Last updated: 12 February, 2012

South Koreans released in Egypt to continue pilgrimage

Three South Koreans released by armed Bedouin in Egypt’s Sinai Peninsula after a day-long seizure said they were unharmed and would continue a religious trip, according to a report.

The three South Koreans, two men and a female tour guide, were kidnapped on Friday along with an Egyptian guide while returning from the historic monastery of St. Catherine.

Earlier reports had said the tourists were all women.

They were part of a group of 31 tourists visiting Christian pilgrimage sites, Seoul’s foreign ministry said.

The four were pulled out of a bus during a rest stop and held captive at an unidentified location by the Bedouin, who demanded the release of a fellow tribesman held by the authorities.

“The captives were released at around 8:35 pm (Saturday) and safely arrived at the Catherine Plaza Hotel where fellow travellers were waiting,” an official from Seoul’s foreign ministry official told AFP on condition of anonymity.

It was not immediately clear whether the Bedouin’s demand was met.

Lee Min-Sung, a Seoul church pastor and one of the freed South Koreans, told Yonhap news agency that they were “well treated” by the kidnappers who offered ample food and blankets during the 29-hour captivity.

“We were not assaulted. They treated us nicely,” the 53-year-old was quoted as saying, adding that all the captives were in good health.

The four would continue the 10-day trip to visit other sites in Israel and Jordan before returning to Seoul on Friday, Yonhap said.

The kidnapping came after the brief abduction of two American women and their Egyptian guide by armed Bedouin, and a separate seizure of 19 Egyptian policemen following a shoot-out with police earlier this month.

The sparsely populated Sinai has some of Egypt’s most lucrative tourist spots, as well as being home to a mostly poor and disaffected Bedouin population.