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U.S. senators introduce bill to help Korean Americans reunite with N.K. family members

All News 07:11 March 07, 2020

By Lee Haye-ah

WASHINGTON, March 6 (Yonhap) -- Two U.S. senators have introduced a bill aimed at helping Korean Americans reunite with family members in North Korea.

Sens. Mazie Hirono (D-HI) and Dan Sullivan (R-AK) on Thursday introduced the bipartisan Korean War Divided Families Reunification Act, which directs the U.S. secretary of state to prioritize arranging reunions for the family members separated since the 1950-53 Korean War.

This AP file photo shows Sen. Mazie Hirono (D-HI). (Yonhap)

"Reuniting Korean Americans who were separated from their loved ones in North Korea seven decades ago is an urgent moral imperative," Hirono said in a press release. "This important legislation calls on the State Department to advocate for the inclusion of Korean Americans in reunions between divided families in North and South Korea. The reality is most divided family members are in their 80s and 90s so we must act swiftly to give these families the opportunity to reconnect."

Korean Americans have had little to no contact with their North Korean family members since the war, while South and North Koreans have held 20 face-to-face reunions and multiple video link reunions since 1985, according to the press release.

More than 22,000 Koreans have taken part in the reunions, and the bill aims to include Korean Americans in future reunions.

"Fathers, mothers, grandparents, aunts, uncles, brothers and sisters awoke one day to the reality that they would likely never see or hear from their families again, all due to an impenetrable border and hostilities between the North and South," Sullivan said. "Given the changing dynamics in this bilateral relationship, I believe there is new hope for these family members to connect and possibly reunite, if even for a short time."

Companion legislation introduced by Rep. Grace Meng (D-NY) is currently pending in the House of Representatives.

hague@yna.co.kr
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