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Statement on Haiti

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Yes, there is an unprecedented voice of reason and appeal for care and consideration surrounding the matter of Haiti.  But we’ve seen how, without constant vigilance, reason can be side-stepped and forgotten.

Adoptees of Color are stepping up to make it known that we are watching:  Some history should not be repeated…

From Adoptees of Color Roundtable

This statement reflects the position of an international community of adoptees of color who wish to pose a critical intervention in the discourse and actions affecting the child victims of the recent earthquake in Haiti. We are domestic and international adoptees with many years of research and both personal and professional experience in adoption studies and activism. We are a community of scholars, activists, professors, artists, lawyers, social workers and health care workers who speak with the knowledge that North Americans and Europeans are lining up to adopt the “orphaned children” of the Haitian earthquake, and who feel compelled to voice our opinion about what it means to be “saved” or “rescued” through adoption.

We understand that in a time of crisis there is a tendency to want to act quickly to support those considered the most vulnerable and directly affected, including children. However, we urge caution in determining how best to help. We have arrived at a time when the licenses of adoption agencies in various countries are being reviewed for the widespread practice of misrepresenting the social histories of children. There is evidence of the production of documents stating that a child is “available for adoption” based on a legal “paper” and not literal orphaning as seen in recent cases of intercountry adoption of children from Malawi, Guatemala, South Korea and China. We bear testimony to the ways in which the intercountry adoption industry has profited from and reinforced neo-liberal structural adjustment policies, aid dependency, population control policies, unsustainable development, corruption, and child trafficking.

For more than fifty years “orphaned children” have been shipped from areas of war, natural disasters, and poverty to supposedly better lives in Europe and North America. Our adoptions from Vietnam, South Korea, Guatemala and many other countries are no different from what is happening to the children of Haiti today. Like us, these “disaster orphans” will grow into adulthood and begin to grasp the magnitude of the abuse, fraud, negligence, suffering, and deprivation of human rights involved in their displacements.

We uphold that Haitian children have a right to a family and a history that is their own and that Haitians themselves have a right to determine what happens to their own children. We resist the racist, colonialist mentality that positions the Western nuclear family as superior to other conceptions of family, and we seek to challenge those who abuse the phrase “Every child deserves a family”  to rethink how this phrase is used to justify the removal of children from Haiti for the fulfillment of their own needs and desires. Western and Northern desire for ownership of Haitian children directly contributes to the destruction of existing family and community structures in Haiti. This individualistic desire is supported by the historical and global anti-African sentiment which negates the validity of black mothers and fathers and condones the separation of black children from their families, cultures, and countries of origin.

As adoptees of color many of us have inherited a history of dubious adoptions. We are dismayed to hear that Haitian adoptions may be “fast-tracked” due to the massive destruction of buildings in Haiti that hold important records and documents. We oppose this plan and argue that the loss of records requires slowing down of the processes of adoption while important information is gathered and re-documented for these children. Removing children from Haiti without proper documentation and without proper reunification efforts is a violation of their basic human rights and leaves any family members who may be searching for them with no recourse. We insist on the absolute necessity of taking the time required to conduct a thorough search, and we support an expanded set of methods for creating these records, including recording oral histories.

We urge the international community to remember that the children in question have suffered the overwhelming trauma of the earthquake and separation from their loved ones. We have learned first-hand that adoption (domestic or intercountry) itself as a process forces children to negate their true feelings of grief, anger, pain or loss, and to assimilate to meet the desires and expectations of strangers. Immediate removal of traumatized children for adoption—including children whose adoptions were finalized prior to the quake— compounds their trauma, and denies their right to mourn and heal with the support of their community.

We affirm the spirit of Cultural Sovereignty, Sovereignty and Self-determination embodied as rights for all peoples to determine their own economic, social and cultural development included in the Convention on the Rights of the Child; the Charter of the United Nations; the UN Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples; and the International Covenant on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights. The mobilization of European and North American courts, legislative bodies, and social work practices to implement forced removal through intercountry adoption is a direct challenge to cultural sovereignty. We support the legal and policy application of cultural rights such as rights to language, rights to ways of being/religion, collective existence, and a representation of Haiti’s histories and existence using Haiti’s own terms.

