US explores possible family reunions with NK
By Kim Young-jin
Washington is exploring ways to facilitate contact between Korean-Americans and their North Korean family members separated by the 1950-53 Korean War, amid a slight warming of ties with Pyongyang.
“The United States remains concerned about the issue” and continues to do all that it can to raise this issue in relevant fora, the State Department said in a statement.
“We regularly meet with the American Red Cross to discuss possibilities and modalities to reconnect Korean-Americans with relatives in the DPRK,” the department added, using the acronym for the North’s official name, the Democratic People's Republic of Korea.
As part of its mission, the Red Cross makes efforts to reconnect families around the globe.
The statement came in response to earlier reports that Pyongyang and Washington agreed to an exchange of letters between separated Korean families in each nation.
Some 100,000 ethnic Koreans in the United States are believed to have relatives in the isolated state.
It also comes at a time of increased diplomacy with the North after Pyongyang sat down with Seoul and Washington in separate talks that focused on denuclearization.
Robert King, U.S. special envoy for North Korea human rights affairs, attended talks when a North Korean delegation led by Vice Foreign Minister Kim Kye-gwan visited New York late last month. The issue of separated families may have gained momentum during the talks.
The talks are aimed to pave a return to stalled multilateral negotiations, but Seoul and Washington first want Pyongyang to prove its genuine intent to denuclearize.
Observers here are also anxious to see whether the recent warming of inter-Korea ties foreshadow a fresh round of family reunions on the peninsula.
Speculation rose over a possible session sometime around the traditional Korean Thanksgiving holiday in September after Seoul offered the North aid in response to recent deadly flooding.