BAGHDAD -- The Arab satellite television network Al-Jazeera aired a videotape yesterday purportedly from Al Qaeda-linked militants showing a South Korean hostage begging for his life and pleading with his government to withdraw troops from Iraq.
The kidnappers, who identified themselves as belonging to a group led by Abu Musab al-Zarqawi, gave South Korea 24 hours to meet its demand or ''we will send you the head of this Korean."
''Korean soldiers, please get out of here," the man screamed in English, flailing his arms. ''I don't want to die. I don't want to die. I know that your life is important, but my life is important."
South Korean media identified the hostage as Kim Sun-il, 33, an employee of South Korea's Gana General Trading Co., a supplier for the US military.
The video came two days after news of the beheading of American hostage Paul Johnson, 49, by Al Qaeda-linked militants in Saudi Arabia, and an announcement Friday by South Korea that it will send 3,000 soldiers to northern Iraq beginning in August. Once the deployment is complete, South Korea will be the largest coalition partner in Iraq after the United States and Britain.
After showing the hostage's plea, the tape showed him kneeling in front of three masked men, two of them armed with Kalashnikovs. The man standing in the middle read a statement in Arabic.
''Our message to the South Korean government and the Korean people: We first demand you withdraw your forces from our lands and not send more of your forces to this land. Otherwise, we will send to you the head of this Korean, and we will follow it by the heads of your other soldiers."
South Korea's Deputy Foreign Minister Choi Young-jin said today that there is no change in Seoul's position on sending troops to Iraq.
The group identified itself as Monotheism and Jihad; its purported leader, Zarqawi, is a Jordanian-born terrorist linked to Al Qaeda. Zarqawi's group claimed responsibility for the videotaped beheading last month of American businessman Nicholas Berg.
A South Korean television news station, YTN, said Kim had been in Iraq for about eight months. His sister, Kim Jung-sook, told the station his family last spoke to him in April. He was in the Fallujah area and planned to leave the area in July.
On Saturday, Seoul warned its people not to travel to Iraq. ''At this time, we cannot rule out the possibility of harm to our nationals, following the official announcement of the additional troop dispatch to Iraq," Foreign Ministry spokesman Shin Bong-kil said in a statement.
South Korea plans to send 900 troops to Kurdish-controlled Erbil in early August, followed by about 1,100 troops between late August and early September. An additional 1,000 soldiers will travel to Iraq later.
South Korea has 600 military medics and engineers in the southern Iraqi city of Nasiriyah.
Seoul portrayed the dispatch as a way of strengthening its alliance with the United States, thereby winning more support from Washington for a peaceful end to a long-running dispute over North Korea's nuclear weapons development.