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S. Korea's evacuation mission complete: Hidden heros and behind stories Updated: 2021-08-27 17:07:51 KST

Clandestine operations to evacuate Afghans who worked alongside South Koreans during their mission there. It was made possible thanks to a well-planned evacuation and all the hard work of Korean officials on the ground and from here.
For more, we have our foreign ministry correspondent Yoon Jung-min joining us live in the studio.
Welcome, Jung-min.

Thanks for having me.

The evacuation operation, under the codename 'Miracle' was risky and difficult. Who have been behind all this hard work?

Yes, first I'd like to talk about the hidden heroes behind this evacuation operation.
Like other diplomats around the world who're working around the clock to get their nationals and Afghan friends out of the country, Korean embassy staffers had contributed a lot to the evacuation, risking their lives.
Take a look at this picture first.

This picture was taken when a Korean diplomat at the embassy in Afghanistan reunited with his Afghan colleague at Kabul airport.
As we know, the Korean embassy in Kabul is temporarily closed ever since the Taliban took over the capital, and Korean embassy staffers had to evacuate to Qatar.
Before evacuating to Qatar, this diplomat, Kim Il-eung made a promise to his Afghan colleagues at the embassy that he will have them safely evacuted to Korea.
And he did return to Kabul a week later for the evacuation mission to keep his promise.
Reporters had a chance to talk to him this morning and asked him about this picture.
Take a look.

"I don't know who took the picture, but I think it was Wednesday. We were supposed to get into the airport on Tuesday, by 3:30 PM, but we couldn't because the Taliban was blocking the way. The bus carrying us started to go into the airport the next morning. I think that was when the picture was taken."

South Korea used four buses to carry all of them to Kabul airport because the airport gates were just too crowded.
They had a parking area near the airport and told the evacuees to gather there.
On their way to the airport, Kim said the Korean staffers and the Afghan evacuees were locked up in the buses for 14 hours because the Taliban wouldn't let them go.

"We were locked up inside the bus for 14 to 15 hours. There was no air-conditioning and we couldn't see outside because windows were colored thick. People were anxious. It was hot, children were crying and many were concerned. That was the most difficult."

Kim added he couldn't even tell his familiy about this mission because he didn't want them to worry.

We appreciate all the officials for their hard work.
Jung-min, you have been following the evacuation story since the very beginning. What can you tell us more about the operation?

Right, Conn-young.
I have been hearing from the South Korean foreign ministry about the situation in Afghanistan since the U.S. announced the plan to pull its troops out.
And this evacuation issue, in particular, since a few weeks ago.
What I heard today from sources was that Thursday's terror attack occured at the same airport gate used by the Afghan evacuees and the Korean staffers.
There are four gates at Kabul airport.
But the one they could use, reportedly, is the one called the Abbey Gate because the others are under the control of the Taliban or are just too dangerous.
We can't tell what would have happened if the evacuation had been delayed only a few days.

In fact, it was early this month that the Korean government started setting up an evacuation plan to be carried out before the the August 31st deadline.
But because the Taliban took over Kabul much faster than expected and they could no longer use the civilian side of the airport, they had to change the plan to a military operation.
As we know, South Korea sent three military planes to bring them here.
Throughout the process, the foreign ministry kept reporters up to date, but this information was embargoed for the safety of the evacuees.

We hear all remaining people safely arrive here this afternoon from Islamabad.

So, today, the remaining 13 evacuees have safely landed at Incheon International Airport.
And the Korean government confirmed today that the 377 other evacuees arrived yesterday.
Originally, that was going to be 378 people, but one person was reportedly sent back when the plane stopped in Islamabad because the authorities could not confirm his or her identity.
The foreign ministry said they handed the person over to the U.S. military.
So, brought here are 390 Afghans in total who have worked with the Korean government and their dependants.

According to sources, nearly half of them are children, including some 100 infants and newborn babies.
So, the defense ministry stocked the military planes with milk powder and feeding bottles and put mattresses on the floor for them.
I was reporting from the airport in Incheon yesterday and saw a lot of children arriving there smiling and waving to reporters.

All right. Thanks for the wrap-up.

Thank you.
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