We offer this statement in solidarity with the people of Haiti and with all those who are seeking ways to intentionally support the long-term sustainability and self-determination of the Haitian people. As adoptees of color we bear a unique understanding of the trauma, and the sense of loss and abandonment that are part of the adoptee experience, and we demand that our voices be heard. All adoptions from Haiti must be stopped and all efforts to help children be refocused on giving aid to organizations working toward family reunification and caring for children in their own communities. We urge you to join us in supporting Haitian children’s rights to life, survival, and development within their own families and communities.

Please feel free to add your endorsement in the comments section below this statement at the Adoptees of Color Roundtable Statement on Haiti

Written by girl4708

January 27, 2010 at 8:25 am

Posted in Uncategorized

Stop giving us something to blame already…

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Today I miss my adoptive mom.

Yeah, that’s the truth.  As much as she wasn’t there for me, as much as she was the most repressed person on the planet, as much as she chose to ignore the signs of my abuse or bury it once she knew, I still don’t blame her:  she had her own problems.  Little glimpses of a time when she was carefree would reveal themselves occasionally.  Little glimpses of a real person.  She could smile once in awhile.  Those times were enough.  They were rare, but when they were there, they glimmered like a jewel.

In reality, I just don’t like blame.

I know you probably think that’s crazy, since I have an entire website devoted to blaming Holt for the complicated thing that is my life and thousands upon thousands of other Korean adoptees’ lives.  I don’t blame Holt for the horrors of the past.  I don’t blame Holt for the mistakes they made then.  I blame them for the willful disregard for human beings they continue to commit today, with full knowledge of the mistakes of the past.

Yesterday a friend who has spent the last TWO YEARS trying to get her adoption records from Holt, but instead only received documents piece-meal, each time being told they had given her everything, each time the documents not quite adding up to the data she already had.  She finally received – only through her own dogged persistence and the encouragement from us and the help of KCARE – her full adoption records, which included ELEVEN more documents than the last time Holt had told her they had given her everything.  ELEVEN.  That’s a lot of documents to over-look so many times.  I guess everything has a different meaning to Holt.  And this friend’s parents are dead.  Nobody’s privacy to protect.  No excuses they could possibly make to this adoptee are good enough.

Written by girl4708

November 23, 2009 at 10:14 am

Posted in Uncategorized

Expats fight to change adoption law

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by By Shannon Heit for the Korea Herald

 

A group of expats in Seoul are driving a movement to create a major shift in how the country deals with adoptions. With Democratic Party Representative Choi Young-hee, the coalition presented its bill to revise the current Special Act Relating to Adoption Promotion and Procedure law at a National Assembly public hearing on Nov. 10. [Photo by Marc Champod]

Leveraging the help of a group of lawyers and a Korean unwed mothers’ organization, a group of expats in Seoul are driving a movement to create a major shift in how the country deals with adoptions.

With the support of Democratic Party Representative Choi Young-hee, this coalition presented its bill to revise the current Special Act Relating to Adoption Promotion and Procedure law at a National Assembly public hearing on Nov. 10.

The coalition has been working together for over a year to draw up a proposal for a new adoption law. Involved are three adoption-related groups — Truth and Reconciliation for the Adoptee Community of Korea (TRACK), Adoptee Solidarity Korea, KoRoot — an unwed mothers group, Miss Mama Mia, and the Gonggam Public Interest Lawyers Group.

What initially began last year as a request to the Anti-corruption and Civil Rights Commission for a probe into cases of allegedly inaccurate or falsified adoption records has expanded into a movement that could change the course of Korea’s adoption program.

Read the rest of the coverage from The Korea Herald…

Written by girl4708

November 13, 2009 at 12:31 am

A generation fights to reform adoption laws

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http://joongangdaily.joins.com/article/view.asp?aid=2912372

A generation fights to reform adoption laws
November 11, 2009

Six Korean adoptees filed an appeal with the Anti-corruption and Civil Rights Commission last year to request a probe into irregularities in their adoption documents and possible illegal procedures at local adoption agencies.

Now, they’re involved in a full-fledged battle to reform adoption laws and procedures, and they’re getting help from some heavyweights.

