Holt adoption baby

sell by 12/19/66

Holt unscathed despite suffering of thousands

with 16 comments

The SBS documentary crew and I paid a visit to Holt Korea last Tuesday. Unbeknownst to us, Holt has a couple of buildings. The first building we went to didn’t house Post Adoption “Services” but did include a HOLT TRAVEL AGENCY.

My goodness, what other business ventures does Holt Korea have? It must also have offices where, apparently, Foster Moms come with the babies prior to dropping them off at the airport, as we met a foster mom with a six or seven month old baby on her way to take a little boy to his flight to America…

The SBS producer wanted to know if I wanted to talk with the foster mom or see the baby, and no: I did not. I won’t tell you what I wanted to do, but it might have involved me getting arrested, so I thought it best to just stand and watch them drive off.

And so, we got back in the van and drove to their other building.

Now, I have no idea what their definition of a healthy family “support” center is. Or even what their definition of “family” is in this case. But it seems kind of ironic to me that it’s on the same sign as Post Adoption “Services.” It’s also kind of sick to me that they have a guest house, because the baby’s new owners don’t live in this country, because they’re foreigners. All three items on that sign seem like one-stop shopping, a multi-plex of services all centered around an anonymous child whose fate is in question. This process of theirs doesn’t stop. It just becomes more sophisticated.

I didn’t take a photo of the big multi-story banner Holt put up on the building behind the sign, but basically it is a photo of a young man in traditional Korean garb sitting on the floor at a table dining in a traditional setting, and it is celebrating Korean culture. Again, disturbingly ironic to me as an adoptee that they sell the adoptive parents on Korean culture, when the babies will soon be stripped of it as soon as they get on the airplane. Inside the Holt offices as well, are little artifacts of Korean culture everywhere. Things that will delight the adoptive parents but be forever lost for the children. Things that will be totally meaningless to the children unless they come back here to live. Even then, they will be academic concepts. A souvenir shop is not necessary I guess, since they’re coming home with the ultimate souvenir.

Even more sick is that Holt is blind to the fact that international adoption hurts those babies/little people. They are so damned convinced by their own arguments that they are saviors doing God’s work, they think they are above reproach. May they all be orphans in their next life, since that’s what it seems it will take for them to see anyone’s perspective other than their own.

When (if) you see Holt defend themselves in the documentary, I think their patriarchal attitude will be evident. They have historically offered, “we have nothing to hide” even prior to anyone accusing them of that. And I don’t believe they DO have anything to hide. But they DO have a culture of paranoia and non-transparency, presenting theories as facts, being arbiters of what is and isn’t important, obfuscation of the facts, protectionist policies, and stone-walling attempts to gather information: so that tells me they have a conscience, they know they have things to answer for, and they are ashamed of themselves.

They are like children caught in a lie. It’s easy to rationalize ones actions. It’s easy to act in the name of God. It’s easy to tell less than the whole truth. (otherwise known as a lie) And once you have lied, you have to support that lie at all costs. Until your life has become so complicated by the lie and you’ve invested so heavily in obscuring the lie that to confess would destroy your life as you know it. And so the lie never existed. But your entire life becomes tainted by the lie that never existed. And it doesn’t matter who you hurt by denying the lie, because it’s better 200,000 children feel a loss of identity and culture than it is to admit you’ve done something bad. Even if it weighs heavy on your heart.

Again, Holt, you say you are Christians. What would Jesus do? What did Mary do? What did the Innkeeper do? Did he try and convince Mary that giving Jesus up would be better for her in the long run? Did he try and convince Mary that giving Jesus up would be better for Jesus? Did he offer to broker a new family for Jesus? No. He offered to let them stay out of the cold for free.

And do you know why my family felt secure leaving my possible sister and me alone in the market? Because the whole country knew that Holt took babies and sent them to what was supposedly a better life in other countries. That’s the only reason. HOLT’s PRESENCE is what made my abandonment an option. And do you know what would have happened if you weren’t there? I might have been malnourished, I might have had a hard life for a very long time, it’s true. But without that option, my parents would have had no choice but to keep me or find someone in Korea who would. Basically, HOLT’s PRESENCE was the catalyst for abandonment.

from dictionary.com:


1. Chemistry. a substance that causes or accelerates a chemical reaction without itself being affected.
2. something that causes activity between two or more persons or forces without itself being affected.
3. a person or thing that precipitates an event or change: His imprisonment by the government served as the catalyst that helped transform social unrest into revolution.
4. a person whose talk, enthusiasm, or energy causes others to be more friendly, enthusiastic, or energetic.

