The 19 South Koreans freed by the Taliban returned to Seoul Sunday as the church that sent the group fields critical remarks for sending members to such a volatile country.

The return ends a 43-day ordeal in which two hostages were killed, including Bae Hyung-kyu, an associate pastor at Saemmul Church.

Before they left Afghanistan, the hostages apologized at a press conference for the trouble they had caused South Korea.

"I've had sleepless nights, thinking of what we have caused the country. I am deeply sorry," Yu Kyeong-sik said at a press conference.

"Remorse is the face of the church," said Park Eun-jo, senior pastor of Saemmul Church. The Presbyterian congregation that sponsored the trip, in the Seoul suburb of Bundang, has a weekly attendance of about 5,000 people.

"Koreans, particularly those who are not receptive to Christianity, are very emotional and critical about this incident," he told Christianity Today. "Because of the hostage situation, people withheld their opinions, but since they are released, people are now really letting us have what they think."

The hostages did not know until after they were released that two male hostages, including the associate pastor of the church, were killed.

"Upon hearing the news, they all wailed and were in great agony," Park said. "They couldn't handle the sadness, losing their loved ones."

Park said that 20 South Koreans traveled to Afghanistan for a short-term trip to volunteer at a school and provide medical aid. He said that three of the hostages were missionaries who had already been in Korea when the group arrived. Before it had left for the country, the group was told to be cautious in the dangerous area.

As they traveled through the country, their bus driver picked up two ...

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Hostages' Pastor: 'Remorse Is the Face of the Church'
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