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U.S. Houses passes bill to help Korean Americans reunite with N.K. family members

All News 01:01 March 11, 2020

By Lee Haye-ah

WASHINGTON, March 10 (Yonhap) -- The U.S. House of Representatives has passed a bill aimed at helping Korean Americans reunite with their family members in North Korea.

The Divided Families Reunification Act, introduced by Rep. Grace Meng (D-NY), passed the House Monday evening by a 391-0 vote.

The bill directs the Department of State to consult the South Korean government on opportunities for reunions between Korean Americans and their North Korean family members. It also requires the State Department to periodically report to Congress on the progress of such consultations.

This Reuters file photo shows the U.S. Capitol Building on Capitol Hill in Washington. (Yonhap)

"I thank my colleagues in the House for supporting this important legislation and I'm pleased that the divided families issue is finally being addressed by Congress," Meng said in a statement. "The separation of family members after the division of the Korean Peninsula has been heartbreaking, and continues to pain thousands of Korean Americans all these years later, particularly elderly individuals for whom any chance of a reunion with loved ones grows less likely each day."

The congresswoman urged the Senate to immediately pass a companion bill that was introduced by Sens. Mazie Hirono (D-HI) and Dan Sullivan (R-AK) last Thursday.

"I have met with some of these Korean American divided families, and my heart aches for them," she said. "While the Korean War is sometimes known as the 'Forgotten War,' we must let these divided families know their pain and heartache will never be forgotten."

Korean Americans have had little to no contact with their family members in North Korea since the 1950-53 Korean War, while South and North Koreans have held 20 face-to-face reunions since 1985, according to the legislators.

The bill aims to include Korean Americans in future reunions.

hague@yna.co.kr
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