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Daughter Takes Tribute Trip with Cardboard Cutout of Dad

Jinna Yang says she traveled the world with a cardboard cutout of her late father.

Jinna Yang with a cardboard cutout of her late father, Jay Kwon Yang, in Iceland. Courtesy Jinna Yang / Courtesy Jinna Yang

Twenty-five-year old Jinna Yang was seeking closure. Her father, 52-year old Jay Kwon Yang, had just passed away after a long battle with stomach cancer. Jinna, the oldest of three siblings, was grieving the loss of the man who'd largely raised her alone.

"My parents split up when I was seven. For the majority of my childhood, he was both my mom and my dad," said Yang. "He never made us want for anything."

Daughter honors late father with trip around the world 2:53

Yang's father came to the U.S. from Korea as a teenager. He helped his family make ends meet by working as a dishwasher and busboy at a restaurant. He earned a full college scholarship and eventually owned his own dry cleaning business, working long hours every day, six days a week.

Jinna Yang as a baby, with her father, Jay Kwon Yang.
Jinna Yang as a baby, with her father, Jay Kwon Yang. Courtesy Jinna Yang / Courtesy Jinna Yang

Yang says she didn't realize how much he'd sacrificed until she was a 19. A few years later, he was diagnosed with cancer. Within two years, he was gone.

Yang decided to honor his memory by fulfilling one of his dreams.

Jinna Yang as a toddler, with her father, Jay Kwon Yang.
Jinna Yang as a toddler, with her father, Jay Kwon Yang. Courtesy Jinna Yang / Courtesy Jinna Yang

"He was the rock of the family. The caretaker. The fun guy. Always smiling, always laughing," said Yang. "But my dad never got to travel. I know he really wanted to before he passed, and he just kept pushing it back and pushing it back until he was just too sick to do anything."

Yang found one of her favorite photos of her late father -- smiling, in a tux, from a church event. She quit her job. She gave up her apartment. She sold off and donated all her belongings. She booked a one way ticket to Europe and took off for a month-long adventure, with a life-sized, cardboard cutout of her father tucked under her arm.

"I ordered it online, and my friend's father is an industrial engineer. He helped me figure out how to score it to fold it flat," said Yang. "But I did it wrong, so it didn't fit into my bag. I ended up traveling with my 35-pound backpack, carrying this cutout under my arm the whole way."

Jinna Yang and a friend prepare to take a photo with a cardboard cutout of Yang's late father.
Jinna Yang and her friend prepare to take a photo with a cardboard cutout of Yang's late father. Courtesy Jinna Yang / Courtesy Jinna Yang

At every stop along the way, she would unfold the cutout, and have a friend, traveling with her, snap a photo.

Jinna Yang says she traveled the world with a cardboard cutout of her late father.
Jinna Yang with a cardboard cutout of her late father, Jay Kwon Yang, at Gullfoss Waterfall in Iceland. Courtesy Jinna Yang / Courtesy Jinna Yang

"My father never wanted to sit still and be sad," said Yang. "I think he would look down and see he's traveling and having fun and that's what he always wanted."

Her photos, posted on her blog, quickly went viral. The response, says Yang, has been overwhelming. Not just from strangers seeing and sharing the pictures, but from her own family.

Jinna Yang says she traveled the world with a cardboard cutout of her late father.
Jinna Yang with a cardboard cutout of her late father, Jay Kwon Yang, in Rome, Italy. Courtesy Jinna Yang / Courtesy Jinna Yang

"I showed the photos to my grandmother, his mom, and she just lost it," said Yang. "She kept saying how amazing it was, how wonderful, and how happy he would be."

"Being able to go there and come back and show my family, that's all I really wanted," she said. "I wanted to help bring them some form of peace."

Jinna Yang says she traveled the world with a cardboard cutout of her late father.
Jinna Yang with a cardboard cutout of her late father, Jay Kwon Yang, in Paris, France. Courtesy Jinna Yang / Courtesy Jinna Yang