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Startseite Urgent Actions 2019 01 TV producer held in North Korea for 50 years
UA 013/19
South Korea
Abgeschlossen am 10. Mai 2019
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27.3.2019: Deadline extension

We are extending the appeal deadline for Hwang Won to 10 May as a meeting between Kim Jong-un and Moon Jae-in in Seoul is still pending and there is a possibility that a new round of family reunion events may happen this year. In addition, it is considered to be strategically important to call on South Korea to raise this issue in its recommendations to be made during the UPR of North Korea (on 9 May).

In March 2019, Mr Hwang In-cheol (Hwang Won's son) delivered a speech at a well-attended side event at the UN Human Rights Council as well as in the EU parliament. Both events helped gather international momentum on the case, with several diplomats meeting with Mr Hwang following his testimony. Governments have also shared that they found his information helpful, especially ahead of the impending Universal Periodic Review (UPR) of North Korea where they might raise the issue as a recommendation to North Korea.

For more information, please see the video that was produced for the HRC side event by PSCORE (People for Successful Korean Reunification, an organization collaborating with Amnesty International) about the 1969 Korean Air Lines hijacking.

TV producer held in North Korea for 50 years

AI-Index: ASA 25/9751/2019

Hwang Won, a former TV producer from South Korea, was not allowed to return to his home country after arriving involuntarily to North Korea on a hijacked plane on 11 December 1969. Despite repeated requests from his family, the North Korean authorities have refused to disclose information regarding Hwang Won’s vital status or whereabouts for the last 50 years. South Korean authorities must call on the North Korean authorities to provide accurate information on Hwang Won, who will turn 82 this year.


The Korean War (1950-53) caused a mass displacement of people and led to the involuntary separation of many families between the two sides of the inter-Korean border since the Armistice Agreement in 1953. The war, however, has not ended officially with the agreement. With the two Koreas still technically at war, North Korea has continued to employ tactics over the past few decades such as the abduction of South Koreans or persons of other nationalities, resulting in the enforced disappearance of these individuals. The North Korean government even acknowledged the abduction of 13 Japanese nationals in 2002, but only five of them were allowed to return to Japan.

Like Hwang Won, many of those held captive in North Korea were people with special skills. From information given by a broker who helped people who left North Korea contact their relatives back home and sometimes to take them out of the country, Hwang In-cheol understands that his father had worked in the North Korean state broadcasting agencies. However, according to testimonies, including those from former victims of abductions by North Korea, persons who are forcibly taken to North Korea are deprived of not only the right to leave the country, but also the right to move freely within the country. Most of them face the risk of torture or other cruel, inhuman or degrading treatment, a higher degree of surveillance from the state than other people in North Korean, as well as disadvantages in education and employment opportunities.

In 2000, the Ministry of Unification of South Korea published a list of 516 people who have disappeared as a result of alleged abduction by North Korea since the 1953 Armistice. Although a law requiring the government to clearly differentiate between «displaced persons» and «abductees» was also passed the same year, such distinction has been limited in practice. Indeed, although Hwang In-cheol and his father are included on the list of families separated on the two sides of the inter-Korean border that are eligible for reunions, both governments have done little to ascertain the situation of Hwang Won. The family reunion events are co-organized by the governments of the two Koreas, but they only take place sporadically, depending on the prevailing political situation between two governments. Only about 100 out of the more than 60,000 eligible families are reunited in each event, and only one person from the same hijacked flight Hwang Won was on has ever had a reunion with her family. The chance of Hwang In-cheol being able to confirm the status of his father only through these arranged reunions is thus extremely slim.

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