Some of the 5 South Korean men freed from captivity last week reported being beaten by their Taliban abductors for refusing to convert to Islam or for protecting their female colleagues, a hospital chief said Monday.
"We found through medical checks that some male hostages were beaten," Cha Seung-gyun told reporters, according to Agence France-Presse.
"They said they were beaten at first for refusing to take part in Islamic prayers or for rejecting a demand to convert."
In addition, at least two male hostages were beaten or threatened with death when they refused to leave behind female hostages, the hospital chief said.
All the men were said to have fully recovered and now show no external signs of their beating.
Meanwhile, medical examinations showed no signs of the females being raped and none reported being sexually harassed.
The hospital chief also informed that six or seven female hostages show symptoms of insomnia and depression and continue to worry about their lives even after returning to Korea. Moreover, some of the patients still suffer from shock from news that two of their male colleagues were murdered.
The news came a day after the 19 aid workers – 14 women and five men – returned safely to their homeland where they were quickly taken to Sam Anyang General Hospital south of the capital for examination and treatment.
While many have welcomed the freeing of the hostages – who were held captive for 40 days after their bus was hijacked on July 19 – public opinions in South Korea have mostly been critical of the Christian volunteers, citing lack of preparation and ignoring government warnings of traveling to Afghanistan for their lack of sympathy.
Meanwhile, the Korean government is also under fire over their handling of the hostage crisis. Ally countries such as Canada, Germany and Afghanistan have publicly criticized Seoul for negotiating with the Taliban – which they consider a terrorist group – and seemingly giving into them. They fear that South Korea's dealings with the Taliban will encourage more future kidnappings – a concern which the Taliban have readily confirmed.
"We found this a very effective tactic against the Kabul administration and the invading forces," Taliban spokesman Yousuf Ahmadi told AFP Tuesday. "We'll continue kidnapping foreigners," he said by telephone from an undisclosed location.
"Through the kidnapping of the Koreans we gained worldwide media coverage," Ahmadi added. "The Kabul administration was saying that we do not exist and we are a group based outside Afghanistan. When we held face-to-face talks with the Koreans, we showed that we're here and have control over ground inside the country."
The freed hostages have repeatedly apologized since their release for causing so much trouble and worry.
"We truly feel sorry and thank the whole nation," said an apologetic Yu Kyong-sik, one of the freed hostages upon her arrival in South Korea, according to Yonhap news service. "We went [to Afghanistan] to extend affection, but ended up giving much trouble and anxiety to the Korean people and government."
"All of us owe a big debt to the country and the South Korean people," she also said, according to Reuters. "When thinking about the trouble we have caused them, it is proper for us to bow deeply and ask for your forgiveness."
The original group of 23 Korean Christian volunteers was kidnapped by Taliban militants on July 19 while on their way to provide free medical aid to poor Afghans. Over the course of the six-week hostage crisis, the rebels killed two men and freed two women before releasing the last groups of hostages last Wednesday and Thursday.
The hospital chief predicts that the former hostages will need about two weeks of treatment.