Archive for October 2009
New (to me) horrifying discoveries about adoption in Korea.
New unwed mothers homes and name changes
ESWS opened new unwed mothers home and changed their names.
Location Before After Pyeongtaek Esther’s Home Esther’s Home Seoul Sharon’s Home Saengmyeong Nuri Gyeongbook Sharon’s Home Sharon’s Home Anyang Sharon’s Home Hanbit Nuri Daejeon None Hatssal Nuri Incheon None Seum Nuri Jeonju None Gippeum Nuri
Maybe that doesn’t seem so horrible to you, but in Korea, there is no time limit between birth and relinquishment like there is in most other countries. That means the mothers are never given the opportunity to bond with their babies and possibly experience what they might be missing by relinquishing. This means that mothers can relinquish while the children are in utero. So this particular one waits until after the child is born – I don’t know what is worse for the mom…
This practice used to occur in the United States and Australia, but was OUTLAWED because it essentially exploited vulnerable girls. (often at the behest of their parents) These homes for unwed mothers were called Baby Farms, because privileged people who wanted babies to adopt were essentially cultivating them…
More unwed mothers homes by – AN ADOPTION AGENCY. No conflict of interest there…
Even more horrifying to me is that the adoption agencies RECOGNIZE how traumatic this is, and hope to ameliorate it with ceremonies to facilitate closure. I call that twisted. I call that damage control in the aftermath of manipulation and exploitation. Read below. It’s truly horrible. There’s nothing I can add to that, as it speaks for itself.
from ESWS’s website:
There are many kinds of farewells in this world. All partings are heart
wrenching but is there one more painful than that of a baby separated from its mother as soon as it is born? Though the baby cannot express itself, the distress it causes is quite real.
At the same time, the distress caused by the separation is also enormous for the birth mother who has relinquished all rights to the baby. There is a report that identifies undeniable effects to the birth mother after her decision to give up her baby for adoption. In her report about Birth Mother Syndrome, Paik Yun Oak writes that giving up the right to a baby is like a living death. There is a finality to a typical death but in this living death, a mother who has given up her baby must cope with the range of emotions that comes from one extreme which is the hope of one day perhaps being able to meet her child and the other extreme, her current unbearable hopelessness. Mothers report repeatedly dreaming about losing their babies, fantasizing about marrying the fathers of the babies and living happily together, denying ever having given up their babies for adoption, losing themselves in alcohol or drug addiction or promiscuous sexual behavior. There are some who report having lost all memories of the birth or adoption, having bitterness towards the person who recommended adoption, feeling extreme isolation, living with guilt and shame and with the fear that she will be punished or in extreme cases attempting suicide caused by depression. In addition, these mothers are reported to have very low self esteem in raising their children after marriage and question their parental competence.
At Esther’s house, we aim to not only provide housing and prenatal care for safe births but programs for psychological support so that birth mothers can ease their loss and increase their confidence. According to Director Lee Kwang Mi who plans and oversees these programs, “many birth mothers experience much psychological pain and because there is so little to help them assimilate back into society and their previous lives, I have keenly felt that we need a rehabilitation program. As such, at Esther’s House, Choi Seung Hee, a social welfare Professor from Pyongtek University provides a loss program, farewell program and a confidence program for birth mothers.” Academics have reported that if a birth mother does not see her child or does not go through the process of saying good-bye, her ability to overcome her loss will be much more difficult. In this environment, accepting the reality of the adoption and being allowed to say good-bye allows birth mothers to accept their situation and lead a much more enriched life.
In our magazine, we describe a “farewell” ceremony for the birth mothers at Esther’s Home.
The ceremony began with a prayer by social worker Chang Bo kyung on behalf of the mothers who have decided to say farewell so that their children could have a better future. There were four babies in the middle of the hall. Even before the prayer began, there were sounds of sadness from the mothers. A birth mother stood by the foot of her baby with her head hanging down in tears and sadness. Once the prayer ended, Esther’s House employees took square pieces of paper to make a stamp of the babies’ feet and cut locks of hair. These will be passed along to the birth mothers so that they can cherish it.
