A Korean teenager who went missing in Turkey last month is training to become a member of the Islamic State militant group, the National Intelligence Service said Tuesday.
The 18-year-old tourist from Seoul, surnamed Kim, vanished on Jan. 10 after leaving a hotel in the border town of Kilis.
He initially arrived in Istanbul on Jan. 8 and flew to the southern city of Gaziantep before reaching Kilis by car the next day, a typical route locals say is taken by aspiring IS jihadists.
The Seoul police and the Foreign Ministry have concluded that Kim had deliberately planned his trip and disappearance with the help of a Turkish man he met online, citing data found from his computer and interviews with his travel partner and family.
"Kim had gone to join the IS and is currently under training in an unidentified place," lawmakers said after a plenary session of the National Assembly's intelligence committee, referring to an NIS report.
The remarks mark Kim as the first confirmed Korean IS fighter.
On Twitter, a user suspected to be him wrote that he "wanted to join" the extremist group and later that he was "ready" to go.
The police also retrieved more than 50 images on his computer of IS fighters and flags and Muslim women, as well as evidence that he had looked up such terms as the IS, Islam, Turkey and Syria more than 500 times over the past year, with 65 related websites bookmarked on his browser.
With Turkey and Syria sharing a porous border stretching some 900 kilometers, Ankara said it has barred entry of more than 7,200 people who appeared to be seeking IS membership, while deporting nearly 1,200 would-be jihadists.