Hyun Bin’s New Movie “The Point Men” Is Based On A Harrowing True Story

An abduction case that left the nation shaken.

Hyun Bin‘s latest movie, The Point Men, was released in South Korea on January 18, 2023. The action crime thriller tells the story of a South Korean diplomat and a National Intelligence Service (NIS) agent who risk their lives on foreign soil to save Korean hostages abducted in the Middle East. The plot is semi-fictional, inspired by the 2007 South Korean hostage crisis in Afghanistan.

The incident

On July 19, 2007, 23 South Korean missionaries were captured and held hostage by the Taliban while traveling through the Ghazni Province of Afghanistan. The group, comprising sixteen women and seven men, was on a mission sponsored by the Saemmul Presbyterian Church. They were traveling from Kandahar to Kabul when their bus driver allowed two local men to board. These two turned out to be members of the Taliban, who started shooting to stop the bus. After the group was abducted, they were moved through several locations in groups of three or four for the next month.

The missionaries before boarding the plane to Afghanistan | Wikipedia

Demands made

On July 20, the Taliban demanded that South Korea withdraw its armed forces from Afghanistan within 24 hours. Since South Korea was already scheduled to withdraw its troops from the country by the end of 2007, they made an additional demand that then-Afghan president Hamid Karzai release all Taliban inmates. But later, it was reduced to releasing 23 inmates in exchange for the hostages’ lives.

Before the negotiations could even start, they executed Bae Hyeong Gyu, a 42-year-old South Korean pastor of Saemmul Church. Five days later, they also shot a 29-year-old South Korean man, Shim Seong Min.

Shim Jin Pyo (second from left) mourned with relatives and friends at the coffin of his son Shim Sung Min at a hospital in Sungnam, South Korea.

The negotiation

The Taliban extended several deadlines for the release of the remaining hostages but then began threatening to kill them. On August 1, South Korean representatives in Washington DC met with Afghanistan Kidnap/Ransom experts from SCG International Risk. With their assistance, South Korea began negotiating with the Taliban to resolve the situation. It was clear that South Korea could not secure the release of the 23 inmates as demanded. So, the two parties started face-to-face negotiations on August 10, which led to the release of two female hostages, Kim Gyeong Ja and Kim Ji Na, on August 13. But on August 18, a Taliban representative said that the talks had failed and the fates of the hostages were uncertain.

Kim Gyeong Ja and Kim Ji Na released on August 13 | CNN

Release

Finally, on August 28, the release of the remaining 19 hostages was secured, with Indonesia’s participation as a neutral country. They were set free on August 29 and 30. After the release, a Taliban spokesperson told the media that the South Korean government had paid them $20 million USD as ransom to spare the lives of its citizens. South Korea responded to the claim by saying that they had made a promise to the Taliban that no statements regarding the ransom would be made from their side.

South Korean hostages released on August 29 | NBC

Response of the Korean public

On 21 July, South Korean president Roh Moo Hyun informed the public of the kidnappings through a nationally televised speech. Since then, there were multiple public gatherings held in the country to pray for the safety of the hostages. The Muslim community in South Korea also condemned the incident and stated that the actions of the Taliban go against the teachings of Islam. Still, multiple protests and demonstrations were held outside the Seoul Central Mosque.

A South Korean protester arguing with a Mosque security guard during a rally demanding the safe return of South Koreans kidnapped in Afghanistan in front of the Seoul Central Mosque on Aug. 3, 2007. | AP

Some criticized the missionaries as well, including the bishop of Taejon and chairman of Korea Caritas Lazarus, Yoo Heung Sik. They reprimanded the hostages for conducting Christian missionary service in Islamic Afghanistan despite the Ministry of Foreign Affairs and Trade’s repeated warnings that the Taliban plans to abduct South Koreans in order to free imprisoned militants.

Upon arriving home, the 19 hostages apologized for causing trouble to their countrymen and the government.

The hostages bowing to apologize in front of the media | AFP

We went to Afghanistan to practice sharing love…However, we were kidnapped accidentally, and caused the whole country to worry. We also apologize to the government.

—Yu Kyeong Sik, one of the 19 hostages

Source: Wikipedia