Accessibility links

Breaking News

Korean-Americans Campaign for Reunions with North Korean Relatives

Many South Koreans have held reunions with North Korean family members since the '80s, as these people did in North Korea in February 2014, but the U.S. has not arranged meetings between Korean-Americans and their North Korean relatives.

A group of Korean-Americans with families in North Korea has launched a newsletter campaign to push for reunions between family members in the United States and North Korea.

The National Coalition for the Divided Families, a coalition of representatives from 13 states, announced the plan Wednesday.

In a phone interview with the VOA Korean service, the coalition’s public relations officer, Teresa Yi, said the campaign was aimed at seeking support from the U.S. government for the cause.

“We have Ambassador [Robert] King, the special envoy for North Korean human rights issues, so it is important to reach out to him and of course Secretary of State John Kerry. That is why we chose to send the newsletters to the State Department,” Yi said.

According to Yi, the email newsletters will be distributed weekly.

Last November, the group screened a documentary in Washington to try to raise awareness of the issue in Congress. However, the issue has drawn little attention, in part because of tensions between Washington and Pyongyang over Pyongyang’s alleged cyberattack on Sony Pictures. U.S. Senator Mark Kirk, an Illinois Republican, proposed a resolution calling for the family reunions in November, but it did not pass the Senate.

The group's secretary-general, Chahee Lee, told the VOA Korean service that Kirk is now pushing another bill.

It is estimated that about 100,000 Korean-Americans have relatives in North Korea. Some have held private meetings with their relatives, but none have been arranged through the U.S. government. Tens of thousands of South Koreans have held reunions with their North Korean family members since the 1980s.

Jee Abbey Lee contributed to this report, which was produced in collaboration with the VOA Korean service.