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19 freed South Koreans arrive home

  • Story Highlights
  • Former hostage: We are very apologetic and sorry for the trouble we caused
  • Former hostages are expected to remain at a hospital for a week of exams
  • Two members of the South Korean group were executed
  • No agreement to pay the captors, South Korean presidential spokesman says
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SEOUL, South Korea (CNN) -- Nineteen South Koreans who were held by the Taliban as hostages in Afghanistan for six weeks arrived early Sunday at Incheon International Airport near Seoul.

The group's arrival saw an emotional reunion with their families - who they were not sure if they would ever see again.

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Relatives of the slain South Koreans hold their portraits, as one of the ex-hostages weeps at Incheon Airport.

But they remained calm in front of the flashing cameras that awaited them.

"Unexpectedly, we were kidnapped," former hostage Yu Kyung Shik said simply of the group's ordeal. "We are very apologetic and sorry for the trouble we caused our government and people."

He expressed gratitude to supporters before the group left for Saem Hospital near Seoul, where families were waiting.

The former hostages are expected to remain at the hospital for about a week for exams. Video Watch the emotional reunion »

The hostages were among 23 South Korean Christian aid workers -- most of them women -- abducted by Taliban militants on July 19 as they traveled on a bus in Ghazni province in eastern Afghanistan.

The kidnappers later executed two of the South Koreans. See a timeline of the hostages' ordeal »

On August 13, they freed two women who were said to be ill, as a "gesture of goodwill," according to a Taliban spokesman.

On Wednesday, Taliban militants released 12 South Korean hostages. The 10 women and two men were freed in three separate groups, a day after South Korea announced its team of negotiators in Afghanistan had reached a deal with them.

The seven remaining hostages were released Thursday and handed over to Red Cross officials.

Under the terms of an agreement reached on Tuesday, South Korea agreed to stick by its decision to withdraw its 200 non-combat troops from Afghanistan, who do mostly engineering and medical work.

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In addition, Seoul promised to halt all Christian missionary work in Afghanistan.

A South Korean presidential spokesman said there was no agreement to pay the captors, nor was there any mention of releasing Taliban prisoners -- a major demand of the kidnappers. E-mail to a friend E-mail to a friend

CNN's Sohn Jie-Ae contributed to this report.

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