Adoptee rights and community groups as well as unwed mothers, the public interest law firm Gong-Gam and Democratic Party Representative Choi Young-hee have joined forces with the adoptees in an effort to convince lawmakers to revise the Special Law Relating to the Promotion and Procedure of Adoption.

The National Assembly has now taken up the issue and is exploring changes through a series of hearings.

The latest hearing took place yesterday.

If their efforts succeed, the groups will drastically change the landscape of domestic and international adoption in Korea, a country which lawmaker Choi said at yesterday’s hearing said “still has a stigma attached to it as one of the major exporters of children.”

It would also rank as one of the few cases in the world where adoptees returned to their original country and changed adoption practices through legislation.

False records

When they started this quest, the adoptees, hailing from three different countries, said their adoption records contained contradictory information.

Adoptee Jane Jeong Trenka

In one case, an adoptee only identified by her initials, SIA, said her adoptive parents in Denmark were informed by an adoption agency in 1977 that it did not have the records of her birth parents. But when SIA came to Korea in 1998 and asked for information about them, the agency did in fact have information about her birth mother. SIA also found that the adoption was done without her mother’s consent.

In another case, an adoptee only identified as PYJ said her adoption agency created a new identity for her when she was sent to Norway for adoption in 1975.

Their initial attempt to delve into the issue hit a brick wall when the civil rights commission dismissed the appeal, citing a lack of proper administrative procedures in Korea at the time of their adoption.

Taking on the law

The adoptees, however, did not stop there. Instead of filing another petition or begging for the release of their records at adoption agencies, they decided to try to revise adoption-related laws to find out the truth and improve the system.

According to the Ministry for Health, Welfare and Family Affairs, 161,588 Korean children were sent overseas for adoption from 1958 through 2008. Korea is the world’s fifth-largest exporter of children behind China, Guatemala, Russia and Ethiopia as of 2007, according to World Partners Adoption Inc.

“Most Korean adoptees are growing up in foreign countries and facing confusion over their identity. Even though they come to Korea to find their roots, there are few cases in which they are given accurate information on their birth or succeed in locating their birth parents. To improve the situation, we decided to hold a hearing on revising the Special Act,” lawmaker Choi said.

Need for stricter regulations

The proposed bill starts with the idea that foreign, and even domestic, adoption is not the best option for children and that public assistance should be given to mothers to help them raise their children, a concept that follows international adoption practices. It also incorporates the notion that adoption processes need to be more strictly regulated to prevent possible abuses by adoption agencies.

“The government wants to push domestic adoption, but all the children already have mothers,” said Jane Jeong Trenka, the president of the Truth and Reconciliation for the Adoption Community of Korea and one of the adoptees who filed the appeal at the commission. “The children can stay with their mothers. Single mothers should be given resources to raise their own children. It is still a matter of social prejudice in Korea.”

A National Assembly hearing was held yesterday on revising Korea’s special adoption law. By Jeon Min-gyu

Trenka added that a number of adoptees had families but were reclassified as orphans before they were sent abroad for adoption. “Because their records were manipulated, only 2.7 percent of adoptees succeed in locating their birth parents,” she said.

The majority of children relinquished for adoption in Korea are the children of unwed mothers. Of the 2,556 adoptions in 2008, international and domestic, 2,170 were the children of unwed mothers. Others were from low-income families or broken homes.

One of the biggest obstacles that prevents these women from raising their children on their own is the social stigma they face as unwed mothers. Another is the lack of social welfare services available to them should they choose to raise their child.

Trenka was adopted by a couple in Minnesota in the United States in 1972 when she was six months old. In 2007, Trenka and other Korean adoptees founded TRACK to help get the government to fully acknowledge its past and present adoption practices.

Reverend Kim Do-hyun, who is the director of KoRoot, which provides accommodation for Korean adoptees returning to the country, echoed those thoughts.

“Behind the Special Law is an idea that adoption needs to be encouraged,” Kim said. “But adoption is not something that we should promote. Rather than pushing adoption, we should reinforce the original family to prevent further separation between mothers and their children.”

Adoption as a business

One of the major changes proposed by the bill drafted by the public interest law firm Gong-Gam is that it would require court approval for all types of adoptions – currently they’re needed only for domestic adoptions – and increase government intervention in matters dealt with mostly by private adoption agencies.

