Congressman Charles Rangel's resolution, H. Res 376 - Calling for Repatriation of POW/MIAs and Abductees in North Korea, was passed unanimously by Congress on Tuesday evening, December 13, 2011.
"This resolution gives hope to the families of the thousands of American soldiers and Koreans who never made it home from the Korean War. I am elated that Congress came together to pass this resolution, reaffirming our commitment to finding our heroes and loved ones even 60 years later," said Rangel. "However, this is just the beginning. I will keep working with the State Department to make sure we do everything we can to bring our loved ones homes."
Despite a gridlocked House, Rangel's resolution achieved overwhelming bipartisan support from both sides of the aisle. The resolution calls upon the U.S. government to resume and continue search and recovery operations for remains of 8,000 American soldiers in North Korea. It also calls for repatriation of the 100,000 South Korean civilians abducted during the Korean War.
Prior to the vote on Rangel's resolution, Rep. Ileana Ros-lehtinen (R-FL), Chair of the House Committee on Foreign Affairs, stated, "I am so pleased to rise in strong support of House Resolution 376, Calling for Repatriation of POW/MIAs and Abductees in North Korea. It is fitting that this resolution was introduced by one of the house's own Korean War vets, Congressman Charlie Rangel who hasn't had a bad day since." Ranking Member on the House Committee on Foreign Affairs, Rep Howard Berman (D-CA), also rose in support of the resolution and praised Rangel's Korean War service.
On the House Floor, Rangel said, "I want to thank the House Committee on Foreign Affairs, this Congress and this nation, for not forgetting our friends, but especially not forgetting those who still mourn those who gave up their lives for their great country, both South Korea and the United States of America."
Of the approximately 83,000 Americans missing from all conflicts, more than 7,900 are from the Korean War. 5,500 of these Americans are believed to be missing in North Korea. The U.S. halted operations to search for POW/MIA Americans missing in North Korea in 2005 due to increased tensions on the Korean Peninsula, but recently reached an arrangement in October to resume recovering the remains of American servicemen missing from the Korean War beginning spring of 2012.
The resolution also calls for the repatriation of South Korean civilians who were forcibly taken into North Korea during the Korean War. The Korean War Abductees' Family Union continues to fight for repatriation of the tens of thousands of South Koreans missing in North Korea. The New York Times recently reported on the union, whose represents over 700 families, and its struggle to recover their loved ones.
During a press conference prior to the House vote on the resolution, Rangel was joined by Ms. Lee Mi-il of the Korean War Abductees' Family Union, who founded the organization in 2000 and has since campaigned to generate more interest in the plight of those who have been unable to return to their families in the South. Ms. Lee's father, a factory owner in Seoul, was taken away by North Korean forces when she was only 18 months old.
"I would like to express my deepest appreciation to Congressman Charles B. Rangel, who is a Korean War Veteran himself, for making this resolution possible. The passage of this resolution will help us to work with the international human rights organizations to shed light on our issue," said Lee. "I believe Congressman Rangel has been able to fully empathize with our pain."
"When I first was sent to Korea in 1950, at the age of 20, I never would have imagined that South Korea would become the pillar of democracy, the great ally, and the economic and technological force that it is today," said Rangel. "We must never forget the sacrifice so many Americans and Koreans made to ensure the freedom that has allowed South Korea to prosper."
A Korean War veteran himself, who has earned a Purple Heart and a Bronze Medal for his service in Korea in 1950 (Kunuri battle), Rangel has also sponsored H.R. 2632 Korean War Veterans Recognition Act of 2009 (Public Law 111-41), and H.J.Res.86: Recognizing the 60th anniversary of the outbreak of the Korean War and Reaffirming U.S.-Korea Alliance, which passed in 2010. Rangel is often quoted to say "And I Haven't Had A Bad Day Since" November 30, 1950, when he was left for dead in the North Korea. In Congress, he is one of the strongest supporters of the Korean people and the Republic of Korea.
Added Rangel: "This resolution is not about Americans, it is not about Koreans, it is about doing the right thing and ending decades of pain for the loved ones of so many Americans and Koreans."
H. Res 376 was introduced by Rangel on July 27, 2011, National Korean War Veterans Armistice Day. It was supported by more than 60 bipartisan co-sponsors.
Many organizations have publicly supported the passing of Rangel's resolution, including: the Korean War Veterans Association, American Legion, Veterans of Foreign Wars, Coalition of Families of Korean & Cold War POW/MIA's, Korean War POW Affairs, the International Korean War Memorial Foundation, South Korean NGO's and the Korean War Abductees' Family union.