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Archive for August 2010

Yes, we can!

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Chosun.com article translated into English by http://www.asiancorrespondent.com/ Korea Beat

“Our A is so cute with such a white face, no? She tells me that what she wants to do here the most is study really hard.”

On the morning of August 23, 15-year-old A, a third-year middle school student, was bashful as she introduced herself in jeans and a white t-shirt after being introduced by Lee Chan-mi, a social worker.

That was the scene in class on the first day of operation for the Narae Alternative School (나래대안학교), the first alternative educational institute for unmarried students in the entire nation. It was a time for them to see one another’s faces and introduce the school members sitting with them.

The students in the first day’s class included A and one other, a first-year high school student. The two attended regular schools until it was found they were pregnant. The students now receive regular lessons here, and when they graduate they will receive diplomas from their original schools.

The Seoul Office of Education (서울시교육청) chose Ae Ran Won (애란원), an organization for unmarried mothers, to be the site of the education facility, and the Narae School now operates from the same building and protects the educational rights of unmarried mothers.

On August 23 the Ministry of Science Education, and Technology (교육과학기술부) published a report, titled 학생 미혼모 실태조사 연구, according to which there are 73 unmarried mothers living in the 35 facilities for them nationwide and 85% of them are not attending school. Many of them were forced to drop out when their schools discovered their pregnancies or else put their schoolwork on hold to give birth and take care of their babies.

17-year-old B, a second-year high school student who sat in on a class at the Narae School and hopes to attend, has the same situation. In May her school forced her to drop out when it discovered she was pregnant. “The other students will be harmed,” was the reason.

Due to give birth in December, B said, “I guess I would have had to study by myself and just get a GED, so I’m extremely happy there is this place where I can graduate and a diploma from my old school… my dream is to study hard and become a hair designer.”

The unmarried mothers who enter the Narae School live in Ae Ran Won and study five subjects (Korean, English, math, social studies, and science) for two to three hours per day, and then take courses in preparation for parenthood and vocational licenses. Ae Ran Won contains a nursery and after givign birth the mothers can study while living with their babies. After giving birth they may go back to their original schools if their health permits and if the school accepts them.

Seoul and Incheon are the only areas with education institutes for unmarried mothers. The Ministry plans to have the 16 city and provincial offices of education each establish at least one such institute next year.

Of course there is no such facility for the miserable screw-up fathers, who are not expelled and will graduate as if nothing happened.

Written by girl4708

August 27, 2010 at 10:01 pm

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Questions to ask about adoption from S. Korea

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Why are the adoption agencies against improvements to social services for unwed mothers?  Shouldn’t an institution that purportedly cares about children be enthusiastic about preserving original families whenever possible?

Why does Holt International say they comply with the Hague Convention when they source babies from Holt Korea, and Korea does NOT comply with the Hague Convention or the United Nations’ Convention on the Rights of the Child?  Isn’t that deceptive?

Why does Holt continue to say children will die if they are not adopted from S. Korea?

How can Holt say there is no conflict of interest operating unwed mother’s homes when their primary operation is exporting infants?

Why does Holt have associations with over 22 hospital maternity wards?

Why does Holt call infants motherless and homeless when the children were not abandoned or found on the street?  When the reason they are orphans is because the majority of the children’s mothers were counseled into giving up their children.  And the mothers comply because with inadequate social services they have no real options left them.

Why does Holt spend government grants for Post adoption resources on adoption advertising campaigns?

Why do adoption industry CEO’s make six figure incomes?

Why does Holt continue to portray Korean children as products of a war-torn country?

How can Holt afford to support a touring rock band promoting adoption?

Why does Holt spend $600,000+ each year on adoption advertising when there are wait lists for adopting?

Why has Holt never had an exit strategy after their war relief efforts (their rationale behind starting international adoption in the first place) after the war ended?  It’s been 56 years intervening in Korean society…


Why does the government not have access to the identity papers of all Korean adoptees?

Why are those papers left in the hands of private agencies?

Why is there no third party oversight of adoption practices?

Why won’t S. Korea comply with international conventions concerned with ethics in adoption?

Why is the 13th ranking member nation of the OECD unable to provide adequate social services to its own people?

Why do Korean companies pay millions for cosmetic surgery for disfigured children in third world countries while disfigured Korean children sit in orphanages?

