Kwon Hyi-ro

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Kwon Hyi-ro
Hangul 권희로
Hanja 權嬉老
Revised Romanization Gwon Hui-ro
McCune–Reischauer Kwon Hǔi-ro

Kwon Hyi-ro (Japanese: Kin Kirō) (November 20, 1928 – March 26, 2010) was a second-generation Korean in Japan born in November, 1928 in Shimizu, Shizuoka, who became a national hero in South Korea[1] after holding 18 Japanese citizens hostage in 1968.[2]


His father, Kwon Myung-sool, was killed in an accident during construction work in 1931. His mother remarried in 1933. At that time, his family name changed from Kwon to Kim. Since his family was poor, he dropped out of elementary school by the fifth grade, after repeated racial intimidation by classmates.[3] He was caught for theft and was put into the reformatory in 1943. After that, he committed crimes including theft, swindling, and burglary, resulting in prison terms.[3]

The Kin Kiro Incident[edit]

In what became known as "The Kin Kiro Incident", Kwon Hyi-ro shot and killed a gang leader and a gang member with his rifle in Shimizu City on February 20, 1968. Being sought by police, he then broke into a hotel and, armed with dynamite and a rifle, took as hostages 18 people who were either hotel guests or family of the hotel owner. He then called police to tell them where he was hiding.[4] On the second day of the incident, Kwon Hyi-ro released 5 of the hostages, but threatened to use dynamite to blow himself up if police came near him. He blamed Japan for "the creation and maintenance of two Koreas."[5] He demanded a public apology from two policemen about discriminatory remarks made to him in the past and full disclosure of the criminal background of the two men he had killed.[6] NHK broadcast the apology from two policemen on national television.[3] Kwon was arrested on February 24 after a 4-day standoff.[2][3] Ten of the hostages had been released by the time he was seized by police officers posing as reporters.[7] Kwon was subsequently prosecuted for murder, confinement and violation of explosive control rules. The Shizuoka District Court sentenced him to life imprisonment on June 17, 1973, and the sentence was confirmed by Supreme Court of Japan in 1975.

The 1969 story Manazashi no kabe (The wall of the gaze) by Kin Kakuei described the plight of the Zainichi (Korean Japanese) and described Kwon's actions as "justifiable resistance", and his case as "an 'ethnic problem' created by the crimes against Korea by the Japanese state and society".[3] The 1968 incident and his efforts on behalf of the Korean minority in Japan "made him a national hero in South Korea".[1] The 1992 South Korean film Kim's War, portrayed him as a hero.[8]

Kwon was released on parole on September 7, 1999 at the age of 70, on the condition that he would never return to Japan. He moved to South Korea[2] where he changed his name to his original of 'Kwon Hyi-ro'. He was considered in South Korea as "the hero who resisted discrimination", and was given a luxury flat and living expenses. However, on September 3, 2000, he broke into his lover's apartment in Busan City, attacked her husband, and set fire to the apartment. He was arrested on an attempted murder and suspicion of arson and, after being diagnosed as having a personality disorder, was sent to a sanitarium. As a result, a Korean musical about his life that had already scheduled an international tour was abruptly cancelled, just before its premiere. He was released in 2003.[9][10]

On March 26, 2010, he died of prostate cancer in a hospital in Busan, South Korea. He was 81.[11][12] His ashes were buried in Japan.


  1. ^ a b Mark Schreiber (November 4, 2003). "Ethnic anger". The Zeit Gist. Retrieved August 8, 2011. 
  2. ^ a b c "Hostage-taker Kim dies in Busan at 81". Asahi Shimbun. March 27, 2010. Retrieved August 8, 2011. 
  3. ^ a b c d e John Lie (2008). Zainichi (Koreans in Japan): diasporic nationalism and postcolonial identity. University of California Press. pp. 92–93. ISBN 0-520-25820-7. 
  4. ^ "18 in Japan held hostage by dynamiter". Pittsburg Press. February 21, 1968. Retrieved August 9, 2011. 
  5. ^ "Five of 18 hostages released, but rest threatened with death". Montreal Gazette. February 22, 1968. Retrieved August 9, 2011. 
  6. ^ "Korean holds 10 hostage in Japan". Spokesman Review. February 23, 1968. Retrieved August 9, 2011. 
  7. ^ "Hostages defend Korean who held them captive". The News and Courier. February 25, 1968. Retrieved August 9, 2011. 
  8. ^ Christopher Donal Scott (2006). Invisible men: The zainichi Korean presence in postwar Japanese culture. Stanford University. ISBN 0-542-89582-X. 
  9. ^ Hoseok Jeong. "Kim’s War without End:On Recent Cultural Appropriations of Kimhiro Incident". Tokyo University
  10. ^ 葦書房 「事件1999-2000」 佐木隆三 永守良孝
  11. ^ "Ex-convict who drew attention to plight of Koreans in Japan dies". Mainichi Daily News. March 26, 2010. 
  12. ^ Transpacific, Issues 62-64. AsiAm Publishers. Retrieved August 8, 2011. 

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