U.S. Congressmen pushing for expanded family reunions

February 6, 2014

By Kang Seung-woo

Four Korean War veterans who are now United States congressmen have called on North Korean leader Kim Jong-un to expand reunions of families separated by the 1950-1953 Korean War to include Korean-Americans.

South and North Korea agreed Wednesday to hold reunions between Feb. 20 and 25 at the Mount Geumgang resort in the North.

The legislators ― Democrats Charles Rangel from New York and John Conyers Jr. from Michigan, and Republicans Sam Johnson from Texas and Howard Coble from North Carolina ― delivered a letter to North Korea Ambassador to the United Nations Sin Son-Ho that urges Kim to extend the reunion effort to more than 100,000 Korean-Americans.

“Nothing is more tragic than the separation of families and loved ones. Taking actions to foster reconciliation would help build goodwill and trust with the international community,” the letter reads. “We encourage you to also create a pathway to allow some 100,000 Korean-Americans to meet with their divided families in North Korea before too many pass away.” They noted in the letter that they are the last remaining Korean War veterans in Congress.

Rangel also wrote to the New York Times on Monday, saying “As a Korean War veteran who has long advocated for peace and stability on the peninsula, I would hope for myself and many of comrades worldwide to see a united Korea in our lifetime.”

Meanwhile, they also urged the young dictator to release American detainee Kenneth Bae.

Bae was arrested in North Korea in November 2012 while leading a group of tourists and was sentenced to 15 years of compulsory labor for committing a crime against the state.

Rangel and Rick Larsen, another Democratic Congressman from Washington, invited Bae’s family to attend President Barack Obama’s State of the Union speech last month.

“You have done the right thing by releasing a fellow Korean War veteran, Merrill Newman, to return home. You would be making further progress on the humanitarian front by freeing Kenneth Bae to reunite with his family,” the letter said.

Newman, an 85-year-old Korean War veteran who was on a 10-day trip to North Korea, was also arrested on Oct. 26 and held for more than 40 days for masterminding espionage and subversive activities against the regime, alleging that he brought in reading materials that criticized North Korea.