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Congressional Record: November 10, 2005 (Extensions)][Page E2331]


10, 2005



of california

in the house of representatives

Thursday, November 10, 2005

Mr. BECERRA. Mr. Speaker, since the landmark Joint Declaration was

signed during the inter-Korean summit that took place on June 15, 2000,

11 rounds of family reunions between South and North Korea have taken

place. Over these 5 years, more than 10,000 people have been given the

chance to do something they have not done in over 50 years--and that is

to once again feel the warm embrace of their family. This past

Saturday, November 5, 2005, a 12th reunion began at North Korea´s Mount

Kumgang Resort and will last through today, November 10, 2005.

And so Mr. Speaker, I rise today to recognize this historic event, as

these incredibly emotional and heart-warming reunions underscore the

unimaginable pain experienced by families forced apart in 1950 at the

outbreak of the Korean War. A renewed sense of urgency surrounds these

reunions as divided family members are well into their senior years;

many of whom have already passed away and were never afforded the

opportunity to do that which so many of us are blessed to do daily:

converse face to face with a daughter or brother or mother or father.

Great strides have been taken to expand the breadth and depth of

these reunifications to allow for greater participation. In addition to

the face to face meetings, South Korea has incorporated live television

and video feeds for those family members who cannot make the trip to

Mount Kumgang. South Korea has also committed to hold family reunions

on a regular basis and institutionalize both the exchange of letters

and the process of confirming the fates and whereabouts of separated

family members. Already, the status of some 20,000 individuals--living

and deceased--have been confirmed. Furthermore, South Korea is

currently constructing a family reunion center that will serve as the

permanent location for hosting future reunions.

A seldom-cited fact is that there are more than 10 million separated

family members--a staggering one quarter of the nation´s population--

currently in South Korea. In addition, there are more than 500,000

Korean Americans here in our own country who also share the pain of

having separated family members in North Korea.

The South Korean government has held talks with North Korea on the

topic of including Koreans from all over the world in the reunification

efforts. As a result of the second and third round of ministerial

meetings that were held in 2000 between the two Koreas, 115 Koreans

living overseas, including 84 Korean Americans, have been afforded the

opportunity to see and be with their separated family members.

The South Korean government has stated that it will make all efforts

possible to continue to create greater opportunities for Koreans living

abroad to meet their divided family members. So far, about 1,000

Koreans living overseas have applied to participate in the reunions,

600 of whom live right here in the United States.

For these reasons, Mr. Speaker, I wish to recognize and pay tribute

to the 12th round of inter-Korean family reunions. Perhaps it is also

fitting for all of us here in this body to take a moment to reflect on

the importance of family, recognizing that the time we spend with them

is so precious and must never be taken for granted. I also wish to

express my personal appreciation and commend the government and people

of South Korea for all they have done to institutionalize these

important reunions and encourage them to continue their full commitment

to family reunification.

(Congressional Record) 11/20/2005