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US man charged with abuse/murder of a 3-year-old adopted Korean boy

Sad news from the US that a former head of NSA in Korea is charged with brutal abuse and beating-to-death of his adopted Korean son. Hyunsu O’Callaghan was adopted in October last year only.

I am very much against Koreans adopting their children out internationally full stop, so I don’t think that protesting for a stricter “test” of the parents prior to the adoption is the way to solve such problems – what these people are calling for in their protest in front of Holt headquarters in Korea. In 2008, 4 Korean kids adopted out by Holt were killed by their adopted American father.

Here is the link to NBC news.

  • JW

    “I am very much against Koreans adopting their children out internationally full stop”

    I thought the problem with domestic adoption was that there just wasn’t enough korean parents willing to adopt? Is that not correct? If it is correct, how else are you going to offer these kids the experience of having parents?

  • Tapp

    I understand your opinion, but I’ve volunteered in several orphanages here in Korea. I also knew three different families of happily adopted Koreans back in the US. The difference in general happiness between these two different corners was night and day. Reform and stricter background checks is the way to go right now… at least until Koreans step up and responsibly adopt their own children.

    This story is tragic, but that does not mean that kids should be forced to grow up without a family because of these two instances.

  • wangkon936

    That sentence was confusing to me as well.

  • Aja Aja

    Those five picketers in front of Holt, are former overseas adoptees from Europe, and members of TRACK, who want Korea to stop oversea adoptions.

  • djson1

    I think JW means Koreans giving their children away for adoption.

  • http://www.askakorean.net/ The_Korean

    By having them stay with their original parents.

    Vast majority of Korea’s orphans come from single mothers, and whether or not they keep their baby is almost entirely dependent on whether they receive timely help from the right organization. If a single mother goes through a facility run by a single parent co-op (like Korea Unwed Mothers and Family Association,) 100 percent of them keep their child. The percentage drops significantly if they go to a facility run by an adoption agency like Holt (which applies direct and indirect pressure to the mothers to give their children away,) and the percentage drops even further if they receive no help.

  • Aja Aja

    I’ve never understood why Holt needs to charge so much money for each kids from overseas parents. It almost seems like this is business.

    Read this nightmare from one angry adoptee


  • JW

    I see, ok. In that case, I’m with you and Yuna — the government should do everything they can to support the right organizations and single moms.

  • yuna_at_marmotshole

    I’m with the general Korean commenters opinion that it’s ridiculous that Korea keeps saying it wants to stop the low birth rate by giving incentive to women to give birth, yet continue with this children exporting business. They can easily use the money or part of it to make sure that the children within the institution and single mothers who choose to raise their own children etc, get better support so that they do not keep exporting babies. I know that there are good cases but even outside of such an extreme case as this, the adult Korean adoptees I have come across all gave me the impression that they’d rather have not been adopted internationally, had they the choice back then.

  • JW

    Well, according to below article, as of Oct 2013, only 300 babies were projected to be “exported” overseas, so if that’s not mostly the result of non-intentional factors, the korean government and other organizations are doing something right. Hopefully the numbers will keep going down if that’s even possible.


  • Aja Aja

    This is news to me, that before this new adoption law recenty, anyone could have taken a child off the street, and put the child up for adoption, and make good money when the child is adopted. That’s just crazy, and they’re just getting around to changing the law? That’s even more crazy.

  • JW

    Huh? Where in the article does it say that random individuals can make money by getting a baby adopted internationally?

  • Aja Aja

    From the WSJ, this paragraph here:

    “Proponents of the Special Adoption Law argue that South Korea needed to be brought in line with international adoption standards requiring registration of births. In the past, mothers were able to take their babies directly to adoption agencies without registration. Those children could then be adopted by overseas families with only limited information about their origin and the circumstances of their births”

    So you don’t need birth record or paper work to prove you’re the legal guardian of the child.

  • Tapp

    When I wrote my opinion above, I was not aware of any of this.

  • 8675309

    “I thought the problem with domestic adoption was that there just wasn’t enough korean parents willing to adopt? Is that not correct?” “

    Just another Internet meme that has taken on a life of its own — akin to other popular memes like “…all foreigners are HIV+,” or “…all foreign EFL/ESL teachers in Korea are loser scumbags/child molesters,” etc., etc., etc.

    Having said that, just until about 15 years ago, Korea had little or no experience with intra-country domestic adoptions. Over the past 15 years however, many structural problems and legal hurdles related to domestic adoptions have been successfully breached and overcome.

