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[READER'S VIEW]Korea must stop overseas adoption

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  • Sunny Jo
    [READER S VIEW]Korea must stop overseas adoption Between 1953-2003 and for more than half a century since the Korean War ended, altogether 154,573 Korean
    Message 1 of 1 , Mar 1, 2005
      [READER'S VIEW]Korea must stop overseas adoption

      Between 1953-2003 and for more than half a century since the Korean War
      ended, altogether 154,573 Korean children have been adopted to 15
      different Western countries, including the United States (102,606),
      France (11,042), Sweden (8,830), Denmark (8,518), Norway (5,993),
      Netherlands (4,099), Belgium (3,697), Australia (3,039), Germany
      (2,352), Canada (1,739), Switzerland (1,111), New Zealand (559),
      Luxembourg (468), Italy (382) and England (72). It is a fact that no
      other country in the world has ever sent away so many of its own
      citizens for overseas adoption in modern history, and still every year
      between 2,200-2,400 children leave Korea for adoption to United States,
      France, Denmark, Norway, Netherlands, Australia, Canada and Luxembourg.

      Today, Korea is one of the 20th richest countries in the world, and a
      global leading nation in IT technology. Among the 20 or so countries
      allowing their children to be sent away for overseas adoption to Western
      countries like Colombia, Ecuador, Ethiopia, China, Vietnam and the
      Philippines, Korea sticks out as being the only industrialized and
      democratic country doing so. Furthermore, Korea is also one of the
      countries in the world having the lowest fertility rate besides having
      an unbalanced sex ratio, something that again makes continuing overseas
      adoption look strange, unnecessary and outdated.

      Because of Korea's leading global role in the field of overseas
      adoption, the image of Korea is extremely negative in many Western
      countries due to the massive presence of adopted Koreans. In Sweden,
      Denmark, Switzerland, Norway, Luxembourg and Belgium, there are very few
      Koreans who have emigrated voluntarily, so the ethnic Korean presence is
      in other words in those countries made up of adopted children and
      adoptees from Korea. This has caused Western people to believe that
      Korea is a poor military dictatorship that is still suffering from the
      effects of the Korean War. Korean companies like Samsung and Hyundai are
      thought to be Japanese, Koreans are thought to be stupid and Korean
      culture to be primitive. Besides, many Westerners also think that it is
      wrong for a country to export and sell its own children and in the end
      to destroy its own future. There is certainly a risk for Korea to loose
      credibility and goodwill in Western countries, and opportunities for
      investment and tourism because of continuous overseas adoption, which
      naturally provokes associations to war, corruption, social unrest,
      poverty and authoritarianism.

      Another fact is that Korea is rated as number 63 our of 70 countries on
      the Gender Empowerment Index making it comparable to countries like
      Bangladesh, Yemen and Honduras in terms of gender inequality and
      oppression of women. Moreover, Korea is repeatedly criticized by United
      Nations' Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights for not
      implementing measures to counter discrimination based on sex, while its
      Committee on the Rights of the Child expresses concern for the
      continuance of overseas adoption from a country that has the world's
      12th largest economy.

      During the 1950s mixed children fathered by American soldiers were
      dispatched to avoid stigmatization, and during the 1960s and 1970s
      children of young factory workers who were relinquished out of poverty
      dominated overseas adoption. However, from the 1980s and even more since
      the 1990s, the absolute majority of children who are nowadays sent to
      foreign countries are born by young and unwed girls attending high
      school or college. These young girls in their teenage of early 20s,
      often from a middle-class background, are locked in secretly at
      maternity homes belonging to the adoption agencies as soon as they get
      to know that they are pregnant. At the maternity homes, they are
      persuaded to relinquish their children to save the honor of their
      families and in reality to feed the adoption agencies' need of a steady
      supply of children for overseas adoption. In other words, a combination
      of patriarchal attitudes and economic greed lies behind today's overseas
      adoption from Korea, and thus the rights of both women and children are
      completely ignored.

      Finally, new scientific research has come to light in Sweden showing
      that overseas adoptees of Sweden of whom most are from Korea have
      substantial problems to establish themselves as adults in terms of
      getting a job and creating a family. For example, 60 percent of the
      overseas adoptees have a job compared to 77 percent among ethnic Swedes,
      and half of the overseas adoptees up belong to the lowest income
      category compared 29 percent of the Swedes. This means that there is
      widespread discrimination against Korean adoptees on the labor market,
      and when they get a job they are low-paid. Moreover, 29 percent of the
      overseas adoptees are married compared to 56 percent of Swedes, meaning
      that Korean adoptees are considered unattractive and have problems to
      find a spouse. Other studies show high levels of psychiatric illness,
      drug and alcohol addiction, criminality and suicide among Sweden's
      overseas adoptees. The most shocking finding is that the suicide rate is
      500 percent higher among overseas adoptees than among ethnic Swedes.

      So, if Korea is to be acknowledged in the Western world as an advanced
      and modern industrialized and democratic nation and in the end to gain
      self-respect, overseas adoption has to be stopped and the rights of
      children to single mothers and their have to be protected instead of
      sending them to Western countries were they suffer from discrimination,
      racism, suicide and psychiatric problems.

      Tobias Hubinette, adopted from Korea and Ph. D. candidate in Korean
      Studies at Stockholm University, Sweden, is writing about the Korean
      adoption issue and images of overseas adopted Koreans as his
      dissertation project. - Ed.

      By Tobias Hubinette


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