Following was a time for reading letters by the mothers to their babies. The mothers each read a letter that they have written. Mothers read and stop overwhelmed by emotions and then read again. The mothers cried in sorrow because this might the last chance for the babies to hear their mothers’ voices.
Soon thereafter, the director of Esther’s Home, Lee Kwang Mi read a poem about birth parents and adoptive parents entitled “Legacy of an adopted child”. The director then asks the mothers to promise that they will pray for their child at least once a day and the mothers respond that they will. Then she prayed for the birth mothers who have physically and psychologically toiled and for the babies who will meet new adoptive parents. Then she approached each baby to bless them so that they will meet good families and grow up to be fine people.
The official part of the ceremony ended thus and the employees left the mothers to be with their babies. The mothers held on to their babies who have no idea what is happening and murmured words of love and sorrow. Mothers cried “baby, I’m so sorry. Your mother loves you so much. I will look for you later… I am so sorry.” Babies who had been born only three to four days ago stare up at the ceiling, only to start crying when the mothers hugged them hard in their sorrow.
The babies were then taken on a van to a temporary care center in Seoul and the mothers sat there in their sorrow unable to move.
The tummies of young mothers are now back in shape but the pain was added in their hearts. We should help them heal the pains in their hearts
Um, how about not cause the trauma to begin with and help these girls keep their babies?
Eastern Social Welfare Society is a licensed, nonprofit organization dedicated to finding nurturing homes for children. Founded in 1972 by Dr. Duk Whang Kim, ESWS has placed more than 35,000 children in loving homes in Korea, USA and Australia.
This is not the 1950’s. This is still happening TODAY.
Ugh. And try this one on for size…
“CHANGE THE IMAGE OF ADOPTEES” PROJECT
ESWS 06.04.07 51
Victims, orphans, sadness, unstableness, and anger are the images that Korean media have created for adoptees who live overseas. This kind of images made Korean people feel sympathy on overseas adoptees and treat them with pity, which a lot of adoptees feel uncomfortable about.
ESWS is trying to change images of adult adoptees to a more positive way by showing they are happy, generous and mature adults who contribute themselves to this society.
PROJECT #1> PUBLISH THE BOOK BASED ON THE SURVEY OF EASTERN ADULT ADOPTEES
ESWS had a survey for adult adoptees in the US and Australia last year. We traced where they live, what they do and have achieved and what they think about adoption. The survey turned out that many adult adoptees are well-educated, mature, strong, smart and well-rounded. Thus, ESWS decided to publish a book on the survey results to help change the prejudice of Korean people on adopted people. This book will mainly focus on the present and future of Eastern adoptees, rather than on the past that most media have focused on. However, we are in need of budget to publish this book.
To publish the Korean version, we need approximately
USD 3,000 for 500 copies. If you send sponsorship money, we will publish your name in the book and will send a copy to you. Photos and comments are welcomed.
I don’t think they want my photos or comments. I’m certainly not going to give them credit for the hard work and accomplishments I’ve achieved IN SPITE OF having to deal with racism, abuse, and loss of everything they take for granted.
The adoption agencies worry about the adoptees being seen as damaged products on the supply side or sending defective goods on the demand side, because to them it’s a business. Adoption agencies see Korean sympathy for adoptees as a problem. This is a good thing, only because they’re worried about their income source. We need and deserve sympathy. Pity, no. But yes, give us your sympathy. This tactic of theirs to interchange the two emotions of sympathy and pity is used to divide adoptees and weaken the opposition to their unethical practices. And I’m sorry – whatever benevolence they think they are trying to achieve are misguided fantasies. Unethical practices are unethical practices, no matter what their intent.
