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Last Updated: Thursday, 30 August 2007, 12:17 GMT 13:17 UK
S Korea press wary of hostage deal
A South Korean hostage (R) is accompanied by an International Red Cross worker after her release by the Taleban
12 of the hostages were freed on Wednesday

The press in South Korea has mixed feelings about the freeing of 12 of the 20 Korean hostages in Afghanistan, with initial delight tempered by concern over the implications of the deal the government says it reached with Taleban.

South Korea's largest daily, the conservative Chosun Ilbo criticises the government for "openly meeting with a terrorist organization and negotiating with it".

Another leading paper, JoongAng Ilbo, believes Seoul has shown weakness in dealing with the hostage-takers.

"South Korea ended up being a country that disregards the norms which are universally in use in today's world, where the 'war against terrorism' is in full swing," the paper says.

Dong-A Ilbo agrees, and voices the concern that negotiating with the Taleban may have increased the chances of more South Koreans being abducted.

The United States' role in freeing hostages also comes under scrutiny, with JoongAng Ilbo saying Washington made a "great contribution by behind-the-scenes support".

The US, it adds, did enough to disprove the widespread belief among South Koreans that it is at least partly to blame for the kidnappings, while at the same time sticking to its principle of refusing to negotiate with "terrorists".

However, the centre-left paper Hankyoreh is harshly critical of the US, saying it should have played a more active role in freeing the hostages.

The daily also believes the authorities in Kabul and Washington share some of the blame for the killing of two of the hostages by the Taleban, and argues that the affair has shown that South Korea is too dependent on the US in its foreign policy.

The hostage-taking has also prompted a wider discussion about the wisdom of deploying South Korean troops in peacekeeping operations overseas.

JoongAng Ilbo argues such ventures are still justified as ways of enhancing South Korea's diplomatic status, and warns that any premature withdrawal from Afghanistan would erode the country's international influence.

However, Hankyoreh, sees "no reason" for South Korea to keep its troops either in Afghanistan or Iraq, adding that in fact there were "no grounds" for the deployments in the first place.

BBC Monitoring selects and translates news from radio, television, press, news agencies and the internet from 150 countries in more than 70 languages. It is based in Caversham, UK, and has several bureaux abroad.

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