First of all, I would like to express my deepest gratitude to everyone who participated in the “Bring my father home” campaign.
Thanks to your cooperation, on February 14, 2020, the Working Group on Enforced or Involuntary Disappearances (WGEID) under the UN Human Rights Council demanded the repatriation of 11 people who have not yet returned to South Korea. On May 3rd, the Working Group on Arbitrary Detention (WGAD) under the UN Human Rights Council ruled that my father Hwang Won is a victim of arbitrary detention and demanded his immediate release.
Despite the demands of the international community, the North Korean government as well as the South Korean government has offered no response. Why is there no response?
Even if we consider that North Korea is a criminal state, the Moon administration, which should focus on rescuing its citizens in the name of human rights, has also taken no interest. Why are they not interested?
Unfortunately, I realized something while campaigning for my father’s repatriation for the last 20 years. I spent my childhood and youth in the ‘70s and ‘80s after my father was abducted to North Korea. In those politically, economically, and socially turbulent times, students received special training classes in middle and high school as part of an anti-communist education.
When I was in elementary school, my school conducted a survey on my family status once a year. The survey included writing down my family relations, my father’s job, and my address, as well as submitting information about my ownership of a phone, refrigerator, car, house, etc.
At that time, my homeroom teacher looked at my survey sheet and asked me what my father did for a living. I told my teacher, “My father is an MBC producer and he was abducted to North Korea in 1969 while flying on a business trip.” My teacher’s eyes widened, and he/she couldn’t close his mouth, saying, “What, he defected to North Korea?” The general public did not even have a word for North Korean abduction, and my kidnapped father was not seen as a victim, but was instead dismissed as a traitor who could be temporarily sent down as a spy. And I too was teased for being the son of a spy.
My family became weak and vulnerable both socially and economically. During this time, I had to live thanking God that I had all my four limbs. Guilty by association, I could not even choose my occupation. It’s really a past I want to hide.
When I turned 34, I started a campaign to repatriate my father after the stewardess who was abducted with him met her family at the 3rd round of family reunions in 2001. However, because no one could sympathize with my father’s plight, I felt alienated from the public, just as if I was trapped in a prison in an endless cave. As I began my father’s repatriation campaign alone, I became weak economically and socially, and I have been working as a day laborer.
Thankfully, this time TNKR Director Casey Lartigue asked me, “What do you want to do?” and told me, “I want to help you.” I said my wish was to write a book detailing the KAL abduction case and the past 50 years of my life.
Since South Korean society is cold and apathetic, one of my strategies is to raise public awareness in Korea by first doing so internationally. It’s a project that begins by trusting all of you. I sincerely ask for your sympathy and participation.
October 14, 2020