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South Korean teenager is latest Islamic State recruit

The Islamic State's use of social media to lure foreign recruits has reached South Korea.

By Elizabeth Shim
South Korean officials said a South Korean teenager actively sought IS recruiters on Twitter, using the pseudonym “sunni mujahideen.” Kim traveled to Turkey after receiving instructions, police said, and disappeared after leaving his hotel room in January. Photo by Yonhap/Twitter
South Korean officials said a South Korean teenager actively sought IS recruiters on Twitter, using the pseudonym “sunni mujahideen.” Kim traveled to Turkey after receiving instructions, police said, and disappeared after leaving his hotel room in January. Photo by Yonhap/Twitter

SEOUL, Feb. 24 (UPI) -- A South Korean teenager who disappeared from a southeastern Turkish town has joined the Islamic State, South Korean officials confirmed to news agency Yonhap on Tuesday.

Lee Byung-kee, director of South Korea's intelligence agency, announced that the 18-year-old with the surname Kim was receiving training under IS militants but his location could not be confirmed, according to parliament members of South Korea's intelligence committee.

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The pool of foreign recruits into IS's fighting units has grown consistently. U.S. intelligence officials have estimated at least 20,000 foreigners have joined the spreading force, but this is the first confirmed case of a South Korean recruit.

According to Yonhap, Kim was staying at a hotel in the Turkish border town of Gaziantep on Jan. 10 when he went missing after secretly leaving the building.

Kim's parents gave him permission to travel to Turkey as early as October, but required he travel with a guardian, a 45-year-old family acquaintance.

South Korean police said in January investigations into Kim's computer revealed he consistently showed a commitment to joining IS on his Facebook and Twitter accounts.

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As early as March, Kim requested help from a Facebook friend in finding a way to join IS as a recruit.

South Korean officials said Kim continued to scour the Internet for a response from IS affiliates. On Oct. 4, under the Twitter pseudonym "sunni mujahideen," Kim requested replies from IS recruiters.

The South Korean police agency said Kim received a reply from an account under the pseudonym "Afriki" who instructed Kim to travel to Istanbul and await instructions from "Brother Hassan."

Kim's travel companion, identified only as Mr. Hong, said in January the teenager left the hotel without an explanation. Hong said he believes Kim went to meet "Brother Hassan."

Turkey is a growing recruiting ground for foreign IS fighters, many who enter Syria through the country.

Turkey's Deputy Prime Minister Bülent Arınç said Sunday that in the western city of Bursa young people, including 1,000 Turkish youth, have joined the Islamic State in bordering Syria and Iraq.

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