A block in University City has a new memorial after a dedication ceremony honored the memory of a young student who lost his life in 1958.
Republican Councilman David Oh hosted a ceremony to name the 3600 block of Hamilton Street as "In-Ho Oh Memorial Way" to commemorate the death of his cousin, In-ho Oh, in 1958 and his family’s response asking for lenient treatment for their son’s killers.
A top graduate of Seoul National University, In-Ho Oh came to Philadelphia to study at Eastern College and the University of Pennsylvania and hoped to return to Korea to serve his nation as a "Christian Statesman." On April 28, 1958, In-Ho Oh, who lived in the 3600 block, stepped outside his uncle’s apartment to mail a letter when he was assaulted by a group of 11 teenagers and beaten to death.
After his death, founder of Philadelphia’s first Korean American Church, Ki Hang Oh, established the "In-Ho Oh Memorial Korea Center" which provided social, religious, educational, and charitable services until 2006. Among the center’s board members was Mayor Richardson Dilworth, who established the "Mayor’s In-Ho Oh Memorial Scholarship" to provide a Korean University of Penn student full tuition.
In-Ho Oh’s parents were in Korea at the time of their son’s death, but their response to the killing stands out. NBC News obtained a copy of a letter written by In-Ho Oh’s parents, Ki Byang Oh and his mother Shin Wynn H. Oh, expressing disbelief in the loss, but no rage.
"We are sad now, not only because of In Ho’s unachieved future, but also because of the unsaved souls and paralyzed human nature of the murderers," the letter reads. "Our family has met together and we have decided to petition that the most generous treatment possible within the laws of your government be given to those who have committed this criminal action without knowing what it would mean to him who has been sacrificed, to his family, to his friends, to his county … Our whole family has decided to save money to start a fund to be used for the religious, educational, vocational, and social guidance of the boys when they are released."
NBC News reports that Councilman David Oh believes his cousin’s story "coincides with a real need in our nation today for understanding among our different communities" and his story shows that "forgiveness worked then, and can also work today."