Consider this a bit of a preview: May 11 in Korea was the sixth annual Adoption Day, established to raise awareness on issues about adoption in and from Korea. And here is one major point to know about adoption in Korea: it must be understood within the context of Korean society, and in particular how it treats its women. For the most part, the birth mothers did not "give up" their children -- even if they put their children up for adoption, in most cases they did not want to. The translated article below gives a glimpse of the birth mothers' experience.
* * *
"A child is not some thing you can give up. I never gave up; the circumstances did."
On Adoption Day, May 11, the cry of the mothers who had to send away their child to the arms of another because of insurmountable circumstances brought tears to the eyes of the audience gathered at Social Welfare Fund Center at Seoul. In the first "Event for Single Mom" hosted by KoRoot, an organization that assists international adoptees, and Korean Association of Families with Unmarried Mothers, two mothers who sent their children to international adoption shared their heart-wrenching story.
Ms. Kim (37) said, "I gave birth to my daughter by myself in 1999, at age 24. I signed the papers giving up my parental rights and put my daughter in the adoption agency," and said as she sobbed, "At first I did not feel the motherly love, but once I saw the face of my daughter I could not bear to send her away. I begged the agency to return my daughter, but they refused because I signed away my rights and I had no way to earn money." She said, "I wanted to raise my own daughter somehow, but I had nothing and had no place to live together. I did not give up my child because I wanted to," and said, "I thought I was going insane after I sent away my daughter. I started drinking although I never really drank before; I did all kinds of things."
Ms. Kim said, "I am here because I hope my words will help other unmarried mothers," and urged, "the government should take the lead in creating an environment in which a mother can raise a child on her own, then pursue adoption if that fails."
Ms. Noh Geum-Ju (52) had her son, her son who was born in 1976 when she was 18, adopted to the United States against her will; she met her son 29 years later in 2005. She mustered the courage to speak as well. Ms. Noh said, "My husband was a gambling addict; I had barely given birth and could not even breast-feed yet, but my husband made me go to the blood bank to sell my blood," and said, "I ran away from home for about 20 days to teach my husband a lesson, but his other family sent the child away to the adoption agency."
She said, "I hate those words, 'give up the child.' I did not give up my child; others did." She wiped her tears as she said, "Regardless, I could not protect my son as his mother. I am a sinner. I have lived with the mindset that I deserve any stoning I get." She insisted, "Right now the young unmarried mothers may be at a loss, but I want them to never lose heart and protect the child with their own hands," and said, "Our society must build the frame in which mothers can raise their child on their own. Please stop pointing fingers."
Ms. Noh added, "the name 'Adoption Day' should be changed into 'Adoptee Day' -- the name sounds like it is encouraging adoption," and added, "the mother's heart cries out like an unending stream whenever she hears the word 'adoption.' I hope the government will be more sensitive to that."
자식 입양보낸 모성의 절규 “버린 거 아니에요” [Dong-A Ilbo]
* * *
The Korean will save his thoughts until later, but he just want to add a caveat here: if you want to discuss, PLEASE think about how you come across. Adoption issue is very, very, very, very, very, very, very sensitive to everyone involved. Please feel free to discuss, but if you are not capable of discussing a difficult issue with the requisite rhetorical sensitivity, shut up and let others talk.
Got a question or a comment for the Korean? Email away at firstname.lastname@example.org.