S. Korea May Cut Mideast Missionary Travel

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South Korea may begin scaling back on Christian missionaries' travel to the Middle East - particularly those areas which leave them open to terrorist attack. 

And it is not just the safety of missionaries that concerns South Korea. Foreign Ministry officials are worried that missionary work in some Middle Eastern could result in ordinary South Koreans being targeted as well.

"Their work goes against local sentiment and makes them targets of al-Qaeda or the Taliban," a ministry official said on condition of anonymity, citing office policy. "There are also strong possibilities that the safety of ordinary citizens could be threatened."

In recent weeks, dozens of missionaries have been expelled from the Middle East nations of Iran, Jordan and Yemen where Christian proselytizing is banned.

And in 2007, 23 missionaries from a South Korean church were kidnapped by the Taliban in Afghanistan. Two were killed while the others were released.

"The government is considering taking various and prudent steps for the safety of citizens overseas," one ministry official told the AFP without elaborating.

Some of those steps may include banning South Koreans with a record of deportation for evangelical work from travelling to the nations again. The AFP reports that under South Korean law the government can restrict citizens' travel if they're the target of a criminal probe or there is concern national interest or public safety is at stake.

Still, some Christian and civic groups insist that such restrictions would be a violation of their constitutional rights to freedom of travel and religion.

According to the Korea World Missions Association, roughly 19,000 Koreans are involved in missions work around the world.

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