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California's 40th District

While South Korea is a modern and free nation, communist North Korea remains a totalitarian nightmare filled with prison camps and widespread malnutrition. The world has changed dramatically since the Korean War ended in 1953, but the “hermit kingdom” is still a Stalinist throwback.

It’s easy to forget the ongoing human cost of this tragedy, including the many Koreans families who were separated during the partition. Because it restricts the internet, calls and letters, the North Korean dictatorship makes such connections nearly impossible.

Since 1985, the Korean governments have arranged 28 in-person and video reunions, but “the estimated 100,000 Korean Americans with family members in North Korea have been left out of this process entirely,” notes U.S. Rep. Young Kim, R-La Habra.

Kim and fellow Korean American Rep. Michelle Steel, R-Seal Beach are part of a bipartisan effort to locate separated families and facilitate get-togethers. As the years march on, this may provide a last chance for some closure.

As the Divided Families Reunification Act explains, “more than 3,000 elderly South Koreans die each year without having been reunited with their family members.” The act is reasonable in scope. It would fill the long-vacant Special Envoy on North Korean Human Rights Issues and direct the U.S. secretary of state to work with the South Korean government to seek out opportunities to reunite Korean families.

The legislation provides no new spending authorizations, nor does it give the federal government any new powers. It would mainly empower the State Department to make these family arrangements a diplomatic priority. The bill would also require federal officials to regularly report back to Congress on their progress.

The culprit is North Korea, which controls its borders with an iron fist – and even kidnaps North Koreans who have defected. Although it’s beyond America’s ability or authority to bring freedom to that troubled land, our government can use its influence to advance humanitarian goals. We laud the bill and are pleased that local representatives, including Katie Porter, D-Irvine, are co-sponsors.

OC Register

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