Ransom Is Material Support for Terror

[Updated, edited, and bumped, 9/1]  

With friends like these ….

Thanks to the weakness of the South Korean government, it’s a great day to be a terrorist.  I second what other Korea bloggers are saying about the Taliban’s victory over South Korea.  The Nomad:   “[W]hen Canada criticises you for being soft on terrorism, you’re in big trouble.”  Andy Jackson quotes the Taliban thusly:

“We will do the same thing with the other allies in Afghanistan, because we found this way to be successful.  

So there you have it.  Roh is perfectly willing to get pay off terrorists and  yield to their demands,  no matter how many Afghans or American soldiers  are killed as a result.   In retrospect, we’d have been far better off had South Korea never sent its 210 non-combat troops to Afghanistan at all.  Instead of helping the effort, those troops’ negotiated withdrawal handed Taliban one of their greatest symbolic victories in a kind of warfare in which propaganda and symbolism are everything. 

Various news agenies are reporting that the South Korean government paid a ransom of either $2 million or $20 million. Taliban sources are claiming that it was the higher of those amounts.  Either sum is enough to build plenty of IED’s to kill American soldiers.  [Another update:  Seoul has finally gotten around to denying that it paid ransom — yeah, and Larry Craig’s still denying  a few things, too  —  while the Chosun Ilbo publishes a photograph of the Korean spy who probably negotiated it, and who posed arm-in-arm with the terrorists.]


We forget that the Taliban helped kill 3,000 Americans in our own country. If our government is serious about halting material support for terrorism, the Treasury Department will track down the South Korean and Saudi entities that funneled this money to the Taliban, invoke Executive Order 13,224, and freeze all of their assets colder than Hillary Clinton’s smile. Ideally, that will happen before the money paid by our “allies” is used by our enemies to kill our soldiers. Government entities, too? Yes, especially government entities.

Korean papers have been passing along similar rumors:

Observers have said that the possibility of a ransom deal was high, in the form of Seoul providing financial support to local tribes supporting the Taliban. [Joongang Ilbo]

I hope that the observers are wrong, or at least that South Korea’s bag-men will once again pay ransom to the wrong people.

There is also the symbolic victory of forcing South Korea out of the war, to the extent it was ever in.

Taliban negotiator Qari Mohammad Bashir said the two sides reached agreement when the Taliban withdrew its demand for the release of Taliban prisoners in exchange for Korean hostages while Korea promised to pull its troops out of Afghanistan by late this year and compel Korean missionaries leave the central Asian country by late this month, according to Pajhwok Afghan News. However, there was speculation of other, under-the-table agreements. [Chosun Ilbo]

Can there be much doubt that the agreement included yet another “huge ransom,” or that the man under the table, as usual, was South Korea’s anti-American President Roh Moo Hyun?

Tell me it isn’t so, then.

Inevitably, this will mean more problems for us in Afghanistan, and when that happens, the extra forces needed to deal with that should come straight out of U.S. Forces, Korea.  At the current rate, the USFK commander will soon be a first lieutenant  stationed in Okinawa.

An emotional reaction? To a degree, yes. But what harm would that really do to our national interests? South Korea is a rich country with twice the population and many times the economic power of North Korea. America helped transform South Korea from medieval agrarianism into a functioning democracy. Our decades of defense commitment and favorable trade helped make it one of the world’s economic and technological powers, one that is more than capable of self defense (meanwhile, North Korea has sunken beneath rural agrarianism). Yet our alliance with South Korea today is one of the world’s most lopsided in terms of the mutual flow of benefits. South Korea has been useless or worse as an ally against the terrorists,  extraordinarily unhelpful with North Korea, an irritant in our regional security framework (since Japan is a part of that), and a self-declared neutral in checking China’s regional ambitions.  South Korea is actually cutting its own military, leaving American taxpayers to take up the slack. There doesn’t seem to be much South Korean gratitude for this expensive commitment, either, judging by displays like these, or polls that consistently show South Korea to be one of the most anti-American countries in Asia.