    As a result, intra-country domestic adoptions — while representing a small percentage overall– have not only been on the rise in Korea over the past decade or so, but are increasingly gaining acceptance both socially and culturally in Korean society and becoming more commonplace as many Korean couples — especially childless ones — consider domestic adoptions to be a viable option for themselves.

  • 8675309

    “So you don’t need birth record or paper work to prove you’re the legal guardian of the child. How do we know how many children in the past, were actually were not kidnapped and sold to adoption agencies?”

    This is or was very true, and hopefully, a problem that the new Special Adoption Law will prevent from happening in the future.

    I know this has been true due to personal experience.
    A distant relative of mine back in the early 1960s basically kidnapped the illegitimate child of her husband’s paramour and put it up for adoption illegally, albeit with no paper trail left behind or way to find out to whom or where the child eventually ended up.

    Is it safe to say that perhaps many children were put up for adoption illegally, under false pretenses, or essentially kidnapped by non-guardians and “sold” to baby brokers?

    I think the numbers are higher than anyone really wants to admit, and these “adoptions agencies” — especially ones like Holt International that started it all — are complicit and major profiteers in this “business” that really need to be shut down once and for all if this problem is going to ever get better.

  • Sumo294

    I want you guys and gals to really consider the overall happiness of the Korean children who have been adopted. These children have been given much better lives–lives that are almost certainly above and beyond anything that could be their lives in Korea. If you cannot see that–then you have never talked to or been friends with a child of single mother in Korea. Liberals think that they can wave their magical technocratic education wand and fix it. Let us be pragmatic–these children should be given the best chance at some joy and happiness–international adoption gives them better lives.

  • hoju_saram
  • Aja Aja

    Look at the numbers. Only 300 kids were adopted overseas from thousands per year, after this law went into effect. So what this tells me is that a vast number of kids adopted, have no paperwork as to where they came from. This is disturbing if you consider that the total number of kids adopted overseas run into hundreds of thousands of people.

  • que337

    Another factor that caused elimination of international adoption in the world is the organizations like UNICEF:


    And here is a chart from the NYT:


  • MikeinGyeonggi

    You’re against Korean children being adopted abroad? There is a serious stigma surrounding both adoption and single motherhood in Korea, so what is to be done with all the unplanned children?

  • MikeinGyeonggi

    Completely agree, but single mothers in Korea are also faced with the high probability of never getting married (unless it’s with the father). I think this fear drives many women to give up their children. Nonetheless, I’m very happy to hear that there are supportive organizations out there.

  • 8675309

    In a Machiavellian ends-justify-the-means world, of course I would concede everything you are saying, but the reality is when people realize they’ve been hoodwinked — and I’m taking about the adoptees themselves — it’s no longer about what’s in the children’s future best interests anymore as these selfsame children tend to grow up rather quickly into highly capable and successful adults armed with things like law degrees, native-English speaking skills, blogrolls, Facebook pages, and the like. And now with such prolific and socially active Korean adoptees-turned-activists now in their 30s, 40s, and even 50s, the discussion is less about what is in their “best interests” and more at whether their basic human rights had been violated to begin with. Also, it’s about whether these baby brokers and adoption profiteers — essentially, modern day slave traders and human traffickers — should be allowed in continuing to exploit and profit off of the backs of Korean babies and children.

  • Sumo294

    To be a slave trader– you need the slave and then you need slavers. What you really object to is that adoption in Korea is run as a business. Adoption in America is run by daughters of rich men who lacking productive work do community social work or by government, which is run by college educated liberal technocrats.

  • que337

    The current revised Korean adoption law has lots of problems. And it is not serving for the best interest of children:


  • 8675309

    This “serious stigma” you speak of has all but disappeared as the last major hurdle and legal obstacle that prevented Korean women from considering single motherhood a viable option was successfully breached six years ago as a result of a single watershed act: the landmark overturning of the Korean Hoju System, or “Head-of-the-Family Laws,” that had been in force in Korea from antiquity until January 1st of 2008 when they were officially abolished by the Korean government.

    What this means is that Korean women are no longer in thrall to their husbands or beholden to a baby’s father in terms of securing basic rights and legal registration for their children as it used to be under the old Hoju System, where only a registered Korean male could be legally deemed a head or “Master” of a household. This meant prior to 2008, women and mothers had no legal rights in terms of securing legal rights or registration for their children on their own behalf, or getting custody of their own children on their own in the event of divorce, as children were considred the “property” of the father, which of course made illegitimate births a legal netherland for unclaimed children, and an impossibility for single motherhood.

    Now, however, as of 2008, that has all changed as women can now claim head-of-the-family status on their own without needing a husband or man to act in loco parentis on their behalf. So what does this mean for the future of single mothers in Korea? If you want to be a single mother in Korea, you can — legally and officially — with no detriment or disadvantage to your children.

