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Feb 7, 2021 | In The News, Small Business

Separated family members from South Korea hold the hands of their family members from North Korea on a bus at Mount Geumgang in the North in this Oct. 22, 2015 photo, after a reunion event for families separated by the 1950-53 Korean War. There have been no family reunion events for Korean Americans in the United States who have separated relatives in the North.

Twenty-one members of the U.S. Congress have proposed a bill to call for a family reunion event for Korean Americans who have separated relatives in North Korea, according to the congressional website and a Washington-based V.O.A. report. Grace Meng, who has a Korean American husband, proposed the bill, called the Divided Families Reunification Act, last Thursday, together with other members of Congress, including four with Korean roots: Young Kim, Michelle Park Steel, Andy Kim and Marilyn Strickland. “I rise today to announce the reintroduction of my Divided Families Reunification Act, and to raise the voices of families who have been separated for decades both across the DMZ [Demilitarized Zone] and across the Pacific Ocean,” Meng said in a session of Congress, according to the website. “The division of the Korean Peninsula into South and North Korea separated millions of Koreans from their family members. Through the years, there have been some agreed upon reunions between South and North Koreans. For Korean Americans, however, there is no pathway for such reunions, as they have not been permitted to participate in these inter-Korean family reunions.” This is the second time for Meng to propose the bill, about a month after the 117th Congress was inaugurated, following her first proposal in March 2019. During the 116th Congress, the bill was passed by the House of Representatives and had been waiting for the Senate’s decision to get the U.S. President’s final approval, but the Congress ended with discussions unfinished. According to Meng, the bill requires the U.S. secretary of state or a designee to consult with officials in South Korea on potential opportunities to reunite Korean American families with family members in North Korea, while also requiring a U.S. special envoy on North Korean human rights to submit a report on the opportunities for video reunions. The post of U.S. special envoy for North Korean human rights has remained vacant since the past administration under former President Donald Trump, but the new Joe Biden government is expected to review a nomination for the post, according to the U.S. Department of State. “Many of these Americans are in their 70s through 90s, and time is of the essence to be reunited with their families,” Meng said. Meanwhile, South Korean Unification Minister Lee In-young also said in a recent press conference here that he hopes that the Koreas might resume reunions for separated family members on the occasion of the Lunar New Year holiday, which starts Feb. 11.

Korea Times

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