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S Korean hostages released in Mexico

South Koreans held hostage in Mexico have been released unharmed.They are now under police protection and would soon be handed over to embassy officials.

world Updated: Jul 23, 2008 12:28 IST

Five South Koreans held hostage in Mexico have been released unharmed, the foreign ministry in Seoul said on Wednesday.

The five "were released unharmed at 7:00 pm on Tuesday local (Mexico) time," said Lee Jeong-Gwan, director general for consular affairs, in a statement.

Lee said they are now under police protection and would soon be handed over to embassy officials.

The five, including a woman, were looking for work when they were seized on July 14 in Reynosa, a city on the Mexico-US border in the state of Tamaulipas.

The kidnappers were demanding a ransom of USD 30,000, a South Korean diplomat had told AFP in Mexico.

Lee's statement said Mexican authorities, at the urging of Seoul, apparently applied "strong pressure" on the abductors. It was not clear if they had been arrested and he could not be reached for further comment.

A foreign ministry spokesman said he had no information on whether a ransom was paid.

The diplomat said one of the five had earlier contacted family in Seoul who asked the foreign ministry for help. He said the group had been held in a house and was in good condition.

Another group of South Koreans was kidnapped two years ago in Tijuana and later freed after a ransom was paid.

One year ago Taliban militants in Afghanistan kidnapped 23 South Korean church workers and murdered two of them before the Seoul government negotiated a release.