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Ex-hostages arrive in South Korea

  • Story Highlights
  • Two women released by Taliban arrive in South Korea
  • Church volunteers were kidnapped in Afghanistan in mid-July
  • Two male hostages have been killed by the Taliban
  • Talks resume over remaining 19 South Korean hostages
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SEOUL, South Korea (CNN) -- A pair of South Koreans, held hostage for nearly a month by the Taliban in Afghanistan, returned home Friday, arriving in Seoul in the early afternoon.

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Released South Korean hostages Kim Kyung-ja, left, and Kim Ji-na arrive at Incheon International Airport Friday.

The two women -- Kim Kyung-ja and Kim Ji-na -- appeared briefly before reporters, looking subdued and tentative.

"I am sorry for causing such concern and I am thankful for being released," Kim Kyung-ja said.

"My greatest concern is for the safe release of our remaining group," said Kim Ji-na.

The women were then taken by ambulance to a military hospital in the outskirts of Seoul for a medical examination and psychiatric counseling.

The South Korean Foreign Ministry said the women would remain under government care so as not to adversely affect the ongoing talks for the release of the remaining hostages.

They were released from Taliban custody on Monday and left the country Thursday, according to the South Korean Foreign Minister's office.

Twenty-three Koreans -- church volunteers -- were kidnapped on July 19 when they were traveling on a bus from Kabul to Kandahar.

The Taliban killed two male hostages and have long said they would kill others unless their demands were met. But the two women, said to be ill, were released in a "gesture of goodwill."

Nineteen other hostages -- 14 women and five men -- are still being held. Taliban and South Korean officials held talks on Thursday over their fate, a Red Cross official told CNN.

Carla Haddad, a media-relations officer for the International Committee of the Red Cross, confirmed to CNN that the talks took place in the office of the Afghan Red Crescent Society in Ghazni province.

Last week, negotiators touched on demands for prisoner swaps. Another demand is the pullout of Korean troops from Afghanistan.

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Yonhap News Agency in South Korea quoted a tribal elder as saying the Taliban and the South Koreans have been in contact by telephone in the last five days.

NATO troops, U.S.-led coalition forces, and Afghan security forces have been battling Taliban militants in Afghanistan, particularly in the east and the south of the country. The group, which harbored the al Qaeda terror network when it ran the country's government before the U.S. invasion in 2001, has been making a comeback. E-mail to a friend E-mail to a friend

CNN's Joe Sterling and Sohn Jie-ae in Seoul contributed to this report.

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