It’s true I might have become malnourished and lead a hard life. But I would have known my parents, my country, my culture my language, and somebody here would have loved me. You took advantage of a nation during times of hardship. You really should feel a deep deep sense of shame for this.

As catalysts, you’ve managed to live unharmed and even put a spin on the mass scale separation and dislocation of thousands of children into a saint-like activity. But the chickens are coming home to roost. The time for making excuses is over. The apologies are long overdue. The time for restitution is now, and you can start by making it easier for adoptees to find out ALL the information about themselves. And please put an end to giving this gift that keeps on hurting. Please stop exporting babies.


Written by girl4708

June 7, 2009 at 12:59 am

Posted in Dealing with the Devil

Tagged with ,

16 Responses

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  1. Floor 3F gives me chills. Baby Room –> Isolation –> Treatment

    It’s like something out of science fiction.

    But it’s real.

  2. This post brings me back to the four times I was at Holt Korea.

    During my first trip with the 1989 Holt Family Tour, I was forced to watch the exportation of the unwanted babies at the Holt office. Since their exportation was the same day than the departure of the adoptees who were with the Motherland Tour, the adoptees themselves were the escorts of the exported babies.

    It was exactly like the day of my own departure in 1975. I can’t help crying when I think of it. The irony is that only few days before, the president at Ilsan Center made a “touching” speach (”touching” according to the APs) saying that Korea had no choice than sending us in the past, but that now, they no longer needed to send us to foreign countries. When I told you that during my 1989 trip to Korea, my hurt and anger resurfaced temporarily, it was at these two days, particularly at Holt Korea office, when I was forced to watch the departure of the babies.

    The most painful thing before seeing them climbing into the bus, was to see the older boy about 6 years old of the group with another boy younger than him. The older boy was hitting on the head of the little one who was crying non stop. It was like if was looking one of the most painful days of my life. I also thought of hitting a girl younger than me who was crying non stop, but because I was a girl, I didn’t hit her.
    I never forgot anything of that day. Every body were busy and talking aloud, it was noisy as the day of my own departure, and in this chaos the older boy and his little fellow were forgotten, just like I was forgotten by the adults, 14 years earlier. Then I saw the APs giving him little attention and saying no to him. I wished to beat them all, to take the boy in my arms and run away far. What I had forgotten were my emotions and feelings. It all came back that day.

    During the second trip, I went there myself to bring things to Ilsan, because I was so brainwashed to believe that Holt was behaving saintly and that every adoptions (except mine) were wonderful. Again, I saw the babies before their departure. This time, I saw them in the arms of their foster mothers crying not to leave them while the director (who brought me in the room without asking me if I wanted to go there), was praying for the babies. I couldn’t understand his prayer but I knew for what he was praying, he was praying so that the babies would meet their Lord Jesus! (Each time, I think about it, I hate Christians!)
    Like the first time, I needed to cry but I held back my tears.

    During my last trip I saw the foster mothers crying outside after dropping the babies at the Holt Korea office.

    I’m sure now you understand why I cried everyday while walking alone in Seoul streets during my two last trips.

    Each time I was in Holt Korea office (that includes the day they exported me in 1975), I felt like I was stabbed, and I’m still like I’m stabbed whenever I think of the four times I was in Holt Korea. It hurts me so bad that I wonder why Holt didn’t kill my body (Myung-Sook’s soul has already been killed) instead of exporting me to a foreign country.
    I hated Korea, Koreans and myself during more than 30 years, when the only thing that deserved to be hated is Holt.


    June 13, 2009 at 3:31 am

  3. Korea needs to get rid of Holt in order to stop exporting their children.

    People who claim that Korea is not ready to end international adoption and that it needs to be prepared are either ignorant or have self-interest in maintaining International adoption from Korea.

    Western countries were not ready to receive the children sent to them, they were not prepared to receive them.