    Prior to 2008, believe it or not, this was NOT an option for any Korean single woman in Korea about to have a child, or even a divorced woman wishing to gain custody of her children. Without a husband/father to claim the children in question as his own on his official family registry of record (or “Hojeok”), such children were unfortunately, S.O.L. and considered non-entities in the eyes of the law, which was where agencies like Holt International stepped in and filled the gap by facilitating necessary adoptions abroad.

    But that was then, this is now. And now with subsidies and welfare being earmarked for single mothers, as well as the increasing numbers of domestic adoptions among older and childless couples gaining popularity and social acceptance, the future of overseas adoption is dim while increasing changes in social mores and values will continue to pave the way for greater acceptance of more non-traditional families in Korea, where women can be the Masters of their Households, as well as the masters of their own fate.

  • 8675309

    ” The mandatory registration of children to birth parents’ family has
    led to more children being abandoned. Cultural change must have come
    before any introduction of revised adoption laws:”

    Another Internet meme that has self-perpetuated and taken on a life of its own due to ignorance and the lies of self-serving individuals seeking to promote their own agenda — specifically their right to flout the law and do as they please, regardless of what the community says.

    Having said that, activist organizations run by Korean Adoptees themselves have questioned whether there is an actual cause-and-effect relationship between the new Special Adoption Law and an increase in abandoned babies at this one Jurasang Church baby box in Gwanak-gu, or whether the increase in abandonment is a direct result of this pastor at Jurasang Church making it way too easy for hormonally charged mothers in a post-partum tizzy to make rash and hasty decisions in a moment of extreme emotional flux by pandering to their vulnerabilities through the introduction of an extremely illegal “drop-off baby box” in their midst, when what they really need is counseling.

    The former scenario suggests that Korean single mothers are well informed about this new law and are reacting rather rationally to it. The latter scenario suggests that Korean single mothers are NOT well informed about the Special Adoption Law and are acting rather irrationally to it by rushing to abandon their children at this so-called “baby box.”

    Before we attempt to vilify the Korean government and point the finger at the Special Adoption Law as the cause of everything, I’m betting dollars to donuts on the latter premise. And fwiw, this piece of legislation was actually shepherded into law and advocated for by Korean Adoptees themselves — NOT any Korean legislator or Korean government agency could’ve done any better.

  • Sumo294

    How unkind and without compassion you are! Western couples not only adopt Korea’s orphans but also adopt orphans with special needs and disabilities. A head of one orphanage noticed that one particular baby in her orphanage rarely got sick and smiled much more than the other babies. One day, while working late she noticed that the cleaning lady would take five minutes out of her break time to hold and sing to the baby at the very end of the row. Just that little bit of love and care was enough to make that particular baby more strong and healthy than the other babies. You would make decisions based on your sentiments with little regard for the love the most venerable of us need most. At least–you do not advocate murdering them thirty seconds before they leave the womb.

  • que337

    The statistics show that after the Special Adoption Law was introduced, there was a huge drop both in domestic and international adoptions. And the number of abandoned children has jumped high:


    The baby box has been running well before the revised adoption law, so the it would be reasonable to say that the Special Adoption Law has caused more babies abandoned.

    Another serious defect of the Special Adoption Law is that it makes it impossible for unregistered abandoned children to be adopted to a family. They have to stay in orphanage because of the absurd law.

  • yuna_at_marmotshole

    The thing to do is have a workaround for those already stuck in the institution but absolutely go by the registration method. Also raise the standard of the institution and the support for the single mothers(e.g. 5만원 support for the single mothers, 105만원 for the orphanages!!! Are they kidding..)
    And straight from the horses mouth: http://www.ohmynews.com/NWS_Web/view/at_pg.aspx?CNTN_CD=A0001582732

    친척이 아닌 다른 대부분 입양은 투명하고 윤리적인 제도가 뒷받침 되어야한다. 그러나 지금 한국입양제도를 봐라. 아기농장과 같다. 미혼모는 암소 같고 갓 태어난 송아지(아기)는 입양기관에 의해 서구에 판매, 공급된다. 입양기관이 돈받는 제도는 없어져야 한다. 뭐라고 위장을 하던 한국은 지금 돈을 받고 해외에 아기를 판매한다. 미혼모에 대한 사회복지가 결여된 탓이다. 입양이 인종이나 국가권력문제가 아니라고 생각한다면 아무 미국입양기관에 메일을 보내서 ‘난 한국인이고 건강한 미국 백인 아이들 입양하고 싶다’고 해봐라. 어떤 답장을 받는지.”

