Skip to main content

South Korean trade official abducted in Libya is free

By Jethro Mullen and Soo Bin Park, CNN
January 23, 2014 -- Updated 0503 GMT (1303 HKT)
[File photo] Libyan gunmen roam along Zawiyah Street in the Libyan capital Tripoli on January 3, 2012.
[File photo] Libyan gunmen roam along Zawiyah Street in the Libyan capital Tripoli on January 3, 2012.
STORY HIGHLIGHTS
  • Armed men kidnapped Han Seok-woo in Tripoli earlier this week
  • He has now been rescued and handed over to embassy officials, South Korea says
  • After his abduction, Seoul told South Koreans in Libya to leave the North African country
  • The Libyan government is struggling to impose law and order

Seoul, South Korea (CNN) -- A South Korean trade official abducted this week in the Libyan capital, Tripoli, has been rescued and his kidnappers detained, authorities said Thursday.

The incident has underscored the instability plaguing the oil-rich North African country.

Han Seok-woo, the head of the Libya unit of the Korea Trade-Investment Promotion Agency, was handed over to the South Korean Embassy in Tripoli on Wednesday evening and is in good health, the South Korean foreign ministry said.

Libyan security forces have arrested the four men who abducted Han, 39, and determined that they were members of "an armed group," the ministry said without providing further details on their identity or the reason for the kidnapping.

It expressed its gratitude to the Libyan government for its "close cooperation" in rescuing Han.

After Han's kidnapping Sunday, the South Korean foreign ministry set up an emergency task force to deal with the abduction and dispatched a special envoy to Libya.

It also issued a warning against traveling to Libya and asked the 551 South Korean nationals living in the North African country to leave.

Libya's government and fragile state security forces are struggling to impose law and order in a country awash with weapons left over from the 2011 war that ousted dictator Moammar Gadhafi.

Militias, former rebel fighters and militants have refused to lay down their arms and often resort to force to impose their demands on the weak central authorities.

This month, gunmen shot dead Libya's deputy industry minister in the first assassination of a transitional government official since Gadhafi's ouster in October 2011.

READ: State Department: American stopped by Libyan authorities

READ: Bodies of two foreigners found on Libyan beach, officials say

Journalist Soo Bin Park reported from Seoul and CNN's Jethro Mullen wrote from Hong Kong. CNN's Marie-Louise Gumuchian contributed to this report.

ADVERTISEMENT
Part of complete coverage on
September 23, 2014 -- Updated 1616 GMT (0016 HKT)
The U.S. and several Arab nations carried out airstrikes against ISIS in Syria, intensifying the campaign against the militant group.
September 23, 2014 -- Updated 1218 GMT (2018 HKT)
Her friends were raped and her brother was killed by ISIS, but 15-year-old "Aria" managed to escape.
September 23, 2014 -- Updated 1058 GMT (1858 HKT)
Emma Watson lent her name and her glittery profile to the cause of feminism at the United Nations.
September 23, 2014 -- Updated 0106 GMT (0906 HKT)
From Gadhafi to Ahmadinejad, Bush to Chavez: look back at memorable moments from past UNGA sessions. Richard Roth reports.
September 23, 2014 -- Updated 0741 GMT (1541 HKT)
Just days after NASA's Mars orbiter reached the Red Planet, India's first mission could follow suit and make history.
September 23, 2014 -- Updated 1413 GMT (2213 HKT)
Khorasan, al Qaeda's new branch, seeks new ways to attack America and Europe.
Alibaba officially became the biggest initial public offering of all time, confirming that in the final tally it raised $25 billion.
September 23, 2014 -- Updated 0257 GMT (1057 HKT)
Do the Chinese really like to mix their Bordeaux with Coca-Cola?
September 23, 2014 -- Updated 0936 GMT (1736 HKT)
Cape Town native, Janine Davies is South Africa's first female rider to compete on a national level.
In the largely male-dominated world of the motorsport, South African super bike racer Janine Davies is an anomaly.
September 23, 2014 -- Updated 1130 GMT (1930 HKT)
The Lilongwe Wildlife Center houses over 200 animal victims and helps rehabilitate them back into the wild.
September 23, 2014 -- Updated 1052 GMT (1852 HKT)
Each day, CNN brings you an image capturing a moment to remember, defining the present in our changing world.
Browse through images from CNN teams around the world that you don't always see on news reports.
ADVERTISEMENT