I also think it takes a really strong, thoughtful, well-rounded people to have the fortitude and commitment to see injustice and battle it for the good of all society.
What’s evident to me is the adoption agencies, as exhibited in the defensive acts quoted above, know they are causing harm, no matter how they try to justify it. The criticism stings precisely because it is accurate. And these efforts to ameliorate criticism just goes to show how flat their rationalizing is.
There is no war. There is no starvation. There is only exploiting the vulnerable. We adoptees have a right to be angry. Stripped of our names, birth dates, country, culture, and language – and then placed in a world where everyone must stop and decide how to process our difference. Being angry at the adoption agencies does not mean we are imbalanced. It just means we have hearts and brains.
These practices need to stop.
Have they no shame or human decency?
from the Korea Times
By Jennifer Kwon Dobbs
In today’s adoption world, South Korea is no longer the largest sending country. Yet, why does it remain the world’s oldest sending country in modern adoption history?
To address this undesirable legacy, the South Korean government has attempted to promote domestic adoption with mixed results.
Though domestic adoption statistically surpassed overseas adoption in 2007, the Ministry for Health, Welfare and Family Affairs has reported problems with disrupted domestic placements where adoptive parents have returned children to the system.
More significantly, domestic adoption is not a valid solution primarily because it ignores an unwed mother’s human right to give birth to and to raise her child.
Surf the web in Korea for unwed mothers’ assistance. The top links connect you to adoption agency sponsored sites that promise help. Yet what is the quality of this help when there’s a conflict of interest?
Seventeen of South Korea’s 25 unwed mothers’ maternity homes are adoption agency owned and operated. As reported by Choe Sang-hun for the New York Times, “Nearly 90 percent of the 1,250 South Korean children adopted abroad last year, most of them by American couples, were born to unmarried women.”
Current adoption agency practices encourage mothers to surrender their children.
News Trace 60 Minutes (Chujeok 60), a weekly news show of the state-run KBS TV, reports that adoption agencies cover expecting mothers’ medical expenses and typically bring paperwork for a mother to sign relinquishing her child while still in the hospital bed.
A hospital discharge usually occurs 72 hours after delivery. A social worker will arrive at the maternity ward during this window to take the child.
Consequently, many children are unregistered to their mothers and lack identifying paperwork, therefore preventing future attempts for family search and reunion.
In response to instances where mothers have changed their minds and wanted to keep their children, agencies have charged mothers for the cost of their hospital stays. However, agencies receive government subsidies that offset these and other operating costs.
It is also a common agency practice to bill mothers for foster care provided between a child’s birth and placement in an adoptive home. Many mothers, however, cannot pay and end up surrendering their children. The children of unwed mothers are not orphans, nor are they unwanted.
In my interviews with expecting mothers at Doori Home, a maternity home operated by the Salvation Army in Seoul, I learned that each mother who intended to surrender her child did not fully know her options nor have realistic expectations even though Doori Home, which has one of the highest rates of child-rearing motherhood, had provided counseling.
Each mother had named her child. Mothers who chose overseas adoption expected that their children would learn English, become globally and economically mobile, and find and return to them.
This assumption motivated mothers to prefer overseas adoption. However, reunion is the exceptional, not the usual outcome. From 1995-2005, the ministry reported that only 2.7 percent of 78,000 overseas adoptees who initiated a birth search successfully reunited with their families.
Nor did the mothers understand that relinquishment means irrevocably terminating parental rights. When asked about this, the mothers repeatedly said that they were their children’s mothers although others would provide child-rearing care because they could not.
The mothers did not realize that overseas adoption cut their children off from Korean culture. For example, they were unaware that their children, more than likely, would be unable to speak Korean with them should they be reunited in the future.
All of the mothers with whom I spoke mentioned a lack of emotional family support foremost affecting their choice to surrender or rear their children. Their own mothers as well as their partners’ mothers primarily exerted pressure or threatened to take the child to the adoption agency.
