Michelle Steel – Reuniting Separated Korean Families Law

WASHINGTON, D.C. January 31, 2024 – Today, U.S. Representatives Michelle Steel (R-CA) and Jennifer Wexton (D-VA) introduced the bipartisan Divided Families National Registry Act to help Korean Americans reunite with their families in North Korea who they have not been able to connect with since the Korean War. The legislation would create a new national registry of Korean Americans and their families from whom they had been separated, modeled after previous state-organized family reunion meetings between the South Korean and North Korean governments.

“Over 100,000 Korean Americans have suffered the unknowable heartache of separation from their relatives who are still trapped in North Korea. For too long, these families have been denied the opportunity to reconnect with family members, but thanks to the Divided Families National Registry Act, we can work to bring together those who have been apart for over 70 years. I am honored to co-lead this legislation to right this wrong for so many Korean Americans who are running out of time to see their family members again,” said Steel. 

“Korean American families across the U.S. have felt the pain of being forcibly separated from their families during the Korean War for more than 70 years,” said  Wexton. “It’s long past time to do the right thing and help bring these families back together. I’m proud to lead this bipartisan legislation alongside Rep. Steel to give Korean American families hope and take a step towards creating opportunities for them to see their loved ones again.”

The bipartisan legislation would compile information about Korean American families and their relatives in North Korea, both alive and deceased, for a data repository through the U.S. State Department to help facilitate reconnection opportunities either through travel or digitally, if possible. Similar efforts by the South Korean and North Korean governments have successfully brought together more than 44,000 families.

Many Korean American families have waited more than 70 years for a chance to reconnect with their loved ones, and second- and third-generation Korean Americans have grown up with only stories of their family and heartbreak over decades of separation. The Divided Families National Registry Act takes an important step towards encouraging cooperation between the U.S. and North Korea to bring together long-separated families.