Ironically, it seems that a new law to protect children and Korea’s image is leading to an increase of abandoned babies. According to the Chicago Tribune (October 7, 2012):
South Korea is trying to shed a reputation of being a source of babies for adoption by people abroad. It is encouraging domestic adoption and tightening up the process of a child’s transfer from birth mother to adoptive parents.
The law that took effect in August is aimed at ensuring adoption is more transparent and makes it mandatory for parents to register newborns if they want to give them up.
But the regulation aimed at seeing more thorough records are kept, though well intentioned, has sparked a surge of undocumented babies being abandoned, said Pastor Lee Jong-rak.
“If you look at the letters that mothers leave with their babies, they say they have nowhere to go, and it’s because of the new law,” Lee told Reuters.
Lee, who opened his “baby box” for unwanted infants three years ago, said he had seen the number being left there shoot up from an average of five a month to 10 in August and 14 in September.
There is a lot of stigma associated with Korean adoptions and a lot of it seems to be resentment. Remember this case only a month ago – the woman who had been illegally adopted (SBS-Australia, September 18, 2012)?
Jane Jeong Trenka, the president of Truth and Reconciliation for the Adoption Community of Korea (TRACK) says many adult Korean adoptees that have returned to be reunited with their Korean parents have found themselves to be the subject of a forced adoption, kidnappings or forged identity.
Ms Trenka says money was the driving force behind illegal adoptions.
“It is widely known today that intercountry adoption is driven by huge sums of money,” she said. “It is, in fact, an industry.”
“In the days when South Korea was not economically developed, it was a way to secure precious foreign currency. Today, the intercountry adoption program is a way to save money on social spending.”
Korean adoption agencies undoubtedly suffered as a result of all this negative press but the story took a strange twist (SBS – Australia September 27, 2012):
An Australian woman who believed she had been falsely adopted in South Korea, has since learned that this may not be the case.
However, after the story ran on the SBS website last week (September 18th) it has emerged the South Korean adoption agency has since been in contact with Emily’s mother.
The adoption agency says it has a fingered-printed document to support their claim that Emily was in fact relinquished for adoption.
While South Korea is apparently making it more difficult for overseas adoptions the United States is making it easier to adopt North Korean children. In fact, some are saying the United States has moral obligation to do so. Almost seems like a flashback to the years following the Korean War. According to Radio Free Asia (September 12, 2012):
Ileana Ros-Lehtinen, the Republican Chairman of the House Committee on Foreign Affairs, said that while many North Koreans face extreme repression, malnutrition, and poverty, those threats often take the greatest toll on the country’s children. Thousands of North Koreans facing starvation and disease have fled the country and now live as refugees in China, Mongolia, Thailand and other Southeast Asia nations where they remain susceptible to human trafficking and are at risk of being repatriated and facing persecution.
“Imagine what happens when a child’s natural protectors—parents—are no longer in the picture. And imagine what happens when that child is born or orphaned inside China where the child lacks legal status, or dependable access to social services,” she said.
“Malnutrition, abuse, exploitation, lack of education—these are the horrors that are faced by orphans of North Korean origin who are effectively stateless and without protection.” She went on to say that the U.S. is home to the largest Korean ethnic population outside of Northeast Asia and that many of the nearly two million Americans of Korean descent have family ties to North Korea. “Numerous American families would like to provide caring homes to these stateless North Korean orphans,” she said.
Ros-Lehtinen said that the bill would require the State Department to “take a broad look” at the diplomatic and documentation challenges facing American families who seek to adopt the refugee orphans.
“Doing the right thing is not always easy. I especially want to applaud those adoptive parents—both past and future—who invest their own lives and homes to provide loving families for some of the world’s most endangered children,” she said.
Berman, the top Democrat on the House Foreign Affairs Committee, said the U.S. has a moral obligation to help North Koreans suffering rights abuses.