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Appealing to the Conscience of the 21st Century: Please Help Repatriate My Father!

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Please help me! Help me bring my father home!

I hereby appeal to your conscience.

According to the Convention for the Suppression of Unlawful Seizure of Aircraft, anyone who hijacks a civilian aircraft should be extradited or prosecuted “without exception whatsoever” (Art. 7), and be punished by “severe penalties” (Art. 2). But my father’s case has become an “exception”; for 47 years, the world has overlooked this cruel act of criminal savagery that has torn my family apart. 

Your conscience has the power to bring my father home, and deliver the long-awaited justice to my family.

With a sense of deep desperation, I appeal to your compassion and ask that you sign our petition!

The little boy in the picture is me, and the man holding me is my father.

He adored me very much. 

On December 11, 1969, when I was just 2 years old, my father boarded a plane to go on a business trip in lieu of his supervisor. After taking off at 12:25 pm, the plane was soon hijacked by a North Korean agent and forcibly diverted to North Korea.

Detained against his will in North Korea, my father cried out:

“Please send me home!”

“Under international law, international customary law, and humanitarian principles, I demand that you send me home!”

“Please send me back to my family!”

My father’s outcry was ignored, and the guards dragged him away like an animal to an unknown location.

My father’s name is Hwang Won (황 원), a TV producer for MBC. He was 32 years old at the time of his abduction.

Following a scathing international condemnation, North Korea promised on February 4, 1970 to return all 50 people (4 crew members and 46 passengers). But on February 14, 1970, the government broke its promise and returned only 39 passengers.

Thanks to the testimonies provided by the 39, the truth behind the hijacking soon became clear.

A brash 32-year-old at the time, my father firmly believed that he would be sent home under the rules of international law, international customary law, and humanitarian principles. According to witnesses, my father strongly resisted his North Korean captors during the re-education session, rebutting their communist ideologies one by one. For his defiance, my father suffered unspeakably.

On January 1, 1970, my father strongly demanded that he be returned home and started to sing “Ga-Go-Pa” (“I Want To Go Home”), a South Korean song. He was then savagely dragged away to an unknown location.

After that day, not even the 39 returnees saw my father again.

The International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC) strongly demanded the return of the remaining 11, but North Korea claimed that they were staying “of their own will.”

Against this preposterous statement, the ICRC proposed that they verify through a 3rd country and a 3rd party whether those 11 were truly staying “of their own will.” North Korea rejected the proposal outright.

What North Korea did is a serious crime under international law. In Resolution A17-8 (1970), the 17th Session (Extraordinary) of the ICAO (International Civil Aviation Organization) General Assembly explicitly urged that “all unlawfully seized aircraft ... and all their passengers and crews be permitted to continue their journey as soon as practicable.”

On September 9, 1970, the UN Security Council adopted Resolution 286, in which they “[a]ppeal[ed] to all parties concerned for the immediate release of all passengers and crews without exception, held as a result of hijackings and other interference in international travel.”

Later that year (1970), the 25th Session of the UN General Assembly unanimously adopted Resolution 2645 (XXV), the “Aerial hijacking or interference with civil air travel” resolution.

To this day, however, my father and the other 10 remain unable to return home; they have become an “exception.”

In 2001, when I was 34 years old, I watched the 3rd reunion event of separated families on TV. Ms. Gyung-hee Sung, one of the flight attendants, was shown joyfully meeting her mother. At that moment, I knew I had to meet my father.

My throat went dry as my father’s life-long absence came back to me in full force. As my eyes welled up with tears, I looked at my little girl (2 years old), smiling in my arms and licking at her bottle. She was so beautiful, and I asked myself, “How difficult must it be for my father, forever separated from his children?”

I experienced a new kind of pain; not of a son who lost his father, but of a father forcibly taken away from his children. The pain was unbearable.

Having resolved to meet my father, I began searching for documents and other materials dating from my father’s abduction.

But I was soon confronted by the huge wall of time, and people’s callous disregard for my human rights. “The hijacking happened in 1969,” people said. “It is a thing of the past. What does it have to do with us in the present?” They also said, “This is a complex issue of international politics. What can YOU hope to accomplish? Get over it!”

I simply could not accept their logic. The humanitarian process aimed at bringing my father home is still ongoing. My father is not home yet. I have yet to meet him, and North Korea refuses to even officially confirm whether my father is still alive. How could anyone call my father’s case “a thing of the past”?

As I became more and more convinced that there is not a single reason for my father to be held against his will, the deafening silence of the South Korean society pushed me to despair, and my family along with me.

I had to make a choice: For the sake of my wife and children, should I give up trying to save my father? Or should I keep fighting? In the end, I simply could not give up.

If I gave up on my father simply because it was too difficult, then I too would be accepting that he is “a thing of the past.” I would then become a co-perpetrator.

And I knew I would not be fighting alone forever, that someday people of true conscience would stand with me. That hope kept me going.

When I first began fighting to bring my father home, I was 34 years old. Now, I am 50, and my 2-year-old little girl has become 18.

Now, 16 years later, I have concluded that my father’s return does not depend on the voluntary cooperation of North Korea. Rather, the key is for the international community to speak up, to demand that North Korea abide by the Convention for the Suppression of Unlawful Seizure of Aircraft and other universal human rights treaties that it has agreed to uphold.

Which is why I appeal to you: the conscience of humanity.

Please remember me and my father. My father and I are human beings, not animals.

We deserve to live while enjoying our rights as human beings.

For the sake of realizing all our universal human rights, I urge you to join us in calling for the enforcement of the 1970 ICAO Resolution, the UN Security Council Resolution 286, and the Convention for the Suppression of Unlawful Seizure of Aircraft.

Help us ensure that my family does not become an “exception.”

I appeal to the conscience of the 21st century: Please rise up and help repatriate my father! 



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