Thu, Jul 01, 2004 - Page 5 News List

Slain Iraq missionary is mourned in South Korea

REUTERS , PUSAN, SOUTH KOREA

Police honor guards carry a portrait of South Korean Kim Sun-il, who was killed by militants in Iraq, during a funeral ceremony in Pusan yesterday.

PHOTO: AFP

Thousands of South Koreans turned out yesterday for the emotional funeral of Kim Sun-il, a young interpreter who was beheaded by Islamic militants in Iraq last week.

A 33-year-old Arabic interpreter and devout Christian who dreamed of missionary work in the Arab world, Kim was killed after Seoul rejected demands to pull 670 military medics and engineers out of Iraq and drop plans to send 3,000 troops there.

Kim's coffin was carried in a funeral van covered with white flowers and a red cross, led by a black van with his portrait and flanked by sobbing friends and relatives. Kim was the seventh of eight children.

To accommodate a crowd of some 3,000 people, the funeral was held at a gymnasium in Pusan, Kim's home town and the country's second-largest city.

At the center of the gymnasium, flowers surrounded a huge picture of Kim with a banner that read: "I love Iraq."

Kim's family released through local media a conciliatory message to Iraqis, which concluded by saying: "We embrace the nation of Iraq. We love the people of Iraq."

Thousands more people were expected to join rallies in Pusan and Seoul later yesterday by activist groups who are trying to use Kim's death to press the government halt the troop deployment, scheduled for next month.

Many are also waiting for the return from Iraq later in the day of Kim Chun-ho, the president of Cana General Trading, which employed Kim in Iraq. The company supplied goods and services to the US army in Iraq.

Kim Chun-ho is expected to clarify various conflicting and confusing statements he made to South Korean media about dates and details of his employee's abduction.

President Roh Moo-hyun ordered a full investigation last week into the kidnapping and beheading of Kim Sun-il after it emerged he was abducted three weeks before Seoul said it found out.

South Korea's foreign ministry came under fire last week after US television company APTN said it had received a videotape of Kim in Baghdad and had notified the ministry in Seoul on June 3.

The country's parliament is also preparing to conduct a separate probe into how the case was handled by the foreign ministry and intelligence agencies.

Local media have condemned the government for failing to save Kim Sun-il.

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