SKorea seeks to curb missionary travel to Mideast

| August 27, 2009

SEOUL, South Korea — South Korea is considering restricting Christian missionaries' travel to the Middle East, where their evangelical work makes them vulnerable to terrorist attack.

Foreign Ministry officials said Thursday that the government may impose restrictions because missionary work in some Middle Eastern nations threatens the safety of not only the missionaries themselves but other South Koreans as well.

"Their work goes against local sentiment and makes them targets of al-Qaida or the Taliban," a ministry official said on customary condition of anonymity, citing office policy. "There are also strong possibilities that the safety of ordinary citizens could be threatened."

South Korea has one of the largest populations of missionaries abroad. The Korea World Missions Association said about 19,000 Koreans are doing missionary work around the world.

The Foreign Ministry said dozens of missionaries have been expelled from nations like Iran, Jordan and Yemen in recent weeks for engaging in Christian missionary work banned there. Those countries have laws banning Christian proselytizing activities, the ministry official said.

Measures under consideration include banning those who have a record of deportation for evangelical work in Middle Eastern nations from entering those countries again, the official said.

The Korea World Missions Association refused to comment Thursday, citing the lack of any official decision. Still, the association said it will hold a meeting of some 140 member organizations later this week to discuss a response.

In 2007, 23 religious workers from a South Korean church were kidnapped in Afghanistan. The Taliban killed two of them and released the others after South Korea's government pledged to withdraw its troops from Afghanistan.

In June, a South Korean woman with an international medical aid agency was kidnapped and killed in Yemen along with other foreigners. Al-Qaida was blamed for the attack.

Four South Korean tourists were also killed in Yemen in March in a bombing also blamed on al-Qaida.

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Category: Mission Trip/Missionary Security

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