Why is disfigurement grounds for becoming an orphan in Korea?


How can there by any honor in preserving family honor by forcing your daughters to relinquish their flesh and blood?

What is more valuable, denying indiscretions and their outcomes?  or preventing the outcomes of indiscretions?


Why do adoptive parents (AP’s) and potential adoptive parents (PAP’s)  ignore all of the questions above?

How can Korea ever hope to establish their own social programming when international adoption agencies remove the government’s responsibilities?

Why do most AP’s not bother to even come to investigate the conditions and culture of the country their orphan came from?

Would you want to be raised a Caucasian minority by an all Korean family in Korea?

Can you not see that for each of the 200,000 children that have been sent out of the country, at least that many Koreans live with the grief of losing a child?

Do you really believe that many children were intentionally forsaken???

Shouldn’t the need for adoption programs in any country eventually become obsolete?  With Korea being the first and oldest source country, and model for all international adoption programs to follow, what does its long established institutionalization say about the marriage of charity and adoption?


This adoptee is constantly accused of not being objective, which is ridiculous, because it is impossible for an adoptee to be objective about adoption.  Objectivists merely report.  Subjects understand on a deeper level, and history shows us that major shifts of consciousness have followed policy changes instigated by those who have been subjugated to injustice.

Despite whatever bad and good feelings/experiences this adoptee has had, this adoptee is still a rational / logical being, and logic tells this adoptee that the adoption solution is no solution at all.

Until adoption industry pressure on this society is curtailed, and until law is enacted to preserve families and the civil rights of adoptees, and until PAP money stops perverting politics and driving market forces, the Korean people will never get a real opportunity to evolve or grow into their civilized potential.

Written by girl4708

August 17, 2010 at 5:35 pm

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First Person Plural

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Documentary film about the true story of Deanne Borshay, who was  swapped with another girl and sent to live her life in America.  It’s on-line for streaming video viewing until September 11th…

My access is restricted because I’m in Korea.  :(

And here is the trailer for her new documentary, a sequel where she goes to look for the other girl.  It will air on PBS on September 14th

Written by girl4708

August 13, 2010 at 7:44 pm

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The other side of the coin

Now, being all new to adoption two years ago, I wasn’t quite exactly sure what people meant by the word entitlement bandied about by anti-adoption adoptees, but I knew in other circles it meant the haves thinking everything can or should be theirs.  I also knew that adoptive parents really resented being accused of exercising their entitlement to adopt, especially since applying is viewed as an ordeal by some.

Living here in Korea and thinking about the war and Korea today, I’ve come to appreciate just what entitlement means.

Harry Holt, who is portrayed as a simple man of extraordinary magnanimity, was in actual fact a rather wealthy zealot:  wealthy enough to quit farming and travel the world to participate in missionary work without anybody missing bread on the table at home.  He claimed God spoke to him by pointing him to a piece of scripture which he interpreted as a command to take children from the East and turn them into Christians.  Because he was an evangelical zealot, he saw the entire population of Korean children as fodder for easy conversion, and it was his goal to bring as many as he could to God by removing them from their heathen country.  And so, in an amazing PR move, he set about making himself a precedent and getting the government to sanction his efforts by calling it war relief;  thus creating a mechanism whereby he could ship a steady stream of these children to America to live as Christians.  And which later he was able to permanently change adoption law…long after the war was over and continuing to the present day.

What he did by coming to Korea and starting International adoption was he carefully crafted the marriage of charity with the acquisition of children.  Social workers at the time were appalled that children would be uprooted from their native cultures and worried about how (or if) they would assimilate into a country where they would be a minority and possibly marginalized. They questioned whether importing these children was in the best interests of the child.

The first children he brought over were Amerasian children, who would have been targets for discrimination and difficult lives.  Were his intentions charitable, or were they exploitative?  Helping those Amerasian children was admirable, but was bringing them to America for the children, or were they being used as an experiment in gaining future evangelical Christian recruits?

I’ve talked to some of these older adoptees, and the stories are pretty horrific.  They were used as servants and laborers.  They had doctrine hounded into them.  They had the Korean LITERALLY beaten out of them.  They were abused in many ways.  They were denied shares of inheritance.  OR they became almost evangelical themselves, preaching the word of how Harry or God saved their lives.

