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3808Dark side of inter-racial adoption surfaces with arrivals of grown-up adoptees

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  • Sunny Jo
    Oct 10, 2012
      Dark side of inter-racial adoption surfaces with arrivals of grown-up adoptees

      Washington State Senator Paull Shin, French digital economy minister
      Fleur Pellerin and French Senator Jean-Vincent Place. They all have
      something in common.

      All three are Korean adoptees who have become successes in their
      adopted countries.

      Behind the success stories of those people, however, are others who
      suffer emotional distress after being adopted by foreign parents.

      Adoptees' rights activists say many of the children sent for
      inter-racial adoption suffer racial and other social discrimination,
      constantly longing for their biological parents and homeland.

      In the United States, a country where adoptees must undergo a separate
      procedure to obtain citizenship, more than a few adoptees never become
      naturalized, partly due to indifference from their adoptive parents.

      According to South Korea's health and welfare ministry and an activist
      group devoted to Korean adoptees' human rights, there are 23,000
      Korean adoptees in the U.S. whose citizenship status the groups do not

      The figure represents about 20 percent of some 110,000 adoptees sent
      to America over the past 60 years since the 1950-53 Korean War.

      A majority of those 23,000, in fact, appear to have obtained U.S.
      nationality but the true figure remains unknown due to local adoption
      agencies' poor management of post-adoption information.

      "Most of the unconfirmed cases may be caused by the agencies' failure
      to inform the government of information on adoptees' acquisition of
      U.S. nationality," said Rev. Kim Do-hyun of the activist group KoRoot.
      "But several thousand of them are still believed to be living without
      any nationality."

      In recent years, a sizable number of adoptees have been deported to
      Korea after being convicted of criminal charges while living overseas
      without becoming citizens of the country in which they live.

      "As far as I know, there are more than 100,000 adoptees who
      voluntarily returned or were deported to South Korea while living
      without nationality," Kim said. "But the actual number may be larger
      than this when the number of people who live in South Korea without
      telling others they were deported, for fear of possible disadvantages,
      is counted."

      The returnees are often unwelcome in Korean society, also.

      Except for those with professional skills or fluency in the Korean
      language, most face language and cultural barriers.

      Some return to locate their biological parents and find their true
      Korean identity only to discover that all the personal information
      they thought they knew about themselves was fabricated to facilitate
      their adoption.

      Michael Kang, 36, was a victim of such so-called "child laundering."

      The young man, whose original Korean name is Kang Yong-mun, returned
      to South Korea in 2006, nearly 23 years after being sent for adoption
      to the U.S.

      After his return, Kang discovered he has two different family
      registries, including the original with the names of his actual Korean
      family members. The second family registry, forged by a local agency
      that matched children with families wanting to adopt, described him as
      an orphan although his parents were alive, in order to bypass the U.S.
      adoption rule that only orphans can be adopted without parental

      Kang was one of the lucky ones, as he eventually located and met his
      Korean parents, back here in South Korea.

      "After comparing two registries -- one from my biological father and
      the other discovered by my friend -- I came to know that the documents
      used for (my) adoption were fabricated," Kang said. "I felt that the
      Korean adoption system is corrupt and I was abandoned," he said,
      recalling that discovery with anger.

      Kang said his first adoption failed due to ill-treatment by his
      adoptive parents and he underwent repeated adoptions and dissolutions.
      "It was like I had lived someone else's life," he said.

      Child laundering was so common among local adoption agencies in the
      past that South Korea became notorious as one of the world's largest
      exporters of "orphans." A new law that came into effect in August of
      this year requires the birth certificate of the child be included in
      the documents required for any adoption.

      The total number of Korean-born children adopted to foreign parents
      reached 164,000 as of this year. Holt Children's Services Inc., a
      Seoul-based adoption agency, said the number of children available for
      adoption has halved since the law went into effect.

      Adoption agencies argue they had no other way but to fabricate facts
      and circumstances about the children they sought to place in order to
      provide them with new homes, because in many cases the children were
      living in orphanages and the agencies could not meet the biological
      parents to obtain consent.

      Kang is far from the only victim of such child laundering. Jane Jeong
      Trenka, 40, was represented as an orphan by a local adoption agency
      although her mother and twin sister were alive. She was adopted by an
      American couple six months after her birth.

      Personal records of almost all adoptees were fabricated in this way,
      Jeong said. After seeing fabricated documents on them while growing
      up, children are shocked to know that they were abandoned by their
      biological parents, she said, adding this constitutes violence against

      She called for a government role in scrutinizing adoption agencies and
      ensuring they provide correct personal information on adoptees.

      Rev. Kim said adoption had long been considered a good deed of finding
      new homes for lonely children but that the unnerving truth has
      surfaced with the return of adult adoptees to the country.

      "The nation should make efforts to create an environment in which
      unmarried mothers are encouraged to raise their own children rather
      than encouraging them to choose adoption, which separates children
      from their birth parents," Kim said. (Yonhap)