Updated June. 10, 2010 13:59
I hope my application serves as an opportunity to draw international attention to North Koreas kidnap victims. By filing the application, I want to know if my father is alive.
So said Hwang In-chul, 43, the founder and head of an association of South Korean families whose relatives were abducted by North Korea via a Korean Air flight in 1969. He submitted an application Wednesday to investigate the disappearance of his father, Hwang Won, with the Working Group on Enforced or Involuntary Disappearances under the U.N. Human Rights Council.
Hwang In-chul is the first to file an application to find South Korean victims of the Norths past kidnappings with the working group, which was set up to help missing people and victims of kidnappings.
A producer at the Gangneung bureau of the broadcast network MBC in Gangwon Province, Hwang Won was aboard a Korean Air flight departing from Gangneung for Seoul on Dec. 11, 1969. Carrying four crewmembers and 47 passengers, the plane was hijacked by a North Korean spy at 12:25 p.m. and flown to the North.
The hijacking made headlines throughout the world and North Korea drew international condemnation. Thirty-nine of the passengers were returned 66 days after the hijacking, but the crewmembers and seven passengers including Hwangs father remained in the North.
Whether they are still alive is unknown.
With an application in his hand, Hwang In-chul expressed mixed feelings over his plight. I clearly know what I have to do, but had no solution and my familys fortune was on the wane, he said. I was about to give up but found a solution at the last moment.
With the help of a civic organization on promoting human rights in the North, which had applied with the working group to find a North Korean defector who disappeared near the North Korean border in 2004, Hwang prepared the application for six months.
Lee Young-hwan, a member of the civic organization, said, When such applications from Latin American countries including Argentina increased in the 1970s, the U.N. officially asked Argentina to take responsibility for disappearances.
When an application is accepted, the U.N. working group sends a letter to the responsible government or organization asking for an explanation. If North Korea is sent such a letter, it has six months to answer.
If its explanation is deemed insufficient, the world body can continue to ask for an additional explanation and let the world know of the Norths human right abuses through U.N. reports on human rights.
Hwang In-chul has taken the lead in drawing public attention to the fate of the abductees. It doesnt matter if North Korea provides an explanation or denies it. The fact that there is an opportunity for the North and the international community to pay attention to the abductees issue is major progress.