In April 1958, 26-year-old In-Ho Oh, who had left South Korea to continue his studies and was living with an aunt and uncle in West Philadelphia, went to mail a letter at 36th and Hamilton Streets.

He never returned. He was beaten to death by 11 juveniles and left on the street corner, police said.

His aunt, Za Yung Oh, remembers being so shocked when she heard the news that she couldn't move. But on Friday morning, Oh, 95, said she was thankful. A small crowd had gathered on the corner where her nephew was killed to commemorate his death - and to name the 3600 block of Hamilton "In-Ho Oh Memorial Way."

The street-naming ceremony was led by her son, City Councilman David Oh, who held back tears while telling the story of his cousin's death. Sixtieth anniversaries are important in Korean culture, he said, but he decided to recognize the incident two years early because he wanted to make sure his mother was able to see it.

For him, the ceremony was about remembering In-Ho, but also about forgiveness. He reflected on the reaction to the murder when it happened: "The city was very angry, and in Korea they were as angry as well - [asking] how could America, the land of freedom and prosperity . . . how could this happen there?"

But this reaction, the councilman said, bothered In-Ho's father, Ki-Byang, who wrote a letter from South Korea to the director of the Philadelphia Red Cross and Mayor Richardson Dilworth, requesting that the perpetrators receive "the most generous treatment possible within the laws of your government."

"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," said the letter, which David Oh read aloud at the ceremony. It went on to say that the family had decided to create a fund for the boys to assist them after their release.

According to an internet post by Paul McSorley, a now-deceased Philadelphia lawyer who represented one of the alleged assailants, nine of the 11 were charged with murder, and five were convicted. One received the death penalty, three got life sentences, and one received 10 to 20 years in prison.

The ceremony included remarks from religious figures and other members of Council, including Jannie Blackwell, who cosponsored the resolutions with Oh to change the street sign and officially commemorate the 58th anniversary of In-Ho's death.

David Oh said the incident brought up difficult questions at the time on how society should handle crime, and he thinks that is part of why it's relevant today.

"Do we crush [criminals] as an example?" he asked. "Or do we rehabilitate them, do we try to understand them?"

Several speakers, including the Rev. Jay Broadnax, president of the Black Clergy of Philadelphia and Vicinity, said the example set by In-Ho's father was important.

"We need a different response [to violence] than what we're seeing," Broadnax said. "Because what we see is responses in anger, responses that are vindictive, and that seek out retribution, but what we've seen in this act was the seeking of restoration."

After the ceremony, Za Yung Oh remembered her nephew as "a very faithful Christian, very hardworking, and just very promising." In their remarks, others reflected on the successes In-Ho did not live to achieve.

"This is a small thing, of course," David Oh said, looking up at the sign. "But it is an important thing."

jchadha@philly.com 215-854-4524 @JanakiChadha