Dad offers reward to find missing son

SINGAPORE — A Singaporean businessman is offering a 3 million yen reward to find his only son, who failed to return from a hiking trip to Mount Fuji.

Koh Wei Ping, 21, a student at the Tokyo Institute of Technology, disappeared after he went to Lake Kawaguchi during a school break last October. His father, Koh Kia Swee, is offering the reward to anyone with information leading to his safe return.

Wei Ping had just finished a one-year Japanese-language course at the University of Osaka and was waiting to start undergraduate studies in electronic and electrical engineering. He was staying at Kawaguchi Youth Hostel and was last seen setting off for a day hike with a British tourist from the same hostel. The Briton said he turned back halfway because the trek was too difficult. Wei Ping left a note for his roommate at the university, saying he would be back Oct. 28.

The alarm was set off after Wei Ping’s mother discovered his absence Nov. 1 during her weekly call to her son. The father flew to Japan immediately, and through the help of Wei Ping’s classmates, who also acted as his translators, managed to track down the hostel. The only trace he found of his son was his backpack, which had been there since Oct. 27, the day Wei Ping disappeared. Koh filed a police report, after which the Fuji Yoshida police searched the Mount Fuji vicinity, including by helicopter.

With the help of the police and Wei Ping’s classmates, Koh put up more than 1,000 posters in major tourist areas such as Fuji, Yokohama, Kyoto and Nikko, Tochigi Prefecture. Koh also managed to contact the British tourist, who had gone to Taiwan. He told Koh that he left Wei Ping after he turned back halfway through the hike because he found the trail too strenuous. He said he didn’t see Wei Ping again because he left the hostel the next day.

Koh, who went back to Singapore in December, plans to return to Japan to continue his search. He has asked his friends who have contacts in Japan to help. “We are still searching for my son in various ways,” said Koh, who still works every day. “We are all very worried but we cannot think of it all the time. Life has to go on.”

Anyone with knowledge of Wei Ping’s whereabouts are urged to contact the Fuji Yoshida Police Station at (0555) 22-0110 or the Denenchofu Police Station in Tokyo at (03) 3722-0110.