Instead of advancing our interest in disarming Kim Jong Il, having troops in South Korea makes those troops hostages to Kim Jong Il’s guns. It prevents us from making a clean break from South Korea’s appeasement policy, or taking effective financial measures to disrupt the flow of South Korean money that keeps Kim Jong Il in power and allows him the choice of not disarming. Without U.S. ground forces in Korea, our options for dealing with North Korea widen, and South Korea knows that.

Aside from further alienating its American benefactor, South Korea will continue to pay a price in other ways, because terrorists never strike an  easy victim just once.  The leader of a self-described ally has probably just handed the Taliban a second heaping helping of material support, thus stamping “kidnap me” in fluorescent letters in  every Republic of Korea passport. Yes, these particular hostages’ choice of itinerary made them especially vulnerable, but next time, the Taliban will reach out further for new victores.

Finally, a reader takes note of the deafening silence of the “silent majority” of moderate Muslims that supposedly exists … somewhere. I can’t recall having heard a murmur from them during this entire episode. How about you?

More here, here, and here.


  1. “… stamping ‘kidnap me’ in fluorescent letters in every Republic of Korea passport.”

    Really? How many Italians have been kidnapped since their government did the same thing? How many Americans have been kidnapped by Iranians after their government dealt with the Iranians not only for the embassy hostages but those captured in Lebanon in the ’80s?


  2. I guess you never heard about this little incident from Iraq in 2004. Italy denied paying ransom in that case, officially, but then the head of their parliament’s foreign affairs committee said this:

    Gustavo Selva, the head of parliament’s Foreign Affairs Committee and a member of Berlusconi’s ruling coalition, fuelled the speculation by telling the French radio station RTL a ransom had been paid.

    “Officially it has been denied, but I think, finally, we paid,” he said. The reported amount of $US1 million was “probably correct,” he said.

    What do you bet that Taliban remembered, even if you forgot?

    And I need not explain to you that we’ve rewarded terrorism with all kinds of political concessions and capitulations — which I gather you favor if the “situational ethics” say so — and so we’re still the victims of it, too.


  3. The Nomad: ”[W]hen Canada criticises you for being soft on terrorism, you’re in big trouble.”

    As a Canadian I resemble that remark. But then we did vote out the Liberal party and we are staying in Afghanistan for the time being so some of us are trying.

    I generally like South Korea despite their wishy washy approach to the North but if they have money to pay ransoms maybe it is time for them to adopt the entire responsibility for the security of their northern border.

    And as a non-religious person I feel odd defending Christian missionaries trying to spread their religion (if that is actually what they were doing, I don’t know all the details for certain) but they were doing what they believed that their religion requires of them. If the Taliban can use this excuse then Christians can as well and it leads to fewer corpse when they do it. The fact that the government showed weakness to the Taliban is the choice of the government not the fault of the missionaries. Saying that their presence caused the “necessity” of a ransom absolves the Taliban from responsibility.


  4. I’m willing to bet the South Koreans covered their tracks very well with the ransom payment. I’m willing to bet that some chaebol has made some large donation to an Islamic charity in Saudi Arabia that will some how end up in the hands of the Taliban.


  5. بلاگری به نام “یک کره آزاد” می نویسگرفتن شهروندان کره کره جنوبی حاضر شده است مبلغ هنگفتی به طالبان برای آزادی شهرود احتمالا دولت وگان گرفته کره ای بپردازد. بلاگر می افزاید این شیوه عمل باعث شد که بسیاری در دنیا مایل به گروگان گرفتن شهروندان کره کره جنوبی حاضر شده است مبلغ هنگفتی به طالبان برای آزادی شهروندان به گرای شوند


  6. Hope one day people will learn to live together, and all terror groups like Taliban, who try to stop modern cultures grow, or PKK, Kurdish child killers, who try to divide, take over countries and name it Kurdistan will be history. Killing innocent civilians is a crime against humanity. We will never allow them succeed. God bless all innocents murdered in terror attacks.