The adoptees say there needs to be more government involvement in adoption because as more adult adoptees reunite with their birth parents and gain access to their records, examples of dubious international adoption practices have surfaced.

TRACK has been documenting these cases through interviews with adoptees and their birth families. They found that in some cases an orphan hojeok (family registry) is produced for a child sent for international adoption, even if the child has a family. Contradictions were also found between the records held by adoptive parents and those kept by the adoption agency. In one case the child was malnourished at the time of adoption but the records sent to the adoptive parents overseas stated the child was healthy. In another case, a child was given up for domestic adoption but was sent abroad for international adoption.

The adoptee coalition believes such irregularities occurred because adoption agencies manipulated records to push international adoption, which is very profitable.

According to the Health Ministry, the four adoption agencies authorized to facilitate international adoptions charge 13 million won ($17,211) to 20 million won for each child sent for international adoption.

Pressure on moms

Another proposed revision would give women a minimum of 30 days to make a decision on adoption, which is standard in Western countries. There is no set period for this in South Korea.

Observers say women are often forced to sign an agreement on adoption almost right after giving birth. If the mothers change their mind, the agencies charge them for all expenses they’ve incurred, from child delivery to the shelters they run. They said adoption agencies tend to encourage adoption rather than telling the women that there are other options available such as raising their child on their own.

“Adoption agencies pressure you to give up your child,” Choi Hyang-sook, a member of the group Miss Mamma Mia, which is also part of the adoptee coalition, said at yesterday’s hearing.

Access to records

Third, the agencies would be obligated to provide adoptees with all information on their birth parents, with the exception of name and registration number if the birth parents do not want their identities revealed. Kim said adoption agencies are often reluctant to share information with adoptees who are looking for their birth parents and vice versa because they are afraid that past abuses could become public knowledge.

“Adoption agencies provide adult adoptees with only partial information, citing the protection of their birth parents’ privacy,” Kim said. “The agencies have often falsified data to suit adoptive parents’ taste or to abide by the laws of the country to which they are sending a child. There were cases in which adoptees were classified as orphans when they were not. The more information they reveal, the more their reputation can be damaged.”

One adoption agency disputed the accusations. “There are records we can open but there are those we can’t,” said Choi An-yeo, a manager at Holt Children’s Services Inc., the biggest and oldest adoption agency in Korea.

Choi said things were different a few decades ago. “Then, it was possible to send an abandoned child abroad for adoption. If someone brought in a child and lied that he or she was a legal guardian, there would be no way for us to find out. We only have followed the laws and we will continue to do so,” she added.

Unifying adoption bills

Democratic Party Representative Choi is sponsoring the proposal while the Health Ministry is also drawing up its own bill. It is not certain how the government bill is going to be shaped but Park Sook-ja, the director of the Office for Child, Youth and Family Policy at the Health Ministry, said she generally sympathizes with the adoptee coalition. “We share similar ideas in general, but we need to take it one step at a time,” Park said.

The ministry has already held two hearings on the bill, however, Park said it is too early to talk about the bill as the final version has not been made yet.

Choi said the differences between the two bills will likely be ironed out before a unified bill is presented to the Assembly early next year.

Based on ‘lies’

Dozens of adoptees including Trenka attended the hearing yesterday in the hope that the bill Choi presented can transform adoption practices here.

Trenka commented, “Adoption may be an act of love, but all adoptions are meant to separate children from their mothers.”

Trenka started writing to her birth parents regularly when she was 16 years old. Her adoptive parents did not like her keeping in touch with her birth parents but one day she found letters from her birth mother in her adoptive parents’ mailbox. Her birth mother had found her adoptive parents’ address and kept sending her letters. Trenka said she still remembers the time she reunited with her birth mother.

“My mother was so emotional. I’d never seen a person so emotional,” she said. “She sat on the floor and poured her heart out.”

Trenka reunited with the rest of her birth family in the 1990s.

“Adoption is a big lie. Its success depends on everyone believing in that lie. They [my adoptive parents] wanted to believe in that lie but I could not do that.” Asked why she is devoting herself to creating the law, she said, “For my mother. My mother died but if I don’t try to change things, my suffering has no meaning.”