    - 한국정부와 국회에 미혼모 문제와 관련하여 하고 싶은 제안이나 권고가 있는가?
    “미혼모를 돕는 것은 곧 국가의 미래가 될 아동을 돕는 것이다. 아동을 돕는 것에 반대하는 사람이 있는가? 정부의 역할은 이들을 돕는 창의적 재원을 마련하고 운영하는 것이다. 지금 현재 입양기관에게 주는 재원을 친모에게 주라. 현재 한국에서는 편부모가 최저생계비 대상자일 때한에서만 한 아이 당 한 달 5만 원을 국가가 지원한다. 그러나 그 편부모가 생활고로 아이를 못 키우고 고아원에 보내면 그 고아원은 한 아이 당 한 달 105만 원에서 107만 원을 국가에서 지원받는다. 현재 한국은 입양을 사회구조적으로 권장하고 있다. 고아원에 주는 105만 원을 생모에게 주라. 그리고 아이는 상품이 아니라는 것을 명심하라.”

    Also, I watched your linked Journeyman documentary clip and I absolutely agree with the other Reverend Kim (6:00) and the politician (11:05) – They *must* register the baby – that is the right of the baby, a human right, much greater than the right of privacy or clean record for the girls..it’s wrong to throw one’s hands up and say that’s the reality, the reality/perception can change incredibly overnight in Korea, with the right government support and policies.

    I cannot find the link but I read many horror stories of vulnerable women being forced or duped straight after the childbirth by hospital to give the babies up, and not being able to get them back after change of heart once they signed the papers. This as well as the horror stories where children reported “missing” were often sold abroad by orphanages.
    One must absolutely go by the registration and stricter screening, and this law is a step in the right direction, just needs further improvement.
    That guy in the documentary is just a self-deluded crazy guy jumping for joy when there’s a baby in the box.

  • Dan Strickland

    It’s a tough topic without easy answers. I am, as many of you know, an old Peace Corps Korea volunteer, married to an almost equally old Peace Corps Korea language teacher. My mother-in-law, when we married, very graciously wrote me in to the hojuk (since I obviously in my cultural impoverishment did not have one), so I feel almost adopted into my wife’s family, many of whom I am quite close with. My feelings on the adoption matter are complicated by having grown up the eldest of 10 children, of whom seven were adopted. Most were mixed-race US children, but two were Koreans from Holt, my brother and sister, adopted in 1958. I don’t know the truth of their stories, and my brother tried to ascertain that, as he lived in Korea for 15 years teaching English, but could not in the end find out anything. My sister has made connections with Korea, visiting when our brother lived here, learning some of the language, and enjoying my wife’s cooking – and in her business she’s one of the very few Asians at her level – and she is seriously considering the latest offer of citizenship for adoptees from the Korean government. That said, we all love each other very much, although our family certainly had its troubles. I lived in Korea initially from 1971 to 1973, and the country was still pretty poor – it must have been really rough when my brother and sister were born.

  • 8675309

    “The baby box has been there well before the revised adoption law was introducd, so it would be reasonable to say that the Special Adoption Law has caused more babies abandoned.”

    Again, the cause-and-effect relationship has not been proven. At best, saying the Special Adoption Law correlates with causing more babies abandoned is a classic post hoc ergo propter hoc, fallacy, akin to giving credence to this kind of thinking: “Every time we took Bill out on a picnic with us, it starts to rain. Let’s not take Bill out on picnics with us anymore.” Of course, in both instances, simply correlating one thing with another does not automatically imply causation.

    “Another serious defect of the Special Adoption Law is that the law makes it impossible for unregistered abandoned children to be adopted to families. They have to stay in orphanage of poor condition for the rest of their lives.