The intimate cultural stigma and socioeconomic impediments these mothers face reveal the discriminatory side of South Korea’s economic miracle.
South Korea’s inability to imagine support for unwed mothers separate from domestic or overseas adoption shows just how deeply entrenched adoption, a once privatized postwar solution, has become in the country’s welfare system.
Promoting adoption instead of protecting unwed mothers’ rights to their own children shows that South Korea does not view them and their children as real families. Whether one is for or against adoption misses the point that the vast majority of children placed for adoption today have loving families that South Korea prefers to break up.
Addressing unwed mothers’ human rights requires multiple approaches to end a national culture of shame and secrecy. Foremost, South Korea must build a culture that promotes mothers and must provide real opportunities for them to care for their children.
Instead of punishing unwed mothers, South Korea should value and work with them to invest in future generations that can make our country stronger and more prosperous.
Jennifer Kwon Dobbs is an assistant professor at the English department, St. Olaf College in Northfield, Minn. She can be reached at http://www.jkwondobbs.com.
|Jin-hee, played by Kim Sae-ron, in the movie “A Brand New Life.” Provided by Seoul Film Commission|
Jin-hee’s morning begins on a bicycle, her arms wrapped around her father’s waist as he navigates the streets. She enjoys the ride and the warmth of his back as she presses into him.
It’s a big day. Her father bought her new clothes, which she is now wearing. He also bought her a large cake, though it’s not her birthday. She is so happy that, during lunch at a restaurant, she sings a little song for her father.
The day, however, takes an abrupt turn. Jin-hee’s father drops her off at an orphanage, where she’s left with a dozen children she has never met. It’s the beginning of a brand new life for her, one she tries desperately to escape until she realizes that there is nowhere for her to go and that her father is not coming back.
She quickly learns that life at the orphanage is full of separation and sadness, as other children are adopted and leave her life, one by one. Her best friend Sook-hee (Park Do-yeon) lands in the arms of an American family and is whisked to a land where she apparently can eat cake every day. Although Jin-hee eventually gives up on the idea of going back home, she can’t shake the memory of that bike ride and the warmth of her father’s back.
The French-Korean film “A Brand New Life,” which will be screened at PIFF under the World Cinema category, narrates a heartbreaking story about overcoming the sorrow of separation and accepting fate. The film beautifully illustrates the process that Jin-hee (Kim Sae-ron) goes through as she slowly realizes her fate and then learns to embrace life as an adoptee. Every moment is tear-jerking, but at the same time it gives you hope that one can find a new path.
The film is based on the true story of Korean-French director Ounie Lecomte, who was born in Seoul, Korea, in 1966 and was adopted by a French family when she was 9. She spent one year at the Saint Paul orphanage, run by Catholic nuns, in Seoul. It is the first French-Korean joint production and is Lecomte’s debut film. It was co-produced by renowned director Lee Chang-dong and was filmed near Seoul. It was presented for the first time at the Cannes International Film Festival in May.
Lecomte said in an interview at the Cannes festival that she tried to portray the emotions of a little girl facing extraordinary circumstances – abandonment and adoption – rather than simply replicate her childhood. “The year at the orphanage is the time and place of an intervening period between two lives: a life in which she didn’t have to learn how to let go and then a life in which she will learn how to desire,” Lecomte said.
The film will be shown at 7:30 p.m. on Oct. 9 and at 11 a.m. on Oct. 11 at Lotte Cinema at the Centum City complex in Busan. It will also be released nationwide on Oct. 29.
A Brand New Life
Drama / Korean
By Limb Jae-un [email@example.com]
See the trailer to the movie below:
Probably the highlight of my visit to Busan (since I wasn’t allowed into the theater to see Resilience because I was 2 minutes late – but that’s another story) was meeting Kyong-Wha. (Her story in the New York Times follows below)
I consider myself a lucky girl to not only have heroines, but to meet them and be able to get to know them personally.
