Baghdad's view on Korean beheading: he deserved it
By Paul McGeough, Chief Correspondent in Baghdad
Most victims of the wave of hostage-taking in Iraq in the last three months were released unharmed. And while an Italian security contractor was shot dead by his Iraqi captors in April, beheading was the tactic of choice in the death of two Americans in the region in the last month - an American Jew was beheaded in Iraq in May and an American engineer was executed by the same means in Saudi Arabia last week.
The choice of beheading in two countries swept by anti-US sentiment will blur the distinction that critics of the American occupation of Iraq have made between war against Saddam Hussein and the war on terrorism.
It is a brutal but ritualistic and low-cost tactic steeped in a bloody history and culture - the law in neighbouring Saudi Arabia still allows for criminals to be beheaded in Riyadh's Chop Chop Square. But the chilling video of a sobbing Mr Kim released to the world's media and placed on the internet are a high-tech add-on that multiplies the shock value, gives the killers huge media coverage and puts governments under enormous political and emotional pressure.
And it makes just being in Iraq an even more gruesome lottery for foreign civilians.
They are under pressure to evacuate as a grim sense of isolation becomes more acute, with many of the Americans they have come to know in the occupation authority being replaced by novice strangers with the planned return next week to a form of Iraqi sovereign control of the country.
Mr Kim, a fluent Arabic speaker who also had a degree in theological studies, was employed as an interpreter by Gana General Trading, a Korean company supplying food to the US military.
He was abducted in the restive city of Falluja last week, as he returned to the capital from a US base in the west of the country.
On Sunday his captors set a 24-hour deadline for his execution, saying his head would be returned to South Korea unless the August troop deployment was abandoned. In the accompanying video, a distraught Mr Kim screams in English: "Korean soldiers, please get out of here. I don't want to die. I don't want to die."
In Baghdad, most ordinary Iraqis criticise beheading as offensive to Islam, but they draw distinctions between the different victims - American Nicholas Berg was the least deserving of their sympathy because of his Jewishness; and for them, Paul Johnson, the Saudi victim, had died in another crisis in another country.
Ziad Omar, a 46-year-old unemployed postal worker, said: "If [Mr Kim] was working for a company that supplies the Americans then he was guilty."
Saad Latief, a 36-year-old English literature graduate, was shocked on moral and religious grounds; and Alan Enwia, an interpreter about the same age as Mr Kim, argued the beheadings had to be seen in the context of Iraqi suffering.
Asked if Iraqis were talking about the killing, he said: "Not much. It is ugly, but deep inside we are hurting and if you have to carry a heavy weight it doesn't matter if someone puts a little more on your back."
Mr Kim had been interpreting for his Korean employers for a year. His letters home were filled with his urge to combine his Arabic language skills and his Christian faith.
He was denied his dream in a country that has rapidly become a dangerous place for dreamers.
Original Article via Sydney Morning Herald