    When I came to Canada in 1976, Canada wasn’t ready to receive me. When you came to US in 1966, US wasn’t prepared to receive you. We both have suffered of racism and we know that every exported children of Korea have been subjected to racism on different levels.

    Nobody said western countries were not ready to receive the children, nobody said they needed to be prepared first before importing children.

    Not long time before I came to Canada, adoption was a shame just like in Korea.
    The Duplessis orphans ( see http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Duplessis_Orphans ) were children of unwed mothers because unwed mothers were shunned by the society, just like in Korea. Some adoptive mothers were simulating pregnancy like some Korean adoptive mothers do.
    When I came to this country, adoption was still a shame for many. Adult domestic adoptees still didn’t know they were adopted. The youngers who knew they were adopted wanted to keep it secret.

    Canada had similar mentality than Korea regarding to adoption. Canada was influenced by Christianism just like Korea was influenced by Confuniasim.

    The evolution has followed its natural course because there was no such thing as Holt here. Unlike Korea who have relied on international adoption, Canada had no other choice than developping social programs.

    Had there been such organisation as Holt in Canada, it would have remained as in Korea regarding to adoption and it would be sending their children to other countries too.

    Korea, if you are not a loser, stop relying on Holt. Stop getting rid of your babies, get rid of Holt instead, kick out Holt, and change the laws to help the poors and unwed mothers.


    June 18, 2009 at 4:57 am

  4. Myung Sook’s story is so moving because she is so good at expressing her perspective. Every person touched by adoption or thinking about adoption should hear her stories.

    Dr. Richard Boas for example (see video below) is one adoptive parent who thinks about adoption in a larger social context and who cares about his own adopted child in a way that respects her as a human being.

    I think there is nothing stronger than the combined voices of adoptees and enlightened adoptive parents speaking with a world enamored by adoption as a benevolent act and to a world that doesn’t consider that families were broken to create children for export, or that society could be fixed to preserve families.

    Seriously – it is us together who actually practice what is in the “best interest” of the children.


    June 25, 2009 at 1:20 am

  5. My adoptive mother works for them. You can understand why I can’t be entirely honest when sharing my feelings with her about adoption. Ugh.


    July 4, 2009 at 12:33 am

  6. Ugh. How do you manage?

    Sorry. You can scream my way anytime.
    You’re allowed to feel any way you need to.



    July 4, 2009 at 8:38 am

  7. I have been so freaking politically correct when it comes to adoption. The ever eager to please adopted child that is now an insecure adult can’t seem to say what I really think about what she does for a living. I had so many tangible things that her salary helped pay for. Guilt much? Thanks for letting me feel here. I found you through T aka Ungrateful Bastard’s blog. :)


    July 7, 2009 at 1:48 am

  8. wow, i was adopted from holt korea in 1975. only a week ago did i learn that holt korea and holt in usa was two entities a supplier and buyer. I was appalled to think that i was a product that was sold to USA bc of korea’s hard times. Mother’s day was yesterday. I wanted to die this past weekend. Only special events and milestones trigger such drastic depressive episodes. I was distraught and missing my korean mother whoever she may be out there….dead or alive which i probably will never know. I agree, it is shameful for them to send me away in the Name of Jesus to the USA. yes i have had racism experiences here in the usa. I have had a good education and material blessings here since i was adopted but that will never replace the longing i have to be reunited with my korean family in wonju, ganwondo. I long to be held in my oma’s arms once more. I was given up at birth and just know that i need to go and talk to someone there at wonju police station. i wonder if they have records from 1975 or if i am just out of luck…what remains is complicated grief that is triggered on holidays, birthdays, and milestones. I was robbed of Korean culture and korean family and that is the saddest thing of all. if anyone else that is an adoptee feels like i do please email me at cuddley777@yahoo.com

    jessica shultz

    May 11, 2010 at 6:04 am

  9. My husband was adopted from Korea through Holt 35 yreas ago. He loves his family very much. We are adoptiong our daughter through Holt. My daughter is a blessing and a answer to many silent prayers.

    angela Marshall

    August 14, 2010 at 6:51 am

  10. Many adoptees love their families very much but are not blind to Holt’s blind evangelism.

    The real way to help Koreans is to preserve their families. And your daughter is yours because instead of real choices and REAL charity, all she had was Holt.

