Senator Kirk, Divided Families Advocates Urge U.S. State Department to Prioritize Reunification of Korean-American Families

More Than 100,000 Korean-Americans Separated from their Families After Korean War; Kirk, Warner Introduced Bipartisan S. Res. 190 to Urge State Department to Prioritize Reunification of Separated Korean Families

CHICAGO –-(ENEWSPF)–June 8, 2015.  U.S. Senator Mark Kirk (R-Ill.), co-chair of the Senate Human Rights Caucus, joined by Chahee Stanfield, Executive Director of the National Coalition on Divided Families, and Young Hwan Cho, a Korean-American separated from his family in North Korea, hosted a field hearing today on the Senator’s Divided Families resolution that seeks to reunite the millions of Korean Americans who were separated from their families during the Korean War. During the war, more than 10 million Koreans were separated from family members, and today more than 100,000 first-generation Korean-Americans remain separated from family members abroad. Last week, Senators Kirk and Mark Warner (D-Va.) introduced S. Res. 190, which urges the State Department to prioritize reunification efforts and encourages North Korea to permit reunions between Korean Americans and their relatives still living in North Korea. 

“We need to make sure that there is an official channel to assist in the reunification of Korean Americans, including the 60,000 Korean Americans in Illinois, with their relatives in North Korea,” Senator Kirk said. “It’s time the State Department prioritize these reunification efforts to that families like Chahee’s and Young’s can finally be at peace.” 

Senator Kirk has long championed the issue of Korean Divided Families. When Senator Kirk served in the House he worked to prioritize language in 2009 which urged the State Department to reunite families that were separated during the Korean War, and to appoint a coordinator for these families. From 2007-2010, Senator Kirk served as co-chair of the bipartisan Congressional Commission on the Divided Families, which documented cases of divided families and urged the North Korean government to allow them to reunite. In September 2014, Senator Kirk and Senator Chris Coons (D-Del.) launched the Senate Human Rights Caucus, which was formed in the spirit of the Congressional Human Rights Caucus. 

Chahee Stanfield was separated from her father and brother shortly after World War II. During the Korean War, Stanfield’s brother, Oong Hee, was conscripted into the North Korean Army. She lost contact with him and does not know if he is alive. She has partnered with Senator Kirk over the last 14 years to raise awareness of the more than 100,000 Korean-Americans still separated from their families back home. 

Young Hwan Cho fled North Korea as a young boy. He left his mother and two younger siblings who were supposed to meet up with Cho in South Korea. While boarding a boat to travel to South Korea, Cho’s mother was forced to leave behind her two children due to North Korean soldiers firing upon those trying to depart. On her death bed, Cho’s mother asked him to find his younger siblings in North Korea and apologize for their mother abandoning them at the seashore without food or clothes.

Source: kirk.senate.gov