Adoptees struggle with uncertain nationalities
美 부잣집 입양된 한인, 은행강도 된 사연
One 39-year-old man of Korean descent surnamed Kim, disguised in a
white wig and sunglasses, entered a bank in Gaepo-dong in Gangnam
District, southern Seoul, on Aug. 2.
With an air pistol in hand, he threatened bank employees. He took off
with 20 million won ($17,740) and caught a taxi in front of the bank,
shouting at the driver, “Go, go!”
The driver, taking his urgent passenger as a foreigner, turned off the
ignition, and police caught the would-be bank robber in the next few
minutes. Kim’s story highlights the plight of some Korean adoptees
whose nationalities are uncertain.
A police officer said, regarding Kim, “After being adopted to the
United States then deported, there was no means for him to earn a
living, and in a fit of rage, he committed the crime.”
Kim was adopted in October 1973 by a family in Arizona who kept a
ranch of some 1,000 horses. He lived an affluent life until his family
was suddenly killed in an accident.
Then came the revelation that his adoptive parents did not go through
the proper procedures to obtain U.S. citizenship for him.
Kim became involved in gang warfare and drugs. After a brawl in 2000,
he was imprisoned for seven years and eventually deported to Korea.
Arriving in Korea in 2007, he worked as an English instructor at a
hagwon, or private academy.
But he became involved in drugs again and was sentenced to a year in
prison in Korea. After being discharged in October, because of his
criminal record, he could not find a job.
And Kim’s case is not the exception. Because of the stringent
citizenship application procedures in the United States, or sometimes
because parents seek to save on application fees, some parents do not
apply for citizenship for their adopted children.
Oh Myeong-shik, vice chairman of the Global Overseas Adoptees’ Link,
said, “There are about five to 10 adoptees per year who come seek us
out because they could not receive citizenship in the United States.”
Last year, 916 children were adopted abroad according to the Ministry
of Health and Welfare. In 2001, it was 2,436.
Matthew Siller, 34, born here and adopted to the U.S. in 1978, said,
“When I applied for college, because I did not have U.S. citizenship,
schools charged expensive tuition as if I was a foreigner.”
An outcast both in school and his neighborhood, when he was 8 years
old he told his adopted parents he wanted to return to Korea. “It was
like speaking to a wall.”
He said, “My adopted parents adopted me to receive tax benefits.”
When he turned 18, his parents told him, “You can leave the house
now.” He spent the next five years homeless, drifting around Los
Kim Do-hyun, director of KoRoot, said, “Those who did not grow up with
care from their adoptive parents have difficulty adjusting, even when
they return to Korea.”
Because of a change of law in 2001, those born after 1983 and adopted
to the United States are all eligible for citizenship. However, if a
child is adopted through unofficial means, it is difficult to acquire
The Welfare Ministry from last year is in the process of examining the
citizenship of over 16,000 adoptees abroad and plans to announce the
results later this year.
By Kim Min-sang [sarahkim@...