AFGHANISTAN DEPORTS CHRISTIAN KOREANS
By CHRIS HAWKE, Associated Press Writer Thu Aug 3, 4:31 PM ET
ordered hundreds of South Korean Christians to leave the country, accusing them Thursday of seeking to undermine its Islamic
The group's leader, Choi
Han-woo, denied the 1,200 South Koreans, who had gathered in Afghanistan
for relief work and a cultural festival, took part in any religious activities.
Interior Ministry spokesman
Yousef Stanezai said the Koreans entered the country with tourist visas, but their activities showed they had a different
"The program was against
the Islamic culture and customs of Afghans," he said, adding that the South Koreans had been told to leave the country as
soon as possible.
The accusations come amid
increasing intolerance and violence against foreign troops in Afghanistan, a crackdown in the capital on drinking and prostitution
linked to foreign influences, and the recent announcement of a plan to reinstate the Vice and Virtues Ministry, which enforced
its harsh version of Islamic morality under the ousted Taliban government.
Representatives of the group
and the ministry were negotiating Thursday over the schedule for their deportation, said a spokesman for the group, Sung Han
Kang said the group, a non-governmental
organization called the Institute of Asian
Culture & Development, had a Christian background but was not trying to win converts.
Rather, its members began
entering the country a month ago to provide computer and business training, medical and dental care and arrange sports activities
in five cities, he said.
A now-canceled Peace Festival
at the main stadium in Kabul, intended to mark the group's fifth year of volunteer work in Afghanistan, was to culminate the
visit on Aug. 5-7, he said.
In western Herat
province, authorities put about 200 Koreans on a bus and deported them to Uzbekistan
on Wednesday, a top provincial official said.
The Koreans had gone from
house to house in groups of two or three, and "it was rumored among the people they have plans to convert the people to Christianity,"
said Faiaz Mhrain, the governor's chief of staff.
Kang confirmed the Koreans
were deported from Herat but said they were sent to Iran.
A Herat police official said he escorted the Koreans to historic sites under tight security
and they performed a religious ceremony. "One did a religious reading while another played music," said Maser Ahmad Paykar.
When asked how he knew the
ceremony was religious, he said, "I don't know. It was in Korean. It was kind of religious."
In the country's north,
a member of the cleric council in the city of Mazar-i-Sharif,
Adbul Hadey, said 3,000 people gathered in the city's main mosque to demand the South Koreans be thrown out of the province.
Kang dismissed all the accusations
as false rumors, but conceded his group may have sung songs among themselves in their own language.
He also said Interior Ministry
officials told him the group was being deported for their own protection and not due to security fears.