Five South Koreans were kidnapped while driving in a Mexican border city, police and embassy officials said Tuesday, and their captors reportedly are demanding a $30,000 ransom.
Gunmen seized the four men and one woman as they rode in a car on July 14 in Reynosa, across the border from McAllen, Texas, police commander Noe Hinojosa said.
The South Korean Yonhap news agency reported the captors falsely identified themselves as police, a common practice among criminals in Mexico.
Hinojosa said officials were investigating, but had no leads in the case.
He said the kidnappers had demanded a US$30,000 ransom to free the group.
A South Korean Embassy spokesman, who gave only his family name Kim for security reasons, said the ransom had not been paid. He said the kidnapped group had been looking into working in Mexico, but he didn’t have details.
South Korea’s Foreign Ministry said in a statement that the five were alive, but Kim said officials were still trying to confirm that.
South Korean President Lee Myung-bak instructed his top security adviser to make the “utmost efforts for a quick and safe return” of the kidnapped victims.
Thousands of South Koreans work in Mexico, many of them running import businesses or assembly-for-export factories.
Mexico has one of the highest rates of kidnappings for ransom in the world. Many abductions are never reported to police, in part for fear officials themselves might be involved or that they would bungle a possible rescue.
In October, Spanish businessman Jose Maria Sanchez was kidnapped, prompting international media coverage and intense pressure from the Spanish and U.S. governments.
Three days after he was taken from a seaside restaurant, Sanchez was found wandering along a highway outside Tijuana, his hands still bound and his eyes blindfolded.