The parents of a Korean hostage in Afghanistan who gave up her chance for release to let an ill captive go free received a letter from her. It said was healthy and urged them to remain calm, according to a note published Friday in local media.
"I'm faring well and am healthy. Don't worry," Lee Jee-young, 32, wrote in the note passed to her family in Seoul by two other hostages released earlier this month. "I'm eating well and am OK. Don't get sick and please be OK," the note published in South Korean media said.
Lee was among 23 South Koreans seized in southern Afghanistan last month by Taliban fighters who demanded the withdrawal of South Korean troops from the country and the release of militant prisoners in exchange for freeing the hostages.
The Taliban have killed two males hostages over their unmet demands. But in what it called a "goodwill gesture," the militant group released two women on Aug. 13. Nineteen others - 14 women and five men - remain captive.
The two freed hostages - Kim Kyung-ja, 37, and Kim Gina, 32, now in Seoul - begged for the release of the remaining hostages and expressed their concern about Lee in a media interview.
They said Lee was initially chosen for release but volunteered to stay behind to allow one of the other women to go free.
"I really worried about her," Kim Gina said in the interview with Al-Jazeera broadcast Thursday, the first public comments made by the ex-captives since they spoke immediately upon arrival. "But they (the captors) let her write a letter to her family, and that gave Jee-young the hope that she'll be released soon, too."
After undergoing medical care in Afghanistan, the two women returned to South Korea last Friday and were being treated at a military hospital.
They said the relief and joy they felt upon their release was overshadowed by their concern for the others.
"When we were released, rather than being happy, my heart was breaking as I thought about the 19 others," said Kim Kyung-ja, fighting back tears. She pleaded for their quick release.
Kim Gina, seated on a hospital bed next to Kim Kyung-ja, said she hadn't yet had a good night's sleep. "Since returning home, it's been impossible for me to sleep even one night peacefully," she told Al-Jazeera.
She appealed for the release of the others and begged that they be allowed to return to their families, saying: "From what I've heard, Islam teaches respect for life and for family."
Both women were dressed in military hospital pajamas and were seated nearly hip-to-hip on a hospital bed. Both - clearly dejected - fought to hold back tears as they spoke.
The two women were part of a South Korean church group that Kim Gina said was initially providing aid to Afghan patients and children in the northern city of Mazar-e-Sharif.
"From the time we arrived in Afghanistan until the moment we were captured, we were in Mazar-e-Sharif doing things like giving patients medicine, cutting children's hair, washing their hair and playing soccer with the children - those kinds of things," she said.
She said they had planned to continue on to Kandahar in southern Afghanistan to help at a hospital and school.
Militants seized their bus along the Kabul-to-Kandahar highway in Ghazni province. Recounting their time in captivity, Kim Kyung-ja said the hostages were not mistreated. "They provided us with basic necessities: food, medicine, water, bedding. They didn't mistreat us."
News reports said Kim Kyung-ja worked at a software development company and Kim Gina taught digital animation at a technical college. Their church group has insisted they were not carrying out missionary work in Afghanistan.
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