    That’s not helping. Permanently severing a child from its mother is not helping.


    August 14, 2010 at 9:04 am

  11. Where can we see the documentary?


    July 6, 2012 at 1:59 am

  12. Unfortunately, it keeps getting pulled off of Youtube because it is owned by SBS. Even though I got permission from the producer, that’s not official enough for them. And the crappy thing is to watch archived shows at the networks on-line, you need a Korean ID #. I’ve no interest in becoming a citizen, except for maybe that…I think I have only one copy of it on CD. :(


    July 6, 2012 at 11:58 pm

  13. It’s too bad you never saw the awful orphanages where some of us were before Holt took us in, gave us to loving foster families, and found families to care for us.

    Basically, it’s a slave labor system in Korea now. Because Korea has almost zero social services net, and no services for single mothers or their kids, and because of familial pressure, birthmoms give us up. Then we are in orphanages (at least 80% of us are) until we are 18, do our time in the government service or military, and become semi-slaves for Samsung etc. because we have no opportunity to go to college.

    A small number of us – maybe 8% as of last year? – get into the foster families funded by Holt, Eastern Family Services, UNICEF etc. and are adopted. Of course, only 12% of adoptions are to Korean families, because there’s still so much stigma there. The few families who are willing to take a chance and give older kids like me a real loving family are almost only in the west (Canada in my case).

    I understand you wanting to end international adoption. But there are some things you need to do first: things you don’t seem willing, or don’t have the guts to do.

    That is: a) spend the next 50 years lobbying the government to shift the tax structure to fund social programs, so Holt won’t be necessary; then b) remove the massive influence that the corporations have on the government, so the government won’t simply shift all the parentless children into the already overstuffed state-run orphanages, and then c) start some real, well-funded programs to get Korean families to adopt, which could be done via some sort of PR or marketing in order to reduce the stigma of non-blood relative adoption. Of course, that will also have to be accompanied by reducing the hold of the Christian church on the government, since they have undone every attempt to get family planning education and birth control funded for teenagers and even college students, but that goes without saying (that should probably be the first step, even).

    Sure, I’ve run into racism in Canada. Not as bad as the classism I would have faced for being an orphan in Korea, but still, it’s present no matter where you go.

    There must be SOME way to fund private physicians or public hospitals so they can give the level of medical care (monthly checkups, etc) that babies in Holt-funded fostercare receive. After all, the current national healthcare system doesn’t require any kind of prenatal or postnatal care. But that’s something that could be funded once you have adjusted tax laws in Korea, if you can overcome pressure from the military and their private contractors (many of whom are American and European), which currently receives the lion’s share of tax dollars.

    I guess I was lucky enough to be adopted by a Korean-Canadian who weren’t interested in taking away my culture and soul. I recognize that. But there is a HUGE amount of work to do, and millions of dollars to be spent – maybe billions – before we can just “stop” international adoption, if the welfare of Korea’s orphans is important to us. We can’t make decisions out of anger, but out of love, with many years of planning.

    Yunsuk Kim Calhoun

    May 22, 2013 at 10:48 pm

  14. I agree with 90% of what you say and it’s nice to see an adoptee doing some homework. Though some of your figures are off, in general you’ve covered the bases. And, sadly, I know that relinquishing babies won’t just stop. But the presence of international adoption still impedes Korea from moving forward IN EARNEST on REAL solutions for their own citizens. And the option of sending problems away makes for more relinquishing of babies.

    There is plenty of blame to go around as well – the small number of children not going to orphanages are the INFANTS, because that’s what the market dictates, so I blame the market as well. I recently spoke to some unwed moms on the front lines and according to them HOLT is still holding babies hostage for hospital fees due in their entirety should the relinquishing mother change her mind. (I’ve always thought most people at HOLT have good intentions but their zealousness bends ethics far too often).