By Limb Jae-un [jbiz91@joongang.co.kr]

Written by girl4708

November 10, 2009 at 11:23 pm

HUMAN RIGHTS ABUSES IN THE NAME OF ADOPTION: WHY WE HAVE TO FIX THE SYSTEM

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Presentation address of the HISTORIC new coalition bill presented to the Korean National Assembly

 

HUMAN RIGHTS ABUSES IN THE NAME OF ADOPTION:

WHY WE HAVE TO FIX THE SYSTEM

by Jane Jeong Trenka (Adoptee)

My thanks to Rep. Choi Young-hee for the great honor of participating on this historic occasion, the first time that adoptees and single mothers have proposed an entirely new bill to the National Assembly to revise South Korea’s adoption law.  I also wish to acknowledge Choi Young-hee’s staff, who have met with us regularly, as well as the members of the coalition:  the Gonggam Public Interest Lawyers, the single mothers’ group Miss Mamma Mia, KoRoot ASK, and TRACK.

I believe it is an unintended benefit to South Korea that while adoptees had no choice in their adoptions to foreign countries, they are now able to report back to Korea on the country’s adoption program and how post-adoption and Korean family services may now be improved.  While workers in adoption agencies have certainly voiced their opinions to the Korean government before, I believe it is significant that our bill has been written by a coalition of concerned Korean citizens and diasporic Koreans, international adoptees, and single Korean mothers who will reap absolutely no economic, professional, or social benefit from continuing the adoption system as it has been practiced in the past.  Instead, we look forward to meeting international standards of human rights and justice.  We seek to create a system of child welfare in Korea that can be a source of not all shame and guilt, but pride and self-sufficiency, for all Koreans.

Today I will give a brief critique on the current law and the problems it has caused for adoptees and their families.  I hope these criticisms will be heard by parliament members and the countries influenced by Korean adoption as the result of many lifetimes worth of experience and our sincerest efforts to understand the laws that have profoundly and permanently affected our individual lives, as well as the modern history and society of South Korea.  I speak in English, but my wish is for the parliament members to hear the adoptees not as foreigners, but people whose mothers spoke to us in Korean while they carried us in their wombs, and who were born as Korean citizens, but whose families were abandoned by the state.

Gonggam public interest lawyer So Rami will give a detailed presentation on the coalition’s revisions, which were written as specific solutions to specific problems.  I will now detail these problems in the hope that these findings will within the next five years lead to a truth and reconciliation process for the adoption community of Korea that identifies past abuses and prevents future abuses so that the relationship between Korean society and the adoption community may at last be healed.

The Korean government’s expediting and preferencing of adoption over the preservation of the child’s original family is a major flaw that has led to the construction of the country’s international adoption program that has now notriously sent up to 200,000 children overseas.  While many adoptions appear to have been processed completely legally on paper, many returning adoptees have found that in reality there were abuses that occurred in order to facilitate their adoptions.  The American scholar Dr. David Smolin calls this “child laundering,” a reference to money laundering or processing something that is illegal in a way to make it look legal on the surface.  In South Korea, these abuses have been documented by TRACK as follows:

Documented Abuses

1. Unclear relinquishment

TRACK has found cases where the parent did not relinquish under a real name, a person other than the parent relinquished, only one parent relinquished, the child was relinquished for domestic but NOT international adoption, or the signature on the relinquishment form appears to be forged.  The current law holds agencies responsible for locating children’s parent in order to make sure they can be sent for adoption, which is a conflict of interest.

Read the rest of this entry »

Written by girl4708

November 10, 2009 at 4:29 pm

Posted in Winds of Change

Adopted From Korea and in Search of Identity

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New York Times
By RON NIXON
Published: November 8, 2009
DIFFERENT Kim Eun Mi Young in an undated photo with her brothers, David, left, and Shawn. Growing up, she says, “at no time did I consider myself anything other than white.”

 

As a child, Kim Eun Mi Young hated being different.

When her father brought home toys, a record and a picture book on South Korea, the country from which she was adopted in 1961, she ignored them.

Growing up in Georgia, Kansas and Hawaii, in a military family, she would date only white teenagers, even when Asian boys were around.

