By Joe Anuta
The family of a 46-year-old tourist who was discovered floating in Flushing Bay last week is trying to secure visas to come to America and claim the body, a lawmaker who is helping with the process said.
The body of Junwoon Li, a Korean national of Chinese descent, was discovered floating in the bay Feb, 26 after she had been missing for four days, according to the office of U.S. Rep. Grace Meng (D-Bayside). Li was last seen Feb. 22 by her friends leaving a karaoke bar in Flushing at 11 p.m., according to Meng’s office, although no criminality was suspected by police.
After her initial disappearance, Li’s friends had approached community leaders and elected officials seeking help in locating her. Li had left the karaoke bar without her coat, wallet, phone and passport and did not speak English, according to a report in The New York Times.
Michael Chu, a Flushing activist, said he called in reporters from various Chinese-language media outlets to send out the message. But just hours later he was informed that a body had been found, he said.
Li’s friends had also reached out to the office of state Assemblyman Ron Kim (D-Flushing), who referred the problem to Meng’s office, since Li was a foreign national, making it a federal issue.
After the body was identified as Li, the congresswoman subsequently contacted the U.S. embassy in Beijing in order to expedite emergency visas for two family members to come claim the body.
“This terrible loss of life is a horrible tragedy,” said Meng. “We send our thoughts and prayers to the victim’s family and friends, and we’ll do all we can to assist them.”
Li arrived in the country Feb. 5 and had planned to visit New York for three months. She has a 44-year-old brother and 24-year-old son who live in Beijing.
Meng’s office succeeded in obtaining a visa for Li’s brother, but as of press time Wednesday was still working on documentation of the woman’s son.
This is the second time since November that a member of Congress has had to expedite a visa for the family of a slain tourist.
Former Rep. Gary Ackerman performed the same service in November, after a 37-year-old Chinese tourist named Haiyan Yang was brutally beaten and robbed in late October. A man named Brian Rodriguez was arrested and charged with the crime, according to the Queens district attorney.
Chu, who initially spoke with Li’s friends last week, said officers at the 109th Precinct had turned them away when they tried to make a missing person report. He said he is considering a protest.
The NYPD said its Internal Affairs Bureau was looking into the incident.
Reach reporter Joe Anuta by e-mail at firstname.lastname@example.org or by phone at 718-260-4566.