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This is the story of an international parental child abduction which has been going on for almost three years. The US State Department website explains how the Hague Abduction Convention is supposed to help get children back quickly to the left-behind parent (in this case, the father). The US and South Korea are treaty partners under this convention, and courts in both countries have ruled with finality that the children should be returned to him in California. However, the authorities responsible have failed to enforce the court orders.
As a result, the children have become completely cut off from their father, their extended family, and their American heritage…for no valid reason whatsoever. Even videochat and phone calls are no longer possible.
The father is beginning public demonstrations in Seoul, doing everything he can to be reunited with his children. Please get involved and help in any way you can!
Starting in October 2022, the left-behind parent is carrying out single-person outdoor public demonstrations at various locations around the city of Seoul. Walking at each site for hours per day on a portable treadmill, he yearns to be reunited with his children. Please show your support and help him reach them!
If you are able to assist with accessing government officials or journalists in either the US or Korea, please email the left-behind parent directly at firstname.lastname@example.org
And please follow along on social media to lend your support and keep up to date on activism campaign opportunities and the latest developments in this case:
Documents About the Case
Life in San Francisco
Limited Access During Court Proceedings in Korea
San Francisco and Seoul Agree: Bring the Kids Back!
Related News Stories
Major Events Along The Way.
- 2013 Getting Together
- Father (a US citizen) and mother (a citizen of South Korea) met in San Francisco, got married there, and bought a house together. Mother became a permanent resident of the United States, where they made their shared life together.
- January 2017
- A Son Arrives…Born in San Francisco, big brother spent several days in the NICU before coming home from the hospital. View photos from life in San Francisco.
- December 2018…And A Daughter Too
- During a visit to Korea, little sister was born in a hospital there, and then everyone flew back home to San Francisco. Both children became dual citizens of the US and South Korea.
- November 2019 Departure
- After some marital conflict, mother took children to Korea for what was supposed to be a brief cooling-off visit, but without return tickets. Before flight, father gave limited consent for visit (only until December 20).
- December 2019 Negotiation
- Father flew to Korea for daughter’s first birthday and attempted to negotiate a return amicably. Mother eventually agreed to return by end of February 2020, and bought return tickets.
- January-February 2020 No Return
- Father flew to Korea again for son’s third birthday, and spent the month of February helping mother take care of children. (This turned out to be father’s last real parenting time with children.) At end of month, mother canceled return tickets for herself and children. Mother held children’s passports, so father flew back to California alone to take legal action.
- March-July 2020 COVID-19 Lockdown in USA
- Due to the pandemic, California courts mostly closed down, but father managed to file request for order (custody and return of children) in San Francisco County Superior Court. Hearings eventually took place via telephone (with mother participating remotely as well from Korea). Restrictions on videochat access between father and children began, at times cut off altogether for as long as three weeks.
- August-November 2020 San Francisco Court Decisions, Hague Filing
- The San Francisco court ordered that children be returned to California. Mother did not comply, so court assigned sole legal and physical custody to father and authorized him to travel to Korea to retrieve children. Father flew to Korea and quarantined in government facilities for 14 days. Mother still would not let him take children back to California, so father remained in Korea to file request for return of children in Seoul Family Court under the Hague ConventionDecember 2020-Visitation in Korea
- Remaining in Korea throughout the entire pandemic, father was finally able to see children again in person for daughter’s second birthday (after being able to see them only via videochat for ten months). Visits continued on and off under highly restricted constraints throughout the year of 2021. View photos from these visits.
- June-October 2021 Seoul Family Court Decisions
- The Seoul Family Court proceedings took many months (even though under the Hague Convention, they should be handled with urgency, typically in under six weeks). Finally in June 2021, the court decided that the children should be returned to San Francisco. In October, the appellate court confirmed this decision, and granted provisional execution, allowing enforcement proceedings to begin. In response, mother prevented visitation altogether for three months, and made her final appeal to Korean Supreme Court. Father was not allowed to see daughter at all on her third birthday.
- February 2022Korean Supreme Court Decision
- Finally, the Korean Supreme Court confirmed the Seoul Family Court decisions, dismissing the mother’s appeal once and for all.
- February 2022-Lack of Meaningful Enforcement
- Father’s attempts to get the return decision enforced by the Korean authorities have so far been unsuccessful. The bailiffs make excuses to avoid direct execution. The court’s weak indirect enforcement mechanisms fail to achieve a voluntary return. Meanwhile, father has become entirely cut off from the children, no longer able to see them even via videochat. After the Supreme Court decision, the Korean courts provide him with no access at all while enforcement is in progress.
- June 2022 State Department Citation
- Due to delays and enforcement failures in this case and others, the US State Department’s annual report on international parental child abduction cited the Republic of Korea for demonstrating a pattern of non-compliance in its Hague treaty obligations. State Department officials have held high-level talks with their Korean counterparts, but so far these have not led to a successful return. View the report and media coverage.
- When Will It End?
- September 2022-At present, the father remains in Korea trying to resolve the case, but is still entirely without access to the children. Despite all court decisions in his favor, he has not been allowed to spend any time with them at all since January 2022.