Pakistan has ordered a South Korean man to leave the country, accusing him of involvement in “illegal preaching activities”, after two of his students at an Urdu-language school were abducted and killed by the Islamic State group, which claimed they had been secretly preaching Christianity.
“Investigations have revealed that [Juan Won-seo] went to Pakistan on a business visa, set up an Urdu academy in Quetta and got involved in illegal preaching activities,” Pakistan’s interior minister told UCAN on 19 June. “We have revoked his visa and asked him to leave the country”.
A South Korean official had previously denied the claim, telling the Hindustan Times on 14 June that “nothing has so far been found to verify the suspicion that they were involved with a Korean missionary group”.
Lee Zingyang, 24, and Meng Lisi, 26, went missing last month in Quetta, capital of Pakistan’s impoverished Balochistan province. IS claimed responsibility for their deaths on 8 June.
Pakistan’s interior ministry previously said the Chinese pair had travelled to Quetta “under the garb of learning [the] Urdu language from a Korean national” but were “actually engaged in preaching”.
Lee and Meng were part of a dozen Chinese nationals attending Urdu classes, though Chinese media reported that the school and language exchange was “merely a front for conducting religious activities”.
A Chinese student interviewed by the government-sanctioned English-language newspaper, The Global Times, said South Korea “recruits young people in China” and “sends teenagers to conduct missionary activities in Muslim countries… Compared to Chinese, more South Koreans have been killed abroad due to risky missionary activities in conservative Islamic regions. Some Chinese voluntarily join in the dangerous missionary activities in countries like Pakistan, Afghanistan and Iraq after being converted by South Koreans.”
According to the Hindustan Times, the move to blame South Korean missionaries for allegedly “misleading and misguiding” Chinese youngsters into preaching Christianity in foreign countries was meant to “mislead the Chinese people”.
“Most Chinese Christians have become Christian through Chinese evangelists. It has been very difficult for foreign citizens to proselytise in China. China does not have a visa category for religious clergy or missionaries. Some foreign students, professionals and business people may do evangelistic work within China, but evangelistic activities are restricted,” Yang Fenggang, director of the Centre on Religion and Chinese Society at Purdue University, told the Indian newspaper.
Carsten T. Vala, from the department of political science at Loyola University, Maryland, added: “Chinese nationals are themselves quite active in foreign missionary work and in my more than ten years of interviews of Chinese Christians, I found a number of Chinese Christians who were eager to go abroad as missionaries. At least one Chinese church leader I interviewed reported that his congregation had sent missionaries to Pakistan, Afghanistan, and other Arabic-speaking countries.”
Yang said that “even if it was found that the two Chinese were preaching Christianity, it’s the IS terrorists who should be blamed for their deaths”.
An increasing number of Chinese have settled in Quetta, as part of the $57bn China-Pakistan Economic Corridor (CPEC) project, which aims to re-establish a flourishing Silk Road between the two countries. China was quick to say that, while the “atrocity” was “appalling”, “it cannot drive a wedge between China and Pakistan, nor will the construction of the CPEC be disrupted”.