BUSAN, South Korea (AP) _ The body of a South Korean worker who was kidnapped and beheaded in Iraq was brought back to his hometown Saturday, his coffin draped in the national flag and escorted by a police honor guard in white dress uniforms.
Sobbing mourners watched as the remains were transferred from a South Korean military transport plane to a hearse. The body was then taken to a local hospital where a memorial altar was set up for the public to pay respects.
Kim Sun-il, a 33-year-old worker at a company supplying the U.S. military, was killed by militants Tuesday after the South Korean government refused to bow to their demand that it stop its troop deployment there.
The beheading stunned the nation, triggering criticism of the government's handling of the kidnapping and renewing debate over the planned dispatch of 3,000 South Korean troops beginning in August.
Kim's body arrived at Incheon International Airport outside Seoul earlier in the day aboard a Korean Air flight from Dubai. It was transferred to a military aircraft for the short flight to his hometown of Busan, on the country's southeast coast.
A police honor guard escorted Kim's coffin on the tarmac in both locations.
Before the tragedy, Kim, a devout Christian, had written several e-mails to a friend back home, saying he regularly held worship services with his Korean and Iraqi colleagues, South Korea's Yonhap news agency reported Saturday.
In one of those e-mails, Kim said he planned to marry a Christian Iraqi woman at his company, Yonhap said.
Nightly candlelight vigils have been held since Kim's slaying to mourn the victim and oppose the troop dispatch. The killing has also emboldened a group of lawmakers, many from President Roh Moo-hyun's ruling Uri Party, to submit a resolution to Parliament urging the government to reconsider the deployment.
Roh has ordered an investigation into the government's handling of the kidnapping amid questions about whether officials could have done more to secure his release.
The Foreign Ministry has acknowledged that it was asked in early June whether a South Korean was missing in Iraq _ several weeks before Kim was beheaded by Islamic militants.
Ministry spokesman Shin Bong-kil said Friday the official who received the inquiry did not report it to superiors. Kim's disappearance became widely known when a videotape, which showed the captive begging for his life, appeared a week ago.
In early June, the Baghdad office of Associated Press Television News received a separate videotape showing Kim, and a reporter in the AP's Seoul bureau asked an official in the South Korean Foreign Ministry on June 3 whether it had information that he was missing in Iraq.
The official said the ministry was not aware of any South Korean citizens missing or in captivity.