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JAYAPURA, Irian Jaya (January 19, 2001 – Jakarta Post/National News)---It is feared that the kidnapping of 11 timber company workers, including a Korean national, in Irian Jaya’s westernmost town of Merauke, will affect the business climate in the mineral-rich province, Governor J.P. Salossa said on Thursday.

"The incident creates an image among foreign investors that the province is insecure," the governor said, adding that non-violent efforts to resolve the situation, including negotiations, are preferable.

"We don’t want militaristic settlement (of the situation). We are talking about people’s lives," he said, stressing that he deeply regretted the kidnapping.

Trikora Military Command spokesman Lt. Col. Siregar confirmed that 11 workers of PT Korindo were taken hostage on Tuesday by a group of armed men, who are members of the Merauke-based separatist Free Papua Organization (OPM) led by William Onde.

The drama took place in the district of Asiki, in the regency of Merauke, when the timber workers were heading for their base camp at 7:00 p.m. local time.

The kidnappers demanded US$ 1 million in compensation for environmental damage, the withdrawal of police mobile brigade forces from the district of Asiki, and a total halt to logging.

The victims include Kun Kwan (a Korean), Hadi Sunarto, Fransiskus, Markus, Malik Maja, Samsul, Dominggus, Fransisco Yae, William, Sugiyono and Samuel.

A Trikora Military Command team was sent to Merauke on Wednesday.

Unconfirmed reports claim that the government of Indonesia will not fulfill the kidnappers’ demands, while military sources claim that OPM members will take up arms if Indonesian troops attempt to approach their post.

The OPM post is located close to PT Korindo’s compound in Merauke.

The Korean Embassy in Jakarta said on Thursday that it had received reports on the kidnapping of Kun Kwan.

First Secretary Lee Chang-ho told The Jakarta Post by phone that a report to his country had been made.

He said that he believed the Indonesian authorities would take appropriate steps to free the hostages.

The OPM has been promoting efforts to separate from Indonesia since the easternmost province of Irian Jaya, formerly known as Irian Barat, was integrated as part of Indonesia in the 1960s.

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