“I have submitted a petition to the National Human Rights Commission of Korea [NHRCK] to locate my father who has been detained in North Korea for 48 years. But I received the following reply: ‘Your petition has been dismissed due to the highly political and diplomatic aspects of the case.’ If the Republic of Korea ignores the suffering of those whose family members were victims of the KAL hijacking incident, it is no better than a country that violates human rights.”
Hwang expressed his exasperation with the committee for neglecting the KAL abductees. He held an official document from the NHRCK stating that it is “inappropriate” for the government to investigate the issue of those abducted by North Korea.
“NHRCK has systematically rejected our fundamental rights and rightful requests in accordance with humanitarian principles. This is an anti-constitutional act and a violation of human rights as outlined by the Paris Principles,'” Hwang noted.
Hwang, representative of the Association for Family Members of the KAL Kidnapping Victims, has been trying to focus attention on the plight of his father Hwang Won, who was one of the victims during the KAL abductions and has been held by North Korea for 16 years. He has expended significant efforts into repatriating his father since 2001, when he watched the third reunion of separated families on television. Since then, he has sought cooperation from the South Korean government, the United Nations, and North Korean human rights NGOs, etc.
However, the South Korean government has consistently shown a lukewarm response toward the KAL abductees issue regardless of the political leaning of each successive government. “The South Korean government has classified the KAL abductees issue in the same category with separated families and has postponed addressing the problem, claiming, ‘There are too many separated families who need the same support.’ Some government representatives even reprimanded me, saying, ‘Why would we tackle a case that occurred 40 years ago?'” Hwang said.
Hwang submitted a petition to NHRCK in December last year, asking for cooperation in repatriation efforts for the KAL abductees, including his father. The committee responded to his petition on April 4 this year, noting, “The abduction issue is a highly political and diplomatic matter and should be resolved in accordance with domestic and international political considerations and other circumstances. Therefore, it is inappropriate for the committee to investigate the case.”
“How could the NHRCK receive an ‘A’ grade from the international community if it cannot even follow the Paris Principles? The Republic of Korea does not uphold human rights,” Hwang said.
“For the past 16 years, the Division for Separated Families of the Ministry of Unification has not complied with humanitarian principles and the Convention for the Suppression of Unlawful Seizure of Aircraft. The illegal hijacking of civil airplanes should be resolved by repatriating the abductees and prosecuting the suspects at any cost,” Hwang emphasized.
Hwang has appealed to the Global Alliance of National Human Rights Institutions [GANHRI] to reconsider the NHRCK’s ‘A’ grade after holding a press conference critiquing the South Korean government NHRCK at the entrance of the NHRCK building and also at the back gate of the government building.
“When my father was kidnapped, I was only two years old, and from the age of 34, I began to pour all my efforts into bringing him back. However, even though I am in my 50s now, I still cannot expect any help from the government. But I will keep trying to confirm whether my father is still alive and repatriate him,” Hwang said.
Hwang Won (Hwang In Cheol’s father) boarded a domestic YS-11 flight from Gangneung to Gimpo on December 11, 1969. The plane was hijacked by the North Korean spy Cho Chang Hee at about 12:35 pm while the plane was in flight above Daegwallyeong.
At the time, North Korea promised to repatriate 50 passengers by February 4, 1970, in response to intensified international criticism, but reneged on its promises and only repatriated 39 passengers to South Korea on February 14. To this day, the four crew members and 7 passengers who were on the plane remain detained in North Korea and the regime has not provided clear information on whether they are still alive.