South Korean Teen Joins ISIS

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South Korean media are reporting on what is believed to be the first case of a South Korean national joining the terrorist group ISIS.

According to the South Korean Ministry of Foreign Affairs, which released the news on January 18, a South Korean teenager identified by the surname Kim flew to Turkey earlier in the month. He allegedly told his parents he was making the trip to meet with a Turkish pen pal. The two are believed to have traveled to the Turkish city of Kilis, which borders Syria.

Korean media report that Kim went missing on Jan. 12. Turkish authorities later discovered the 18-year-old’s computer, which they say contains evidence of his desire to join ISIS.

Kim used the ID “sunni mujahideen” for a Twitter account he opened in 2013. It was there that he first declared his intent to join the group, Turkish authorities say, adding there were questions in English and Arabic on his feed about how to go about doing that.

Authorities say he made use of an encrypted online messaging service called Surespot to communicate with ISIS, and that he had several online conversations with someone in Turkey.

South Koreans have reacted with both shock and sympathy to the news.

One comment on the popular portal Nate blamed the ubiquity of the Internet in South Korea, one of the world’s most wired countries. “I think what he knows is not the real society, only an on-line society. So that’s why I feel sorry for him.”

Another wrote, “If someone was taken hostage by accident, our government should protect them. But in this case, Kim walked there by himself and with an intention to join ISIS, so our government does not have to protect him.”

There is also concern that Kim may have given ISIS a means of blackmailing Seoul. His actions come as two captured Japanese nationals currently face possible execution by ISIS unless Japan pays a $200 million dollar ransom.

According to CNN, a man who was once captured by ISIS claimed the group is actively recruiting young men from all around the world. "There are many nationalities. From Norway, from America, Canada, Somalia, Korea, China, Turkmenistan, Tajikistan, Uzbekistan, Egypt, Libya, Tunisia, Lebanon and other European countries like Germany and France," he said.

Kim’s father is currently searching for him in Turkey with the help of the Turkish police.