Looking at numbers differently
Last year 1,080 children were adopted from Korea to the United States.
When we hear a figure like, “approximately 1,000 children” were sent abroad for adoption, it gets diminished in our minds because it starts with one. Whether it is one, or one hundred, or one thousand – just beginning with the number one our minds associate it with the lone figure one with some zeros added, so it seems less than it really is and we don’t bother to look closer.
But what does 1,080 actually mean? It means that, on average, almost Cthree children EVERY DAY boarded a plane from Korea, never to see their country or their mothers ever again. When you think of THREE EVERY DAY it somehow seems like a lot more, doesn’t it?
Most of those children will go to homes where they will know the meaning of one on a profound level: for the others in their family will not be able to share their loss, or understand what it is to look different, or to be disconnected from those that look like them, or have to explain their existence, or try to reconcile why they were given up.
1,080 is a huge number. Even if it pales in comparison with the peak year of 1985, at 8,837 international adoptions, (that comes out to about ten children every day) it’s a huge number to each of those children and each of their mothers. And we can see that whether it’s three or ten daily, both figures are too many and they add up…
The statistics begin in 1968 with 6,677 children adopted abroad, even though the war effectively ended in 1953. The total statistics from 1968 – 2008 are 161,558 children. Add in the 1,125 sent for international adoption in 2009, (89.3% who were children of unwed mothers) and then extrapolate the missing statistics from undocumented private adoptions and the 12 years between 1955 (when Harry and Bertha Holt petitioned congress to allow international adoption) and 1968, (which probably started moderately but grew to 1968’s huge figure) and it’s very easy to see where the estimate of 200,000 Korean children adopted abroad comes from.
Back when I was in the Holt Korea office, looking through the 1966 book of transfer documents from the county where I was born abandoned in, my blood ran cold as I flipped through page after page after page after page of children. Literally hundreds of them. Several every week from my town alone. There aren’t even any statistics on the total number of international adoptions that year, and none of these books (1967 and earlier) are included in the government’s official count of total international adoptions.
The book of abandoned children was just one book of many for Korea that year. (the book few adoptees ever get to see, unless you rampage like I did and come armed with a film crew) How many books filled with several hundreds of children each are locked up in Holt Children Services’ vaults? And Eastern Social Welfare Society’s vaults? and Korean Social Welfare Services vaults? and Korea Social Services’ vaults? The answer? approximately 200 times 1,000.
That blue book with hundreds of slips of paper in it — all from the same county, from the same year — made me realize just. how. much. one. is. One child. One slip of paper. Filling a book. It was an epidemic of abandonment, that spread like wildfire throughout the entire country. The year of 1966 was 13 years after the war ended. The peak year of 1985 was 32 years after the war ended. Doesn’t that seem odd to you? The primary reason for all this abandonment was because the adoption agencies were there, canvassing for babies with whatever promises, lies, coercion, or rationalizations they could come up with. Canvassing for babies with ever growing sophistication in a system that had become an institutionalized machine: a machine that is adaptive and changes in whatever way necessary in order to continue canvassing for babies.
Now, imagine if you will, that America’s solution to its social problems was to send the children of poor families and welfare moms to Dubai or Brunai for adoption? Now, imagine there are government sanctioned child hunters in your country, scouring the hospitals and running unwed mother’s homes. But let’s also imagine there is no welfare or social services in America. Or that the only socially recognized birth control is abstinence. Imagine that baby farming was never abolished in America, and girls are still sent away to give birth in shame and secrecy and must leave the unwed mother’s homes with empty arms. Now imagine if 200,000 American babies were sent abroad at a rate of 3 per day? You’d be appalled, right? I’m here in Korea now. I am appalled. Adoption as social engineering is appalling. Adoption as birth control is appalling. Adoption should be the absolute last resort for true orphans and those who risk losing their life. Prove to me that’s the case in Korea, and I’ll shut up.
Each and every child born deserves to live their lives as nature intended, without the violence of disruption caused by outside forces upon their mothers. Each and every human being deserves this right. Each and every 1 of those 200,000 is such a human being whose rights, in many cases, have been violated.
Each and every number representing a human being is significant.
We’re working hard right now, getting our bill before the Korean National Assembly approved to increase social services so that no more children unnecessarily become numbers/victims/casualties of this baby canvassing machine. And we want you to know that we are not spoiled, petulant, angry adoptees: we are humanitarians who believe in the dignity and rights of all people, especially those too small to speak for themselves.