Reunion of Separated Korean American Families
--An Urgent Human Rights Issue--
Number 1, Feb. 2002
The U.S. Government Owes a Heavy Responsibility for the Division of Korea.
At the end of the WW II, the United States made a fateful, unilateral decision to divide Korea--a homogenous nation with its own language and long history of United Kingdom for about 1,500 years. Dividing Korea at the 38th Parallel was a temporary measure to stop the full domination of the Korean peninsula by the Soviet Union. But, as the Cold War intensified, the temporary division unfortunately became a permanent one and two separate states were established in Korea. Subsequently, this division prevented the free flow of people and goods across the divided line.
The Korean Division and the Korean War Resulted in Great Tragedy.
As a result of the continuing division and the massive destruction of the country in the ensuing Korean War, 1950-1953, millions of Korean family members ended up as refugees, leaving behind their family members in the North or South. Since the signing of the Armistice Agreement in 1953, these separated family members have been unable to visit or communicate with each other across the Demilitarized Zone (DMZ) until recent years. In the past few years, a limited number of separated family members were allowed to visit Seoul and Pyongyang after the historic meeting between President Kim Dae-Jung of South Korea (ROK) and Chairman Kim Jong-Il of North Korea (DPRK) in June 2000.
Many Korean American Families Suffer From This Human Tragedy Too.
With the continuing immigration of large number of Koreans to the United States in the last three decades, the Korean American community now has a large number of separated families who still have their loved ones in North Korea. However, due to the lack of any diplomatic relations between the U.S. and North Korea, it is almost impossible for the separated Korean American family members to visit their homeland to find their family members. It is even more difficult for the North Korean family members to visit the U.S. In particular, many of these people are in their 70's and 80's, desperately waiting for a chance to meet their lost family members before they pass away.
US Congress is Finally Paying Attention to This Issue.
While the U.S. government has been championing human rights around the world, the past administrations have paid little attention to this long-suffering tragedy of the Korean American families with separated members in North Korea. However, in December 2001, the U.S. Congress took an encouraging step by passing a joint resolution, S.Con.Res.90. This resolution urged Congress and the President to "support efforts to reunite people of the United States of Korean ancestry with their families in North Korea," in "a timely manner."
The U.S. Must Take Further Steps to Help the Reunion.
In accordance with the spirit of the joint Congressional resolution, it is urgent that the U.S. government take some concrete measures to realize an early reunion of the separated Korean American families. The Bush administration should (1) immediately establish a special assistance unit within the State Department which would assist the separated Korean American families in the arrangement of reunifying with their loved ones in North Korea and (2) establish a U.S./North Korean liaison office in both Washington and Pyongyang as soon as possible. It is also hoped that (3) the administration and Congress take active measures to negotiate and sign a peace treaty with North Korea through dialogue and engagement. This would end the long, lingering Korean War officially and normalize our diplomatic and economic relations with North Korea in the near future. Such positive steps will not only contribute to further consolidation of peace and security in the Far East but also bring an end to the great human tragedy of the hundreds and thousands of the divided Korean families as well as divided Korean American families.
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