Korean Adoptees, Scholars, Activists Call For End to International Adoption

A large and impressive group of scholars, activists, adopted persons, and adoption practitioners has sent a Declaration Calling For An Immediate End to the Industrial International Adoption System from South Korea. (My thanks to @Koreanadoptee76 for the link; see swedishkoreanadopteesnetwork.wordpress.com.) Directed to the government of South Korea’s president Moon Jae-in, the declaration calls on the government  to do the following:

  • Terminate international adoptions from South Korea
  • Improve support for unwed mothers and for their children
  • Implement comprehensive post-adoption services
  • Audit adoption agencies
  • Address citizenship failures
  • Provide adequate services to deported adoptees

The signatories are many. This is an impressive, important document, not just in terms of South Korea, but for international adoption globally.

Korean adoptees are the largest and oldest group of international adoptees. They number in the hundreds of thousands, and range in age into their 60’s. Their decades of experiences provide solid information about the impact of adoption: some good, some bad, all over the spectrum. Many in the adoption community look to them as historians of an important past and as bellwethers of the future of adoption.

Having this group of academics, activists, adult adoptees, and many adoptee organizations call for an end to international adoption from Korea is extraordinarily significant. The call, which I’d argue has been simmering a long time, is partly in response to the tragedy of Korean adoptee Phillip Clay’s deportation and suicide, partly to the deportation of other adoptees from the U.S., partly to the need for better post-adoption services, and partly to demands that more resources be provided to single mothers in Korea, an economically vibrant country.

Another significant point is that these adult adoptees are also calling for better preservation and management of adoptees’ records. So many adoptees have returned to Korea (and other countries) to search for their adoption records, hoping to find their birth families, only to be told the records do not exist or were destroyed in a flood or a fire. Others have found their records only after multiple requests and incredible perseverance, often at high emotional and financial cost.

The maintenance of records by orphanages, adoption agencies, and countries of origins is vital. The records allow adopted persons to know their truths, to know their identities, to know who they are–all basic human rights. This is not a matter of paperwork–for some, it is restoration, salvation, freedom.

The deportation of international adoptees from the United States is one of the most shameful practices of our country. I can only imagine how the sending countries (Korea, Brazil, India, Germany, Mexico, and many more) feel about the fact they sent their children here and we in the United States did not grant them automatic citizenship until 2000, and still have not made citizenship retroactive for those whose parents failed to naturalize them. Talk about broken trust.

Adoptees are not the only ones publicly calling for an end to international adoption. Take a look at this powerful post by the adoptive mom of two now young adults from Korea: Off the Fence, at Third Mom blog.

I am still on the fence. Adoption can change the lives for the better for children, not just in terms of economics. I believe it should be an option. That said, I deeply respect the views and the writers of this Declaration. The traditional narrative of rescue and saviorism must end, along with the fraud and corruption–and it may not be possible to ever end fraud and corruption. Orphan prevention and family preservation have to be paramount. We adoptive parents should be speaking out strongly for both of these, as well as for citizenship for all international adoptees and for post-adoption services for adoptees and for first/birth families.

Please share the Declaration.


2 thoughts on “Korean Adoptees, Scholars, Activists Call For End to International Adoption

  1. I think it’s a mistake to end international adoptions. It leaves no options besides abortion or life without a family – and both aren’t superior to international adoption. I understand that there are adoptees that did not have a good experience, but what about the successful adoptions and adoptees that love their adopted parents and the family that wanted to raise and care for them? I don’t think financial support for single motherhood will do much, since it’s the stigma of single motherhood that factors into babies being given up for adoption. Whether the stigma is necessarily negative or positive can certainly be debated, however in the meantime there are children that need families that can provide love and financial support, – the sooner the better so they can attach to their new parents. Why not see international adoption as an option that meets a need, that can be vastly improved instead.

  2. The orphanage that “found me” has no record of me. The note I was left with – no one knows where it is. I was an orphanage for a week but my paperwork doesn’t state that I was that orphanage. I am not an orphan either. No one bothered to check to make sure I was legitimately found. My story as a Korean adoptee is not unique. Too many of us have incomplete paperwork and Koreans themselves say that Korea’s biggest export was babies. The excuses was that it was the war, and then Korea was poor. Korea is now the 11th largest world economic superpower. I met with teenagers that are in an orphanage. Again, they aren’t orphans and they a greater sense of self as they didn’t lose their culture, names, names, or first language. I can’t say which is better.

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