Korean Hostage Spent 4 Months Traveling Africa

  • By Shon Jin-seok, Ahn Jun-yong

    May 14, 2019 12:05

    A Korean woman who was rescued from Islamists by French special forces in the West African nation of Burkina Faso had spent four months in dangerous parts of Africa before she was abducted.

    According to the Korean Embassy in Paris on Monday, the woman identified by her surname Chang, who is in her 40s, started traveling the world about a year and a half ago. She started her tour of Africa in Morocco in January.

    She then moved on to more dangerous turf, visiting Western Sahara, Mauritania, Senegal, Mali, and Burkina Faso. She was captured by armed insurgents on her way to Benin on April 12.

    Korea has four levels of travel advisories -- exercise normal precautions (level 1), exercise increased precautions (level2), reconsider travel (level 3) and do not travel (level 4).

    Level 1 is issued for Morocco and Senegal and level 3 for Mali and four northern provinces of Burkina Faso, while eastern Burkina Faso, where Chang was kidnapped, is rated level 2.

    A Korean (left) and an American (center) kidnapped and rescued in Burkina Faso pose at a restaurant in Senegal in this photo posted by the American on her Facebook account in March.

    An American who was kidnapped alongside Chang after traveling with her for about three months uploaded photos and videos of them together on social media until right before they were kidnapped. Chang had exchanged text messages with her sister until late March.

    The abductors, a radical Muslim terror group called Katiba Macina, raided a bus with 10 passengers aboard near the Burkina Faso-Benin border on April 12. They took only Chang and the American.

    Chang says she was not beaten or harassed while in captivity for about 28 days. She was given light meals, but refused them for the first two weeks due to stress, according to the embassy.

    A medical checkup last Saturday in a French military hospital, where the rescued hostages were flown, found no health problems, and she is expected to return home on Tuesday afternoon.

    "The government normally gives financial help from an emergency relief fund for those who have encountered mishaps or disaster overseas if they are in financial difficulty, but Chang doesn't seem to fall in this category," a Foreign Ministry official said.

    The ministry has now upgraded the advisory level for eastern Burkina Faso from 2 to 3 and added the northern part of Benin near the Burkina Faso-Benin border.

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