TIFTON — Horace “Race” Reed III went missing on Oct. 13 at a surfing tournament in South Korea, where he lived and taught English. Now his family is seeking help to find his body and bring him home.
Reed’s mother, Liz Carson Keith, said that her son was kind and very smart. After graduating from Tift County High School, he earned a degree in economics from the University of Georgia and spoke three languages. He was very athletic and enjoyed outdoor activities like mountain climbing and surfing. Reed had gone to a surfing competition at a beach called Yangyang-gun with friends when he disappeared.
Keith said that everyone was excited about the competition, since a typhoon coming in to Japan meant there would be big waves. Reed wasn’t going to be surfing, since the waves were so big and the current was very strong.
“It wasn’t supposed to be dangerous,” Keith said. She said that he and his friends were camping on the beach when Reed went into the water for a quick dip to cool off.
“He had been there before,” Keith said. “The waves were high but he’s a strong swimmer.”
Reed went in about knee deep and was crouched in the water to cool off when he was pulled under, according to Keith.
A friend who was with Reed at the beach made a Facebook post about the incident. He said that local emergency services responded and spread out along the beach to look for him, but that the weather conditions prohibited boats and helicopter search and rescue.
Reed’s wife, Hoyeon Ryu, obtained footage from the South Korean military that showed Reed after he went into the water. Keith said that the close proximity to the border with North Korea meant there is a lot of surveillance in the area, and that the footage showed Reed fighting the current for 12 minutes before he was out of camera range.
“He swam for 12 minutes,” said Keith. “He could have been rescued, but there was no attempt made.”
Keith posted a letter from Reed’s wife, Hoyeon, which says that she saw the video footage of him.
“Race was fighting really hard for 12 [minutes] all by himself against… the big waves in [the] typhoon,” the letter said. “It broke my heart. Because I couldn't stop thinking of how lonely and scared Race would have been feeling during his lonely fight.”
Keith said that the weather made it impossible to search for Reed until the fourth day after he went missing. By then, it changed from a search and rescue to a recovery operation, but the local authorities called the search off on Oct. 28.
Race Reed has still not been found. His family is determined that he should be brought home and are asking for help.
Keith said that they have been in touch with their state and federal representatives as well as the American embassy in South Korea. They are trying to get the United States military to help as well, but Keith said they are running into problems.
“The embassy says it’s the coast guard that has to ask for help,” Keith said. “The coast guard says the embassy is the one that has to offer. The embassy said they’re monitoring the situation, but we don’t need monitoring. We need action.”
She said that the military has the equipment to find him but it isn’t being used.
“Nothing seems to be getting done,” she said. “I’m lost and I don’t know what to do, but I can’t stop until I know where he is and what has become of him.”
Keith said that Hoyeon and her family are still trying to get help to find him in South Korea. She is asking people in Reed’s hometown to contact their elected officials to ask for help in locating him.
She is also asking them to contact the American embassy in South Korea at SeoulinfoACS@state.gov.