South Korean captives hunger strike for change in Taliban prisons, 2007


In 2007, three South Korean hostages of the Taliban launched a 10-day long hunger strike. Their goal was to unite all 19 of the South Korean hostages in one designated place, as opposed to being detained in different locations. The Taliban, meanwhile, demanded that South Korean forces remove themselves from Afghanistan and also that the Afghani government release all Taliban prisoners.

On July 19, 2007, the Taliban took 23 South Korean Christian aid workers from the Sammeul Community Church hostage in Afghanistan. Members of the Taliban hijacked the aid workers’ bus on a road south of Kabul. They kept the hostages all together in a cellar. Later they moved the hostages to a farmhouse, and six days later, they separated the hostages into groups of 3 and 4 people. Overall, they moved the hostages 12 times, either via motorbike or on foot.

On July 25, 2007, the Taliban executed one of the hostages: South Korean pastor Bae Hyeong-gyu, the leader of the group. On July 30, after negotiations with the Korean and Afghani governments did not work, the Taliban killed another hostage named Shim Seong-min.

In mid-August, the Taliban actually released two female hostages, an action they called a “goodwill gesture”. But the hostages were not satisfied. On August 19, 2007, three of the hostages (one man and two women) began a hunger strike. Their goal was to force the Taliban to bring together all of the hostages into one group. At the time, they were separated into as many as 5 groups and kept in various locations in the Ghazni province in Central Afghanistan.

The Taliban never united the hostages but did in fact release them on August 29, 2007, after successful negotiations between the South Korean government and the Taliban. South Korea agreed to withdraw its troops from Afghanistan as well as agreeing to discontinue sending missionary trips to Afghanistan. With the end of the hostage crisis, the three hunger strikers ended their campaign. They were relatively unsuccessful in their campaign because they could not unite the hostages during the ten days they were under Taliban control (from the start of the hunger strike to the end of the hostage crisis).