The South Korean pastor gunned down by Afghanistan’s Taliban on his 42nd birthday was a devout Christian always ready to help others, friends said Thursday.
Bae Hyung-Kyu, co-founder of the Saem-Mul Presbyterian church on the southern outskirts of Seoul, led a 23-strong aid group — mostly young women — who were seized last Thursday en route from Kandahar to Kabul by bus.
They were to provide free medical services in the war-torn nation but ended up at the mercy of their captors.
Bae, the father of a nine-year-old daughter, was killed Wednesday after the insurgents accused the Kabul government of dishonesty over a proposal to swap the Koreans for jailed Taliban fighters.
“It is so heartbreaking. Reverend Bae went out to do good but such a bad thing happened,” a Saem-Mul church member told AFP on condition of anonymity.
Bae had already done volunteer work in Bangladesh in April and planned a mission to Africa to help the poor after the Afghanistan assignment.
Born to a devout Christian family in the southern island of Jeju on July 25, 1965, Bae studied theology and became a pastor in 2001 after working at a company.
His father is an elder at a Jeju church and his mother is a senior member there.
“I still vividly remember Hyung-Kyu saving a life by dissuading a young man from attempting suicide while he was doing volunteer work at a library before going to graduate school,” Pastor Park Won-Hi, Bae’s friend, told Yonhap news agency.
“As part of his nature, he liked helping others… and he just could not pass by without helping others in need.”
Bae’s death was a shattering blow to his elderly parents.
Bae Ho-Jung, 72, rested his head on a Bible on hearing official confirmation of his son’s death while praying at a church in Jeju.
“I want to believe that it is a wrong report. I want to pray today,” he had said earlier before his glimmer of hope faded.