But let’s get back to the topic at hand, entitlement. People around the globe were fascinated with this act by Mr. Holt.  FASCINATED.  My mother included.  Why, you mean we can be charitable AND get a child by doing so?  We can help a child and get to keep it?  And this is where entitlement comes in.  Because people who would have never considered helping a local orphan suddenly wanted a child that came delivered from a plane.  Or, the inverse:  the fact they could get a child previously only seen in magazines might prompt them to suddenly become charitable.  From that time forward, helping children overseas only became desirable if it gave an immediate and direct benefit to the benefactor, and in this way have the lives of children been com-modified as a luxury item.

And the reason for justifying the transportation of children 5,000+ miles away from their country was that they had the means.  EVEN if it was a struggle or sacrifice, they still had the means.  And having the means allows one to entertain one’s wants with less consideration.  And THAT is adoptive parent entitlement.

And that is by no means an indictment of adoptive parents:  I too am guilty of this on occasion.  It just is what it is and should be recognized, so we can really look at the whole picture honestly.  It’s like me recognizing when I’m being a racist.  It’s uncomfortable but necessary so we can work harder to make more informed decisions in the future before we’ve gone and contributed to this mess.

Not much has changed since then, except that Christianity is no longer the prerequisite for obtaining a child from another country.  And that’s only because the U.S. government made them…

No.  Wait.  I forgot what a strategic genius Harry was.  When the stock of Amerasian babies ran out, and when the economy improved and starving families ran out, he managed to convince Koreans that the children of unwed mothers should go to him.  So that he (and now his daughter) may call them motherless and homeless.  (they counsel the mothers to give up their children and then call the children motherless and put them in foster care and then call them homeless!)  So that people who want children from magazines can continue to think of their wants as charitable and totally ignore the social conditions that don’t improve because of the intervention of adoption agencies.  Adoption is to social services as the ajumma is to street cleaning, who arrives at dawn so the streets are spotless when the business day starts.  Yup, adoption is a wonderful thing for the Korean government.

It’s quite the marriage:  Harry Holt + Korea.

And now + Ethiopia, +China, +the Philippines, +India, +Thailand, +Vietnam, +Nepal, +Uganda, +Haiti.

And if you notice, Holt continues on in Korea almost 60 years later.  And notice too that Korea is the only country that isn’t in poverty, with China rising in ranks.  And that is because Korea has the dubious distinction of being the first country from which children have been taken for International adoption.  And you will no doubt notice that, if Holt International has their way, they will continue to “help” all those other countries long after their fortunes improve. And they will be there at the first international disaster, ready to lay the foundation for a continued presence in whatever country is currently on their knees.

Staying long after you’re no longer needed.  Creating a need where none exists.  Fighting efforts to improve social services.  To me, Holt and the other international adoption agencies are no charity.  They are exploiters now only pandering to the entitled.

All I’m saying is look.  Recognize.  Let’s stop the madness.

Written by girl4708

August 13, 2010 at 7:42 pm

Posted in Uncategorized

One side of the coin

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So I’m a little late posting this, but here is an excellent (and grisly) photo essay on the Korean war.

click on the photo to get to The Boston Globe’s continuing photo essay series, “The Big Picture”

Back then, adoption may have been necessary for some children bereft of family. But comparing those conditions to today, and it’s clear there’s no compelling reason for adoption to exist in Korea.  It’s elective.  (Adoption and relinquishment are two words that really have no business being used together, in my opinion)

click on photo for more info

There’s also no reason why Korea can’t take care of its own citizens.

Today, Korea can spend 6.5 million U.S. on sidewalk signage in one district that can take photos of you, email them to your friends, and surf the internet.

Today, Korea sends millions of dollars in charity to third world countries every year. They also send doctors to perform cosmetic surgery on children so they can lead a better life, but Korean children with the same affliction get put in orphanages.

Today, Koreans are spending millions again on programs to integrate foreign brides and migrant workers into society, who will marry full-blood Koreans and produce mixed-race children because there is an exodus of Koreans out of the country and the lowest birth rates in the world, coupled with the highest abortion rates in the world.

Korea has the money.  But Koreans are so preoccupied with appearances that they will throw away their own people if they aren’t image enhancing.

So what’s more immoral?  That your daughter/sister laid on her back?  Or that you forced her to throw away her child, a human being, because it made you look bad?  What kind of honor is found in that?

