History of Divided Families
According to the South Korean Red Cross and the “Office for the Administration of the Five Northern Provinces,” as of 1991, there were over 7.2 million divided family members in South Korea. During the first round of reunions conducted by the South Korean government, of the 116,460 individuals applying for a reunion, by the end of June 2001, nearly 11 percent of the original applicants had passed away.
By January 31, 2012, the number increased to 128,678 registered applicants.
According to the Congressional Research Service in 2010, only 80 out of approximately 100,000 to 500,000 Korean Americans were ever given the opportunity to meet their relatives in North Korea.
In the United States, there are around 100,000 first generation Korean Americans who have been separated from their family members in North Korea. Time is running out as many of these current divided family members are in their 70’s-90’s.
The HR2595 bill, signed by President Bush, required the United States to facilitate the reunification of such families. Because the bill expired in 2008, the current bill, HR3288 was signed by President Obama to bring the issue back to national spotlight by hiring a Special Envoy for Human Rights in North Korea, Robert King. Even so, due to the political clout in North Korea, the issue of divided families is yet to be resolved by the embassy.