Various Korean activists have started a campaign to gather signatures and rally for the release of Ronald Rhee, a Korean American who had been imprisoned for the past four and a half years.
Rhee, 25, had been arrested and imprisoned on the allegations that he had been involved in the murder of Brian Chin, who was 27 at the time of the crime in July 2006, with an Asian gang in Los Angeles. However, Rhee’s supporters argue that these are false allegations.
“We cannot release all of the information at this moment because his case is still undergoing investigation,” said Hyo-Woo Park, the co-president of the campaign, “but it’s a fact that Rhee was not at the scene of the crime.”
“I and others can testify that I’ve raised Ronald up as an honest man,” said Soo Rhee, Ronald Rhee’s mother. “Please consider Ronald as your own son and brother and join us in petitioning for his release.”
Rhee was in Seoul, South Korea at the time of his arrest in March of 2010, at which point in time he had been working as an English teacher in the country. He was extradited from the country to be tried at a U.S. court in mid-April of the same year. Rhee himself became a U.S. citizen at the age of nine.
Rhee’s arrest and imprisonment comes as a source of even greater frustration to the Korean community after the cases of Chul-Soo Lee and Han-Tak Lee. In both cases, the men were arrested and convicted of murder. Chul-Soo Lee was convicted of the murder of an Asian gang leader in San Francisco in 1973, while Han-Tak Lee was convicted of murdering his daughter, Ji Yun Lee, in 1989. However, both men were eventually found innocent when their cases were tried again, but it came at the cost of spending years in prison—10 years in Chul-Soo Lee’s case, and 24 years in Han-Tak Lee’s case.
Rhee’s supporters believe that, similar to these cases, Rhee is being wrongly accused and imprisoned, and that, as such, his human rights are being violated.
"Rhee is a U.S. citizen, but his human rights are being violated in the very country that emphasizes these rights," Park said. Park exhorted the Korean community and the church community to "be the dream, the future, and the parent of his young man," and to join in advocating "for his new life."