Congressmembers Meng and Taylor Introduce Bipartisan Legislation Seeking to Reunify Korean Americans with Family Members in North Korea

Feb 8, 2021
Press Release

WASHINGTON, D.C. – U.S. Rep. Grace Meng (NY-06), the new Vice Chair of the House Appropriations Subcommittee on State and Foreign Operations, and Rep. Van Taylor (TX-03) introduced the bipartisan Divided Families Reunification Act that seeks to help Korean American families reunite with their loved ones in North Korea.

Since 1985, 21 family reunions have been held between North and South Korea. But Korean Americans who may have family members in North Korea, have been not able to participate.

The legislation urges the U.S. Secretary of State to consult with his or her South Korean counterpart to identify opportunities for Korean Americans to participate in future reunions, including by video. It also encourages the Special Envoy on North Korean Human Rights Issues to work with the Korean American community to identify those same opportunities.

“In the last Congress, I worked with the Korean American community to pass the Divided Families Reunification Act,” said Meng. “It passed the House of Representatives but the Senate failed to act. I am proud to once again introduce this humane and commonsense legislation, and to partner this time with Congressman Van Taylor. There are nearly two million people of Korean descent in the U.S including many in my district in Queens, New York. I have had the honor to meet some of the divided Korean American family members, and it breaks my heart that their chance of a reunion with their loved ones grows less likely each day. Many of them are in their 70s-90s, and time is of the essence to be reunited with their families. We have the technology and resources to make this happen – we just need the leadership to see this through. I thank my colleagues for their support and I look forward to the Divided Families Reunification Act becoming law this year.”

“I'm proud to partner with Congresswoman Meng as we work to address this heartbreaking issue,” said Van Taylor. “While many Americans are fortunate enough to be able to sit around a table with relatives, recall shared memories, and embrace the ones we love, Korean American families across our country haven’t been able to communicate with family members living in North Korea for decades. I will continue advocating on behalf of the many Korean American families in North Texas who are longing for reunification until a resolution is reached."

“I welcome the legislation that Representatives Meng and Van Taylor are introducing,” said Ambassador Robert R. King (ret), former Special Envoy for North Korean Human Rights Issues at the Department of State (2009-2017). “The inability of Korean-Americans to meet with their relatives who live in North Korea is heartless and cruel.  Helping these divided families meet with their loved-ones again should be an element of our human rights efforts with North Korea.”

"We proudly support the tireless efforts of Reps. Grace Meng and Van Taylor to reunite Korean American divided families with their loved ones in North Korea,” said Charles Yoon, President of the Korean American Association of Greater New York (KAAGNY). “As an organization that represents the second largest Korean American community including Flushing, we thank Rep. Meng for being our champion in Congress and on this issue.”

“KAGC appreciates Reps. Meng and Taylor for their bipartisan leadership to address this humanitarian issue. Based on commonsense, comity, and compassion, the Divided Families Reunification Act is a long overdue concrete plan in U.S. policy toward the Korean peninsula and a monumental step in the critical peace process,” said Wonseok Song, Executive Director of the Korean American Grassroots Conference (KAGC). “We, our allies, and community partners across the country look forward to seeing this bill enacted this Congress after years of awareness-raising from the grassroots to Capitol Hill.”

“Millions of Korean families have been separated by the Korean War 70 years ago, and many of them have since become American citizens. The Divided Families Reunification Act addresses this long-standing humanitarian tragedy and means a great deal to the Korean American community in North Texas and across the United States,” said SukChan Yu, president of the Korean Society of Dallas. “We thank Reps. Meng and Taylor for their leadership on addressing this issue and helping bring peace.”

"During this time of isolation and separation for so many Americans during the pandemic, Representatives Meng’s and Taylor's initiative to reuniting elderly Korean-American divided families is especially timely and meaningful. This bill would be a historic milestone in providing closure for those who have endured the lasting pain of the Korean War for the past seven decades," said Paul Lee, President of Divided Families USA.

The Divided Families Reunification Act is endorsed by: Divided Families USA, Korean Americans in Action, Korean American Grassroots Conference, Korean American Association of Greater New York, Council of Korean Americas, American Friends Service Committee, Maryknoll Office for Global Concerns, Action One Korea, Presbyterian Peace Network for Korea, One Corea Now, S.P.Ring Solidarity Indianapolis, Network for Peace and Unification in USA, Korea Peace Network, Peace Action New York State, Women Cross DMZ.

In Fiscal Years 2020 and 2021, Meng secured provisions in Appropriations reports that supported the reunification of Korean Americans and their families in North Korea.

She also unanimously passed the Divided Families Reunification Act in the House during the last session of Congress on March 3, 2020. However, the legislation was not taken up by the Senate.

# # #