A.  None.  It’s Korea’s greatest shame, this preoccupation with looking honorable.  It turns honor into a lie:  not really earned or deserved.

The grisly photos of atrocities against civilians on both sides and the oppression of Korea’s daughters to me suggests the same thing, and that is misspent passive aggressive rage.  Rage at being oppressed:  by outside forces, by those born with more power, by men.  Rage at being divided into unclimbable social strata.   Listen to what the old folks have to teach about culture.  Don’t listen when they tell you you’ll be better off without your children.  I hope the old folks here go to a better place.  Let the rage be buried with them.   Let us build a better society.  Let all young Koreans fight that legacy and create something healthier and more honest.

Written by girl4708

August 13, 2010 at 7:41 pm

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Heard recently that HOLT is expanding its offices in Seoul. (???!!!)

I kind of think this structure made of bamboo would be appropriate.  Environmentally sensitive, made in China and inexpensive, saving adoption fees, and also a good choice for the temporary (cough) nature of aid (clears throat) work.

Written by girl4708

August 13, 2010 at 7:38 pm

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Two videos of orphanages

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This is shamelessly copied from Jane’s blog, without permission.  On this occasion, two months into the anniversary of the beginning of the Korean war and me thinking about Korea, war, and orphans, I remembered this post and thought it an appropriate time to bring it to your attention.  Jane’s post below:

::Welcome to Geon Orphanage::

I think this video is really well-done. It gives factual  information about the kinds of Korean children who live in orphanages today, and it shows a modern orphanage. It appears to have been made by a younger white male English speaker, most likely an English teacher here.

Now, the following video by Holt International visually invokes the Korean War, stressing that terrible period of time as if it still exists. I think it is a common tactic for adoption agencies involved in Korean adoption to keep hammering on the Korean War forever and ever, which is why so many adoptees and adoptive parents are surprised to see a very modern Korean when they get here. Of course, the narration is overly sentimental, designed to grab at heartstrings instead of shedding the light on the harsh realities of the barriers that Korean single mothers face in being able to raise their own children.

End of Jane’s post.

If you double click on the Holt video, the comments on that last video are pretty astounding as well.   I just wish I had video footage of the unwed moms and their kids together.  If people saw that, they might truly be disturbed about Holt’s video above…

ADDED:  Most children living in orphanages today are there because their parents are having difficult circumstances due in no small part to crappy social services.  Many of the stays for these children are temporary.  On the flip side, I don’t have any statistics, but I’ll risk saying that ALL of the children who aren’t handicapped in the International adoption programs are infants with living parents.  I’ll also speculate that most of their mothers don’t REALLY want to give their babies away.  But, like Choi Hyun-Sook, when your brother insists he watches you sign over relinquishment papers, and when you investigate and there are no adequate social services to help you, and all of the adoption agencies tell you your life will be destroyed if you keep your child and don’t offer to tell you about any alternatives, then it’s no wonder these babies are given away.  The  coercion is omission.  The loaded gun is social pressure.  The only choice is no choice.

So are we “helping” or “saving” by signing on for the Korea adoption program?  Or are we adding to the pressure?  Adoption agencies call it relinquishment, but I call it exploiting the vulnerable, which can also be called theft.

And how does it feel to have given away your child under these circumstances?  Go to Ae Ran Won’s old English web site and click on Writings to find out.

Written by girl4708

August 13, 2010 at 7:36 pm

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Remembering Koryo Book Review

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From Lee’s Korea blog at Global Post


.One of the more contentious issues is that the charitable origins of the main adoption agencies appear to have transformed into privately owned for-profit operations. Contrary to what many people reasonably assume, virtually all adoptions of Korean children are managed and profited from by privately owned businesses that charge thousands of US dollars to prospective parents in western countries. These proceeds are used to profit the companies (invariably titled as Welfare Societies or Services), as well as pay off midwives, obstetricians, ‘counselors’ and the Korean government, providing an attractive solution to the ‘orphan’ problem. Around US$15-20 million per year is made through Korean adoption, which is significant compared to the amount spent on public welfare, and the burden that would be incurred from providing for thousands of babies in foster programs.

