WASHINGTON (Yonhap News) ― U.S. congressmen have introduced a bill calling on the Obama administration to help American citizens adopt stateless and orphaned North Korean children adrift in other countries.
Sen. Richard Burr (R-North Carolina) filed the bill titled “the North Korean Refugee Adoption Act of 2011” on Feb. 28, which says, “The Secretary of State and the Secretary of Homeland Security should make every effort to facilitate the immediate care, family reunification, and, if necessary and appropriate, the adoption of any eligible North Korean children living outside North Korea as de jure or de facto stateless refugees.”
Hundreds of thousands of North Korean refugees are believed to be hiding in China, fleeing poverty in their reclusive communist homeland, with some of them successfully smuggled into South Korea.
In the process, tens of thousands of North Korean children are said to be adrift in China without being attended to by their parents.
South Korea has received more than 20,000 North Korean defectors since the end of the 1950-1953 Korean War. The U.S. has taken in about 100 North Korean refugees since the North Korean Human Rights Act of 2004.
Despite international criticism, China repatriates North Korean refugees under a secret agreement with North Korea, categorizing the defectors as economic immigrants rather than refugees despite fears they may be persecuted or even executed back home.
The bill, also signed by Sen. Mary Landrieu (D-Louisiana), notes that “thousands of North Korean children do not have families and are threatened with starvation and disease if they remain in North Korea or as stateless refugees in surrounding countries.”
“Thousands of United States citizens would welcome the opportunity to adopt North Korean orphans living outside North Korea as de jure or de facto stateless refugees,” it said.
De jure means by law, and de facto means as a matter of fact.
A similar bill, introduced early last year by Rep. Edward Royce (R-California), has failed to pass through Congress.