South Korean newspapers have expressed outrage at the Taleban's killing of a Korean hostage in Afghanistan.
South Koreans protest against the hostage taking in Afghanistan
They have called it an "atrocious inhumane act" that cannot be justified. But some also noted the lack of sympathy for the hostages from some Koreans.
The country's biggest-selling daily, Choson Ilbo, says the killing of Protestant pastor Bae Hyung-kyu is a "devastating" development.
"The tragedy dashes the hopes for the safe return of all Korean hostages. Our thoughts are with the families of the victim who was killed during volunteer work in a foreign land," the paper says.
According to Choson Ilbo, officials "are confounded by misinformation tactics and media spin by the kidnappers, which have led the Korean government to believe that the Taleban is engaged in psychological warfare to gain maximum leverage and ransom."
It adds that the lives of the remaining 22 hostages "hang in the balance" and urges against "hasty" military operations to rescue them.
Dong-A Ilbo says Seoul is "at a loss" over what to do about the hostages.
"The Afghan government is adamantly refusing the Taleban's demand to exchange Taleban inmates for the South Korean hostages. It does not want to make the same decision as in March when it freed Taleban prisoners in return for releasing an Italian reporter," the paper says.
The kidnapping of the 23 Christian charity workers has sparked a debate in South Korea over work conducted by Protestant churches abroad.
One commentator says there has been a notable lack of sympathy from some quarters towards the hostages, in sharp contrast with the outpouring of national concern and grief over a South Korean who was kidnapped and killed in Iraq in 2004.
"The reaction of the Korean society is not the same as it was three years ago. This time, it is ice-cold," writes Lee Hoon-beom in Chungang Ilbo.
"The harsh words, 'Why should the government use taxpayers' money to bring back people who ignored their warning?' keep getting repeated across Korea," he says.
But the writer takes issue with those who have expressed antipathy towards what they see as the work of "overzealous Christians" working abroad.
"Although they [the church group] made bad decisions, it is not right to condemn people who have a youthful passion to help their neighbours in pain. The Taleban are the fanatics. They don't hesitate to kidnap and kill innocent civilians," Lee says.
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