Wednesday, May 11, 2011

Ask a Korean! News: Adoption Day

The Korean knows that many Korean adoptees and adoptive parents read this blog. As their questions pile up, the Korean is planning on a big series on adoption -- hopefully coming out in the next few months. (Still have to finish the Confucianism series and want to have one other series before getting to the adoption series.)

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.

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"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]

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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


  1. Thanks for the caveat. Looking forward to the series.

  2. I'm really looking forward to the series as well, and I appreciate the glimpse into the "other" side of the story that you shared here.

  3. Thank you so much for posting. I (along with many other adoptive parents) look forward to reading the series.

  4. yes, I'm looking forward to the series as well!

    At first, I was interested in international Korean adoption as a possibility in the future, since I'm a Korean-American, at least the child won't feel so out of place since the child would at least physically look like me. Also, how often do you have a Korean mother wanting to adopt? I feel like I'm the only one in this boat amongst my Asian peers. But then I thought of all the costs and would I want to support this industry? So many Korean children are adopted outside of Korea. So many children from all over the world are "adopted" into the US, but is this the only way to help? I know they are sent to such loving homes in the US, but shouldn't they at least have a chance to find homes w/in Korea?

    This article shows progress in Korea.

    Then I started looking into domestic adoption of Korean children in the US..... are there any Korean children w/in the US that are in need of a home? If they are, they are hard to find.

    In any case, it's such a complex issue and I'm glad to learn more about it. =)

    1. Many adoptions from ROK are "disrupted." However, I agree that they are probably hard to find, as geographically, they would be spread far and wide. Many adoptees whose adoptions are disrupted don't have US citizenship, and this makes their life doubly hard.

  5. Thank you, The Korean! I'm really interested in your upcoming posts. I am a twentysomething Korean American adoptee and am always interested in hearing about adoption from Koreans, Americans, adoptive parents, birth parents, other name it. Thank you also for your sensitivity to the fact that adoption is a personal story for everyone who's affected by it.

  6. I am an adoptive parent to a son from Korea. My fervent prayer is that the government of Korea takes steps to enable single or struggling women to keep their babies if that is their wish. I also pray that these women who feel they had no other choice find peace.

  7. I'm really glad that you are going to write about adoption issues. I recently wrote a paper on international adoption policies in S. Korea. Have you heard about Jane Jeong Trenka and TRACK?

  8. The Korean has heard about her, yes. He has been reading a lot of adoption-related literature, and her name pops up frequently.

  9. This means a lot. I am an adoptee from Korea myself. My mother was one of eight and had to give me up. This post has coincidentally shown up at a time in my life where I am considering the option of looking for my birth mother and seeing if I can find her.

  10. I am also an adoptive parent to a young son from Korea. Even though these stories are painful to read or even think about. It is a parental responsibility to listen and understand their birthmother's perspective. So when our kids are older and ask the question "why?" they don't have to feel "given up." And as for my husband and I, our son's birthmother is someone we care about deeply as another member of the family.

  11. This is heartbreaking to read. You can tell how much these mothers love their children. Someday I hope to adopt, as there are still so many children out there who need good homes. My father was adopted and I think it's a great thing. I'm very excited to hear about the upcoming adoption series! I was planning on sending in a question about this very topic soon. I think I would like to adopt children from Korea but I have no idea how easy or difficult it is to do so and if there are many Korean children in need of a good home. Can't wait!

  12. A comment received through email:

    I understand that the circumstances of the women led to the adoption of their children.
    (I am a 58-year old female Korean adoptee living in Hilo, Hawaii.)

    I am uneasy with the women for suggesting that the government create the circumstance for the single mothers to keep their children. I wonder if that would lead to welfare system like in United States, which is generational already. (I am a social worker for the State of Hawaii.)

    To me, consequences of one's chosen action/path needs to be kept/respected/honored (I can't think of a better word). That is being responsible. The suffering from "giving up the child" perhaps leads to humility, thankfulness, empathy, kindness.

    Bye for now.

  13. This comment has been removed by the author.

  14. The adoption issue involves powerful archetypal forces in Korea: family, sexual shame, economic shame, keeping secrets. These are the binds that tie up the adoption issue in Korea with so much pain. Also, the shame of a nation that cannot provide for its own. For instance, you never see American children being adopted abroad! I'm sad that a dear friend of mine cannot find her mother because information is not available. A tragedy on top of another tragedy.

  15. Good evening.i was doing some research on Korean adoption and I came across this blog. I am 19 yrs old and am offered to be adopted by A korean elder whose.daughter wanted to hire me as her personal secretry. This is complicated actually. Um a filipina and ive tried getting a korean Visa but I was dnied. My employer offered this.adoption to me. Is this legal.and what are the procedures for this. Thank you very much!i will be waiting for your reply.


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