Three of the four major adoption agencies run their own pregnant women’s homes, with bedside ‘advisors’ for mothers who may be considering giving their child up for adoption. One runs its own maternity hospital, and all four support or run their own orphanages. All four pay foster mothers about $80 a month to care for the infants, and the agencies can provide all food, clothing and other supplies free of charge. The agreement is that the agencies will cover the costs of delivery and medical care for any woman who gives up her baby for adoption. They also pay a lump sum of cash to the relinquishing mother. This system not only makes it easier for single mothers to give their children up, it actively encourages them. In the 90s, a Korean baby could cost a western couple around US$5,000 depending on the agency, but in 2010, the prices can be as high as US$40,000. These prices are labeled as ‘administration and medical fees’ and despite the considerable costs, the overseas demand for young healthy Korean babies has always outpaced supply.
As well as the ‘pull’ from these market forces, there are also significant pushing forces for single mothers to give their babies up…
Sounds like a book to go pick up if you can…The book is currently available on sale at major retailers in South Korea, but will be selling on Amazon in a couple of weeks. A Korean translated version will be released in December.

Written by girl4708

August 13, 2010 at 7:21 pm

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Korea’s Lost Children

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Check out the BBC documentary, Korea’s Lost Children featuring:

yours truly,

Jane Jeong Trenka, (president of TRACK)

Hyun-Sook (founder of Miss Mama Mia)

Molly Holt (president of Holt Children’s Services Korea)

Two connections I failed to make in the documentary (gah!  so close…media attention will be over long before I ever even come close to mastering being fully present for it):

  1. 13 years after the war, the reason I was abandoned was BECAUSE adoption agencies had set themselves up as the only solution for difficult family situations.  And NOT just standing by at the ready, but actively canvassing for children. It was a propaganda wave and a system set up to pipeline children straight to the airport.  That’s just chilling in my book.
  2. Adoption agencies say they MUST be here or catastrophic conclusions will become realities.  When in actuality, their presence retards the implementation of adequate social programming.

One question everyone should ask themselves is:  Why are the adoption agencies against laws to improve social programming and protecting the civil rights of children? Shouldn’t it be the goal of every adoption program on the planet, especially a Christian organization, to no longer be needed? Who do they care the most about?  Hmm?

And something everyone should consider is:  When you choose to ignore questionable ethics and continue to participate out of self interest, then your own ethics are also questionable. And nearly every adoptee I’ve spoken with, even the ones that had great experiences, you can tell.  You can tell how they came to become family does not feel good to them.

So why aren’t we all working together to clean the mess up?  I’ll tell you why:


Written by girl4708

August 8, 2010 at 2:35 am

White Dust

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There is no school today, as it’s a school holiday:  the founding of the school.  Despite having much to do, I am distracted.

In the absence of air-conditioning, the fan emits this low noise pollution, sucking in organic matter through the window and blowing it and formerly undetected fine white powder from the installation fabric across everything.  It clings to every surface and then to my half naked body which moves restlessly from place to place to place.  It’s pernicious, this grit.  How many cleanings will it take for it to disappear?

I try to make myself feel better:  I watch movies, I pick up and drop several projects, I go for a walk, I check out another health club, I look for activities to join, I remember I should eat, etc., but nothing engages me and I just make the circuit of my room over and over again.  I feel lost.

Jane’s writing from the TRACK blog grabs my attention:

Each misplaced, forgotten, thrown away, ripped-up, spilled-on, smeared, misstamped, lost and found again later tag still represents one child, one file. We keep finding stray tags now — one at a time, sets of them– unlabeled, unaccounted for. I found a stray tag today next to the door of my apartment, next to the garbage can and the shoes. “Where do you belong, little girl? How did you get here?”

I feel like that lost tag.  I am that lost tag.

I am out of place.  I am out of time.  Despite my best efforts, I am always orphaned and alone and abandoned.  Love is a privilege denied me.  The losses collect. The white dust is like the grief I can’t wash away.

I know it’s not finished and it’s badly edited, but I don’t know how much longer I can linger on this and stay healthy, so here is my unfinished video gift to Kim Sook Ja and all the other Korean adoptees out there in the world who, despite their best efforts, sing private songs of lamentation when they long to sing for joy:

I hope they have some company, wherever they ended up:  someone to take their part and soothe them.  This is the best I can do:  say I understand the loss and isolation you have felt/feel.

You are not alone.

Written by girl4708

August 8, 2010 at 2:31 am