GHAZNI, Afghanistan &
Police discovered the body of a second South Korean hostage in central Afghanistan, and the Taliban threatened today to kill more captives if their demands were not met by a new deadline.
South Korea pleaded with the international community to set aside the normal practice of refusing to cave in to hostage-takers' demands, urging a peaceful resolution to the standoff over the 21 remaining hostages.
South Korea "is well aware of how the international community deals with these kinds of abduction cases," said a statement from the president's office. "But it also believes that it would be worthwhile to use flexibility in the cause of saving the precious lives of those still in captivity."
Some South Korean activists even lashed out at the United States for refusing to get more involved.
"As everyone knows, the Taliban's demand is something the U.S. government can help resolve, not the Afghan or South Korean government," the People's Solidarity for Participatory Democracy said in a statement.
State Department spokesman Tom Casey said U.S. and South Korean officials have been in regular contact on the standoff, but he would not comment on specifics.
"We'll do what we can to support the South Korean effort," Casey said. "This is a very delicate situation. We want to make sure that nothing is done that would endanger the lives of these individuals."
The comments came after Afghan officials found the body of Shim Sung-min, 29, a former information technology worker who was volunteering with a South Korean church group on an aid mission to Afghanistan.
He was killed Monday after two deadlines given by the Taliban demanding the release of insurgent prisoners passed with no action. Last week, the church group's leader, Pastor Bae Hyung-kyu, was fatally shot in unclear circumstances.
A purported Taliban spokesman, Qari Yousef Ahmadi, said senior Taliban leaders decided to kill Shim because the government had not met Taliban demands to trade prisoners for the Christian volunteers, who were in their 13th day of captivity today.
"The Kabul and Korean governments are lying and cheating. They did not meet their promise of releasing Taliban prisoners," Ahmadi, who claims to speak for the Taliban, said by phone from an undisclosed location.
The Taliban commanders set a new deadline of noon on Wednesday.
"If the Kabul government does not release the Taliban prisoners, then we will kill after 12 o'clock &
we are going to kill the Korean hostages," Ahmadi said. "It might be a man or a woman ... It might be one. It might be two, four. It might be all of them."
The Afghan government said it does not support the release of militant prisoners.
"We are not going to discuss the details, releasing or not releasing of criminals in exchange for the hostages," said Humayun Hamidzada, spokesman for President Hamid Karzai. "We are doing everything we can to secure their release."
Shim's body was found on the side of the road at daybreak today in the village of Arizo Kalley in Andar District, about 5 miles west of Ghazni city, said Abdul Rahim Deciwal, the chief administrator in the area.
An Associated Press reporter at the scene said the man appeared to have a gunshot wound to the right temple.
Shim, who had recently left his job to prepare for graduate school, had previously visited the Philippines for five days as a volunteer worker and also had served as an army officer.
His father, Shim Jin-pyo, told reporters earlier today that he wondered how the Taliban "could perpetrate this horrible thing."
"I think they act like they are not human beings," he said.
Family members of other hostages appealed for support from the United States and other countries to resolve the crisis.
"Especially, the families want the United States to disregard political interests and give more active support to save the 21 innocent lives," said Kim Jung-ja, mother of captive Lee Sun-young.
The Taliban kidnapped the 23 South Koreans, who were riding on a bus through Ghazni province on the Kabul-Kandahar highway on July 19, the largest group of foreign hostages taken in Afghanistan since the 2001 U.S.-led invasion.
In March, Karzai approved a deal that saw five captive Taliban fighters freed for the release of Italian reporter Daniele Mastrogiacomo. Karzai, who was criticized by the U.S. and European capitals over the exchange, called the trade a one-time deal.
Separately, the government said a German man who was kidnapped on July 18 was in "satisfactory" health. Another German man captured with him was found shot dead on July 21.
Associated Press writers Noor Khan in Kandahar, Afghanistan and Burt Herman and Jae-soon Chang in Seoul, South Korea contributed to this report.
Hostage No. 2 slain
GHAZNI, Afghanistan &