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3801Restorative justice and overseas adoption

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  • Sunny Jo
    Aug 27, 2012
      08-14-2012 17:19
      Restorative justice and overseas adoption

      By Park Hee-jung

      In the 10 years I spent providing interpretation and managerial
      services for international adoptees on a volunteer basis, I witnessed
      the pain of many international adoptees. Today, I am still providing
      consultation to adoptees raised in the U.S., and I served as the
      manager in some facilities in which adoptees stay in Korea to learn
      the Korean language and culture.

      I listened to many different stories while acting as an interpreter
      during the reunions of families who previously gave up their children
      for adoption. Approximately 200,000 international adoptees from Korea
      are scattered throughout the world, and there are currently close to
      300 international adoptees staying in Korea to learn the Korean
      language and culture in order to discover a sense of identity. I have
      had a range of experiences while providing this voluntary
      interpretation service.

      Some time ago, I was present at a reunion of a former adoptee with
      their birth family. The mother could not forget her baby for a single
      day after she gave him up due to experiencing devastating poverty and
      social prejudice. In order to forget her wrongdoing and the memory of
      her baby, she became a shaman. A shaman is a person who communicates
      with the dead because of a disturbing experience they went through in

      I visited a shaman's house to help with interpretation, and witnessed
      a family’s life of agony and watched their unconscious behavior while
      sitting all night for one week and observing them. This woman dreamt
      about her son for 30 years and woke up in the middle of the night
      almost every night. She attempted suicide several times because of a
      mistake she made. Finally she became a shaman to deal with and
      overcome the extreme distress she experienced. The birth parents and
      adoptee parents both experience great difficulties.

      Now we have 200,000 overseas adoptees with 400,000 parents totaling at
      least 600,000 people struggling with these issues. Of course, they may
      also have real brothers and sisters involved in these matters.

      It is more urgent than ever to map out solutions for international
      adoptees who have become adults. I expect a resolute decision from the
      South Korean government that leads to the country embracing a concept
      of Koreans 1.5 (neither 1st nor 2nd generation). This means it is time
      to talk about membership in Korean society and further support for
      international adoptees through constant discussion of solidarity based
      on inclusion and friendship.

      I'd like to share serious consideration of overseas adoptions with all
      involved countries by communicating the issues as they are, such as
      confusion about identity, sense of social isolation, emotional and
      psychological problems, and failure in social adaptation by
      international adoptees. This is the start of a society whereby
      everybody can live constructively together, as well as the way to
      establish peace on the basis of social inclusion and solidarity.

      If the criminal justice system, which most often aims to punish
      perpetrators, instead takes an interest in enabling perpetrators to
      truly repent of their offenses and voluntarily make restitution to
      their victims, while allowing victims to accept restitution based on a
      principle of forgiveness and tolerance, a foundation for peace and
      respect of others in the community will be formed. As such, it is very
      important to prepare for a system wherein both perpetrators and
      victims can heal and recover. If we are working from a perspective
      that values life above all, and protects human rights as precious to
      the extent that they carry more weight than the earth itself, such an
      approach must be inspiring.

      It is not that easy to build a society that is better and more
      peaceful, in which everyone can live together harmoniously. When
      criminals are punished, this does not mean that everything has been
      resolved. Often, the root causes of a crime can be found in the
      community or even in the life of the victim himself or herself. On
      this basis, victims and communities also have a responsibility to take
      an interest in the perpetrators of crimes. The intent must be to
      identify the fundamental causes of crime, and by addressing these
      causes, create a better society and country, by seeking an
      alternative, namely Restorative Justice rather than punishment to
      truly heal scars.

      I am very interested in overseas adoption and restorative justice
      based on tolerance, forgiveness, and repentance. First of all, I would
      like to research how to apply restorative justice to overseas
      adoption. I strongly believe that the three parties in restorative
      justice such as victims, criminals, and community are similar to birth
      families, adoptive families, and adoptees in the adoption structure.
      Therefore, I believe this research allows me to contribute more to
      family law, and hopefully one day to help others to improve the
      adoption structure.

      In addition, participating in the Moot Court Competition on the rights
      of children, I realized that a peaceful approach is needed in relation
      to children's rights and international law. Along with the Universal
      Declaration of Human Rights, the United Nations Convention on the
      Rights of the Child (CRC) emerged as international law, having 191
      member countries agree to its basic purpose of “maximizing the
      interests of the child."

      Based on the spirit of the CRC, the International Child Abduction
      Convention was created to prevent disputes between countries and
      contribute to the proliferation of peace between countries as well as
      to the human rights of the child, emphasizing "the best interests of
      the child."

      Recently in Korea, as the number of international marriages increase,
      there have been many who urge the incorporation of the International
      Child Abduction Convention into legislation to maintain peace and
      resolve disputes among families including East Asia, and it is known
      that the Ministry of Justice is seriously considering this.

      I believe that the transcendent model, which breaks out of the vicious
      circle by preventing disputes in advance, as well enabling our
      interest as citizens in "a society where everybody lives well
      together" through inclusion and solidarity, will improve our lives as
      citizens of the world, in concert with active changes in governmental

      The dream and hope of creating a "peaceful world where everybody lives
      well together" as well as "the best interests of the child" (human
      rights) "make what is not seen visible, and enables those who are not
      able to see, to see."

      Above all things, peace should entail action. Action is required so
      that we can "live well together."

      The writer is a strategist of the President Office of the World
      Federation of United Nations Associations and also an economic advisor
      to Timor-Leste President Taur Matan Ruak. He is the author of
      ``Everyday Miracle,” ``Social Freedom in South Korea,” and ``Dreaming
      Social Entrepreneur” in Korean. His email address is