A group of U.S. congressmen pledged all-out efforts on Monday to help realize family reunions between Korean-Americans and their long-lost relatives in North Korea.
"This is a humanitarian issue that I believe has to be met with international attention," Rep. Robert Dold said during a forum on the issue held at a congressional building. "We're losing by the day family members that are no longer able to see their loved ones."
Millions of Koreans remain separated by the 1950-53 Korean War.
Since the first-ever 2000 summit of their leaders, the rival Koreas have held 20 rounds of face-to-face family reunion events including the latest one in late October. But these reunions did not involve Korean-Americans.
More than 100,000 Korean-Americans are believed to have loved ones in the North.
"Of course, many of the preferences are given to those that are sitting in Korea today and therefore many of the divided families that are here in America have little or no hope of being able to see their loved ones," Dold told the forum.
"The humanitarian issue of divided families is one for me that keeps me up at night and I will let you know that I will not stop, I will not rest until we put enough international pressure to allow these families to once and for all be able to see one another," he said.
Rep. Charles Rangel, who has led congressional resolutions calling for family reunions involving Korean-Americans, stressed that it's "basically wrong to separate children and their families and for people to not to know where they are."
"I'm convinced that we will be better Americans and better human beings by trying to do all we can to convince the world, especially people we don't understand in North Korea, let their families meet, let them talk with each other. That's not asking too much," he said.
Rep. Ed Royce, chairman of the House Foreign Affairs Committee, said that bringing information into the North is one of the best ways to bring changes in the communist nation.
"If we continue our effort to get information into North Korea, I don't doubt, I do not doubt for a minute that we will eventually see the same thing we did in East Germany. We will see freedom for the people in North Korea," he said.
"In the meantime, though, there is a generation about to pass on and that generation deserves to be reunited with their loved ones in North Korea. Let us all re-double our effort to make sure it is done," he said.
Amb. Robert King, U.S. special envoy for North Korean human rights issues, said that the U.S. government will continue to press the North on the issue.
King also said that the U.S. was "encouraged" by the recent agreement between the South and the North to hold high-level talks on Dec. 11, saying the issue of divided families is expected to be a topic. The envoy also said he hopes for reunions involving Korean-Americans as well.
"Let me reassure you that this is an issue that in the State Department and in the U.S. government, we're very acutely aware of," he said. (Yonhap)