    I just spent four years in Korea and think your solutions are a little naive. A) You can lobby the government all you want, but because no new taxes will always be the party line, the existing funding for social services may experience some media-worthy new programming, but in reality any gains will only be tokens because there is no additional tax base and there won’t be any. Another reality is orphans are not a big priority. B) The corporations ARE the government and the corporations are and will remain dynasties which will always be in power. C) the domestic adoption promotions come at the cost of Post Adoption Services funding and social services needed to preserve families because of [a] above and because [b] depends on private parties (principally HOLT) to take care of that, so there’s a conflict of interest because HOLT only balances their books by the higher funds they receive through international adoption. That’s a huge incentive to fail.

    As is preserving adoption as the moral path. You want the Christian church’s to loosen its hold on the government, yet the Christian church and HOLT are inseparable. The conservative government is also dependent on that constitutent to stay in office. A lot of money flows to keep the conservative government representing the interests of the corporations, because it’s cleaner and easier for them to control that way.

    The real problem, as we all know, is Korean society. And the real solution is ushering in women’s equality and reproductive justice, providing alternative ways families can be preserved, and alternative ways in which children who have no families can thrive without displacement. Organizations like UNICEF are far better at preserving children’s rights and organizations like S.O.S. Children’s Village help provide wonderful care for orphans aging in place and help them integrate into society and thrive – very successfully, I might add. And there are other Christian organizations that help children without displacement as well. International adoption’s presence and its quick solutions do not solve anything but merely prolong the lack of progress.

    And their inept handling of adoptee records, preservation of identity, fact-checking, etc. is abysmal.

    I just spent four years in Korea, much of that doing what I could. Before you go calling me a gutless armchair bag of wind, what are you doing?


    May 23, 2013 at 4:43 am

  15. So you think things need to get worse for Korean orphans before they get better? Even UNICEF, which you are right has a good track record in SK, has been quite vocal about reducing Korean dependence on international adoption, disagrees with you vis-a-vis the horse/cart issue: they claim only 3-5% of those kids being adopted out via Holt & EWS etc. would otherwise be in (most possibly unloving) homes if not for the over-efforts of these agencies – all of which are owned by Koreans and not western groups, keep in mind – to “find bodies” for adoption.

    I agree with your responses to my ABC. I was pointing out that without Holt et. al., those are the only real options – no matter how well-funded those other groups, they will never come close to doing the job that Holt does. We can both criticize international adoption agencies as much as we want, but 90%+ of their placements are happier and have more opportunity than they would have, if they’d even be alive today (mortality rate of babies and children in institutions is higher in Korea than any other westernized nation, and the fact that more than 90% of the boys end up in the military as cannon-fodder for Western wars doesn’t help much either). Of course, happy people don’t advertise that fact as much as unhappy people; they take it for granted (not that they should – we’d probably not be having this conversation if happy people wrote as much about their happiness, but it’s good that the unhappy people stick out, because the real problems wouldn’t get addressed. Canadian saying: “the squeaky wheel gets the grease.”).

    Currently, until those things change, the opportunities for the vast majority parentless Koreans will be corporate wage slavery (for both women and men) or national service (for men), being trapped in a cycle of nationalistic, corporate misogyny.

    I am in Seoul, FYI. Back and forth … forever, probably. Too much work to do. Most of what I do, I do with money, because the relatively high income that western-educated computer scientists can make here funds better local work than I could do at home.

    Thank you for your words & thought & work on this subject.

    Yunsuk Kim Calhoun

    June 21, 2013 at 6:53 pm

  16. They aren’t trying to “find bodies” for adoption. That’s not loaded at all. Infants adopted internationally get them more funding. They do try to find “infants” for adoption. Talk to the unwed moms who refused to be pressured by them. Seriously. Go do it.

    I’m in America now, living a life of wage slavery and corporate misogyny. Thank God there’s not much nationalism. The outlook for anyone in any institution here is no better. But we aren’t exporting American children away from the country they know.

    Love Holt all you want, believe Canadians invented the “squeaky wheel” expression all you want, but the fact is Holt’s presence has radically altered the way in which Koreans deal (not) with taking care of their own citizens.

    I am thankful for my western experiences and opportunities. Just because I am doesn’t make the means that I got them good. Holt’s ways arrest the development of a more enlightened Korean society.

    I’m done with adoption as a debate and won’t be taking anymore comments on this blog. It’s just here for people to digest now.


    June 21, 2013 at 9:05 pm

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