    Again, you are attempting to correlate two totally different things that have nothing to do with each other. Since when has it been proven that the Special Adoption Law is causing abandoned babies to go unregistered? Again, another correlation does not imply causation type of fallacy.
    That said, I am not persuaded that it is the Special Adoption Law that is causing babies to go unregistered. While making this landmark piece of legislation a scapegoat for all the ills and troubles in the land, other factors that are being ignored at our own peril, specifically, the sheer laziness, the massive ignorance, the typical indifference, the teenage indolence and the rash stupidity of any birth mother in question who would cause her child to go unregistered after going through the pains having giving birth.
    Since the abolishment of the Head-of-the-Family Hoju Law in 2008, for the first time in Korea’s history, it is now not only possible, but also easier than ever for a single woman to apply as head-of-the-family on her own Hojeok, therefore allowing any women — regardless of whether she’s married or not — to register any children she might have at her local Gu Office on her own behalf, without having to go through her husband or baby’s father, as had been required prior to 2008.
    Is this really too difficult to do? In that respect, I agree with Yuna — foregoing a baby’s registration is not only NOT an option in Korea today, it is NOT something anyone in their right mind would ever or should ever consider working around either — not with the abolishment of the Hoju Family Law it isn’t.
    It may be too difficult though, if you are in a hormonally unbalanced state of mind due to just having given birth to a child, or suffering from severe post-partum depression as many new mothers are. If that’s the case, what these women need is counseling and guidance — NOT a baby box and NOT outsiders pandering or catering to their ignorance by giving them an easy and illegal way out of their situations by encouraging them to do the wrong thing.
    By way of comparison, consider the following: What right-minded new-car owner, who has every intention of using their new car on the roads, would ever consider as a viable life option the possibility of NOT applying for a driver’s license, NOT registering one’s car, or NOT purchasing auto insurance in accordance with the law? I can’t think of even one driver anywhere who would think in such a manner or do such a thing.
    Likewise, if you wouldn’t do it to a car (allow it to go illegal by going unregistered), how much more should we do it for a human being?
    I’d wager there is no mother anywhere in the world that would forego legally registering her baby’s birth, if they knew it would provide the best possible outcome for her child, even if she decides later to give it up for adoption in the future.
    Mothers — just like car owners — must be educated and persuaded by every means necessary to engage in de minimus behavior after delivery, which means taking ALL the steps necessary to register her child’s birth, even if it means having Gu-Office officials working in Maternity Wards to make sure no woman walks out without her baby fully registered, or walking the woman to a Gu-Office to make sure she fills out and files her baby’s paperwork correctly, thus ensuring that child’s future as a documented human being in not only Korea, but also this world.

  • que337

    I’ve heard cases like a birth mother could not send her child for adoption, even though she wants to, because the stupid Special Adoption Law mandates approvals of BOTH birth mother and father. The irresponsible birth father ran away and could not be reached. The poor baby is now stuck in a child institution, because the birth mother could not afford to raise her child.

    I am supportive for enhancing transparency in adoption process, while the law seems not fully reflecting the reality and culture where open adoption is almost considered as taboo.

  • silver surfer

    ‘Just another internet meme that has taken on a life of it’s own’ except it’s true.

  • silver surfer

    You seriously think ‘liberals’ are against international adoption, or that this has anything to do with ‘liberals’?

  • 8675309

    …so says child molester extraordinaire, Quincy Black. LOL!!

  • silver surfer

    I agree with Yuna that Koreans should be taking care of their own unwanted children. Koreans might also express a little gratitude that the international community has been doing this for them for so long.

  • 8675309

    You heard? The 2008 abolishment of the Hoju Family Law currently precludes the necessity for a single mother to have the permission or even prove the existence of a birth father/ husband to legally register a live birth in Korea. Conversely, a single mother with her own registered children on her own Hojeok does need the permission of a birth father, as she is legally the head of her own household — not some theoretical father who doesn’t legally exist. This has been made possible because under the 2008 revision of the Head-of-the-Household Law where now any Korean women can apply for and receive head-of-the-household status on her own Hojeok family registry of record, thereby allowing her to file all legal papers for her children on her own behalf, and enter her children’s names on her own family registry of record. The Special Adoption Law, which complements the 2008 revision that preceded it, neither conflicts with it, nor does it “mandate approval of both birth mother and father” as you erroneously allege.

  • silver surfer

    I’ve seen homeless people who are more coherent and less disgusting.

  • meri

    Yes, women often lose their minds after having children. Those post-partum hormones make them want to fling their children into baby boxes. It’s a serious flaw in their biology. If only they had “counseling” to set them straight.

  • que337

    For reality check, it would be good to look back on what has happened since the Special Adoption Law was introduced:

  • que337

    Should Hyunsu’s sad case be used for discouraging international adoption? I do not think so. Korean domestic adoption also has horrible stories too.

    1) A Korean adopting parents killed her two adopted daughters to earn insurance money: http://news.naver.com/main/read.nhn?mode=LSD&mid=sec&sid1=102&oid=001&aid=0004713225

    2) A Korean woman abused and murdered her 3 month old adopted daughter. Her motive of adoption was quite bizarre. She adopted the child to hide her abortion from her boy friend: http://news.hankooki.com/lpage/society/201211/h2012112520362321950.htm

    3) Another Korean woman killed her 8 month old adopted son because he did not stop crying: http://news.naver.com/main/read.nhn?mode=LSD&mid=sec&sid1=102&oid=020&aid=0000032535

    I agree with the necessity of stricter screening process of adopting parents, but oppose to criminalizing international adoption itself.