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South Korea temporarily closes embassy in Afghanistan and evacuates staff

Afghans crowd at the tarmac of the Kabul airport on Monday to flee the country as the Taliban were in control of Afghanistan after President Ashraf Ghani fled the country and conceded the insurgents had won the 20-year war. (AFP-Yonhap)
Afghans crowd at the tarmac of the Kabul airport on Monday to flee the country as the Taliban were in control of Afghanistan after President Ashraf Ghani fled the country and conceded the insurgents had won the 20-year war. (AFP-Yonhap)

South Korea temporarily shut its embassy in Afghanistan on Sunday and evacuated most of its diplomatic personnel to a third country in the Middle East, the Foreign Ministry said Monday.
 
The decision was made amid surging chaos and uncertainty, as Taliban forces entered the capital city Kabul and effectively took control of Afghanistan on Sunday, after US-backed President Ashraf Ghani fled the country. Many countries have temporarily closed diplomatic missions and have been scrambling to pull out their diplomats and civilians as Afghans and foreigners alike rush to exit the country. 
  
Most South Korean nationals and diplomatic personnel had left the country already. Just a few embassy staff, including the ambassador, remain in a safe place in the country to support the evacuation of a Korean national, according to the ministry. The government is closely consulting with the US and other countries to ensure a safe evacuation.
 
South Korean President Moon Jae-in on Monday has instructed relevant authorities to take all-out efforts to ensure that diplomatic staff and all South Korean nationals remaining in Afghanistan are evacuated to safety, according to Cheong Wa Dae spokesperson Park Kyung-mee.
 
Since June, the South Korean government has called for its citizens to leave the country due to safety concerns as the US and its NATO allies have proceeded with troop pullouts.
 
But the Taliban’s rapid advance into the capital forced the South Korean mission to abruptly close its office. 
 
US President Joe Biden has set the deadline of Aug. 31 to fully withdraw US troops and end the nearly 20-year war in the country.

By Ahn Sung-mi (sahn@heraldcorp.com)
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