Congressman Van Taylor Leads Legislation to Reunite Korean American Families

Joins Congresswoman Grace Meng to Introduce the Divided Families Reunification Act

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Washington, February 8, 2021 | Anna R. McCormack (202-570-0927) | comments

WASHINGTON - On Thursday, United States Congressman Van Taylor (R-TX-03) joined his colleague from across the aisle Congresswoman Grace Meng (D-NY-06) to introduce H.R. 826, the Divided Families Reunification Act.

The legislation aims to reunite Korean Americans, who were separated from their families as a result of the Korean War, with their loved ones who still live in North Korea. 

Congressman Van Taylor (TX-03) shared, “I'm proud to partner with Congresswoman Meng as we work to address this heartbreaking issue. 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."

Congresswoman Grace Meng (NY-06) said, "In the last Congress, I worked with the Korean American community to pass the Divided Families Reunification Act. 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.”

As a result of the Korean War, millions of Korean families were separated between South Korea and North Korea with virtually no way to get in contact with family members residing on the other side of the Demilitarized Zone (DMZ). While North and South Korea have coordinated some family reunions in recent years, there is no pathway for reunification for Korean Americans who have been unable to communicate with their families since the 1950’s.

Ambassador Robert R. King (ret), former Special Envoy for North Korean Human Rights Issues at the Department of State (2009-2017) supports the legislation, stating, “I welcome the legislation that Representatives Meng and Van Taylor are introducing. 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.” 

Specifically, the bipartisan H.R. 826, the Divided Families Reunification Act requires the U.S. Secretary of State to consult with South Korean officials on potential family reunion opportunities for American families and their relatives in North Korea. It would also require the U.S. Special Envoy on North Korean Human Rights Issues to support family reunions, and to inform Congress of opportunities to utilize video technology to encourage virtual reunions.

The Divided Families Reunification Act has broad bipartisan support from national and local Korean American advocacy organizations including the Korean American Coalition DFW Chapter, the Korean Society of Dallas, the Korean American Grassroots Conference, and Divided Families USA

“The Divided Families Reunification Act, led by Representatives Van Taylor and Grace Meng, is critical both symbolically and practically. Symbolically, it means reuniting families and emphasizing unity for Koreans, where the value of family is paramount. Practically, the urgency of this type of legislation is unparalleled as families are becoming more and more distant with relatives on both sides of the border passing away every year. There is no better timing than now for these divided families, and I thank the representatives for leading this charge.” - Samuel Y. Kim, Ph.D; President, Korean American Coalition DFW Chapter

“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. We thank Rep. Taylor for his leadership on addressing this issue and helping bring peace.” - SukChan Yu; President, Korean Society of Dallas

“KAGC appreciates Rep. Taylor and Rep. Meng for their bipartisan leadership to address this humanitarian issue. Based on common sense, comity, and compassion, the Divided Families Reunification Act is a long overdue concrete plan in our policy toward the Korean peninsula and a monumental step in the critical peace process. 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.” - Wonseok Song; Executive Director, Korean American Grassroots Conference

“During this time of isolation and separation for so many Americans during the pandemic, Congressman Taylor and Congresswoman Meng'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.” - Paul Lee; President, Divided Families USA

Additional supporters of the legislation include Korean Americans in Action, 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, and Women Cross DMZ.

Legislative text of H.R. 826 can be found here.

A 7th generation Texan, Congressman Van Taylor is a dedicated family man, successful businessman, and decorated Marine Officer. Taylor served Collin County both in the Texas House of Representatives and Texas Senate. Today, Taylor is proud to serve on the House Committee on Financial Services.

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