea, but he says the families as a group are depressed in spirit. He calls for the government's support to get others returned to their families.

Taleban insurgents seized a total of 23 South Korean hostages last month as they traveled in Afghanistan for Christian volunteer work. They executed two of the male hostages and 19 remain in captivity, most of them female.

The group went to Afghanistan in defiance of a South Korean government ban on travel there. Several hundred South Korean military and civilian personnel provide non-combat support to U.S.-led international stabilization efforts, following the ouster of the Taleban regime.

The kidnappers have warned they will kill more hostages if Taleban comrades are not released from Afghan prisons.