Heroine #1 is Jane Jeong Trenka, who is the most unselfish person I’ve ever met. We’re very similar, in that we see a need and follow up on it. But she’s younger and thinks bigger than I do, and she exhausts all of her seemingly (but not) boundless energy creating a better world for women. Currently she and a team of advisors have DRAFTED A NEW LAW to be proposed to the Korean National Assembly. How’s THAT for citizen action??? Historic. Landmark.
Heroine #2 is Kyung-Wha. Here’s another woman who sees a need and, instead of sucking it up stoically by herself, she not only puts herself out there, but creates a foundation for single mothers BY single mothers – the first of its kind in Korea – called Mama Mia.
Reading the article, you will be both energized and impressed by this fearless, courageous woman and encouraged by the writing and the exposure of this issue in the New York Times. But Korea, it seems, does not see Kyung-Wha’s actions or Sang-Hun’s New York Times article in such favorable light. In fact, fall-out and negative comments by netizens of Korea’s insular cyberworld has been rather severe. They ask things like, “How can you ask for the government to help you when YOU messed up?” They refuse to recognize any of the extra hardships and descrimination these women face for TAKING RESPONSIBILITY FOR THEIR ACTIONS. They do not appreciate Sang-Hun airing Korea’s dirty laundry out in public, never once considering that it was they who dirtied the laundry to begin with. They see nothing wrong with the government promoting adoption and discouraging women to raise their own children, as most Koreans still think of America as the land of milk and honey: even though there are more jobs here and the standard of living is REALLY HIGH.
I learned, in addition to the NYT article, that the measly 50,000 won (half of the $85 the government sends to subsidize those who already have the means to adopt) is taken away once an unwed mother gets a job: which of course she must do, because how can you live on $42.50 a month? There is a child support system here, but it is not enforced, so dead-beat dad’s merely have to move so their address no longer matches the database. There is no blame directed at the men for their part in procreation.
Kyung Wha’s little boy is an absolute delight. Jane chases him and they play mock battle like the Pororo characters from Korean children’s tv cartoons. His peels of laughter amuse everyone but his mom, who knows he will be extra hard to settle down. He hits his head under a table and cries and she rocks him in her arms, kissing his head. I see this and remember how much I loved these moments of just being there for my little ones, comforting them. Later, he’s passed out across two restaurant chairs, oblivious to all and looking like an angel, and I remember Jane saying earlier under her breath something like, “and to think he could have been sent away.”
So I’ll post the first half of the NYT article here, and let you finish the rest there…
SEOUL, South Korea — Four years ago, when she found that she was pregnant by her former boyfriend, Choi Hyong-sook considered abortion. But after she saw the little blip of her baby’s heartbeat on ultrasound images, she could not go through with it.
As her pregnancy advanced, she confided in her elder brother. His reaction would sound familiar to unwed mothers in South Korea. She said he tried to drag her to an abortion clinic. Later, she said, he pressed her to give the child up for adoption.
“My brother said: ‘How can you be so selfish? You can’t do this to our parents,’ ” said Ms. Choi, 37, a hairdresser in Seoul. “But when the adoption agency took my baby away, I felt as if I had thrown him into the trash. It felt as if the earth had stopped turning. I persuaded them to let me reclaim my baby after five days.”
Now, Ms. Choi and other women in her situation are trying to set up the country’s first unwed mothers association to defend their right to raise their own children. It is a small but unusual first step in a society that ostracizes unmarried mothers to such an extent that Koreans often describe things as outrageous by comparing them to “an unmarried woman seeking an excuse to give birth.”
The fledgling group of women — only 40 are involved so far — is striking at one of the great ironies of South Korea. The government and commentators fret over the country’s birthrate, one of the world’s lowest, and deplore South Korea’s international reputation as a baby exporter for foreign adoptions.