“At no time did I consider myself anything other than white,” said Ms. Young, 48, who lives in San Antonio. “I had no sense of any identity as a Korean woman. Dating an Asian man would have forced me to accept who I was.”

It was not until she was in her 30s that she began to explore her Korean heritage. One night, after going out to celebrate with her husband at the time, she says she broke down and began crying uncontrollably.

“I remember sitting there thinking, where is my mother? Why did she leave me? Why couldn’t she struggle to keep me?” she said. “That was the beginning of my journey to find out who I am.”

The experiences of Ms. Young are common among adopted children from Korea, according to one of the largest studies of transracial adoptions, which is to be released on Monday. The report, which focuses on the first generation of children adopted from South Korea, found that 78 percent of those who responded had considered themselves to be white or had wanted to be white when they were children. Sixty percent indicated their racial identity had become important by the time they were in middle school, and, as adults, nearly 61 percent said they had traveled to Korea both to learn more about the culture and to find their birth parents.

Like Ms. Young, most Korean adoptees were raised in predominantly white neighborhoods and saw few, if any, people who looked like them. The report also found that the children were teased and experienced racial discrimination, often from teachers. And only a minority of the respondents said they felt welcomed by members of their own ethnic group.

read the rest of the article here:

Written by girl4708

November 9, 2009 at 1:32 pm

Give it up

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For comedienne Amy Anderson…

who gets it in every way.

 

from KoreAm on-line magazine of the Korean American experience

A Korean adoptee comes to the defense of single moms like herself

amy Amy and her daughter Aubrey, 2008.

By Amy Anderson

My daughter is 2 and she is the most amazing human being on the planet. Sure, I’m a little biased, but she is pretty awesome. I have been blessed with a healthy, beautiful and intelligent child. I love her more and more each day. And while all mothers feel a special bond with their children, I should take a moment to mention that my daughter is the only blood relative I have ever known.

All that I know about the beginning of my life was that I was abandoned at the Yongsan train station in Seoul on September 2, 1972. I was estimated to be only a day old. After a passerby found me and took me to the police, I was adopted by my American family through Holt, an international agency known as the pioneer of overseas Korean adoption. No information about my Korean birth family has ever surfaced. The love for my adoptive family is sincere and they are indeed my “real” family, but as you can imagine, the special bond I have with my daughter is undeniably visceral.

I cannot fathom living without her.

That said, raising a child is tough. And sometimes, I feel really alone. And it’s because I’m a standup comedian who spends a lot of time traveling, working late hours, and managing an unpredictable schedule. It’s because I’m a single mom.

In my case, I have shared custody of my daughter with her father, which offers some relief, but it also presents a whole bevy of communication challenges that, at times, make the situation feel more stressful. And I’m not saying that raising children within a marriage is easy either, but at the end of a difficult day, I have to believe there is some peace in knowing you have another person in your corner to help pay the bills or lend an extra set of hands. (Anyone who has gone to Costco alone with an infant knows what I’m talking about.)

Just a few short years ago, as I was living my dream of being a comedian and actress in Hollywood, having a baby was not a planned event for my 34th year. Splitting with her father when she was an infant was also unplanned, but I decided to roll with the punches.

The struggle to establish a new life for my daughter made 2008 the most difficult year of my life. It took me months to get us on our feet and just now, I feel I have finally hit my stride. My daughter is thriving, my career is moving forward faster than ever before, and I have a wonderful new boyfriend. At 37, I actually have a life again that I really love.

Last month, just when I was thinking single motherhood was not such a bad gig after all, a friend forwarded an article to me from the New York Times, titled “Group Resists Korean Stigma for Unwed Mothers.” This article, written by Pulitzer Prize-winning reporter Choe Sang-hun, details a small group of Korean mothers who are banding together to protect their rights in a country that not only discourages, but also shuns, single moms.

Abortion is widely used in Korea as a way to avoid the shameful and ostracizing title of “unwed mother.” For the women who simply cannot terminate their pregnancies, the second most popular option is relinquishing the child for adoption—usually overseas. These birth mothers often lose all contact with their children.

Deception is rife in Korean adoption due to societal pressures and while adoption files are more accurate than they were in the past, untruths of orphanages burning down, names being concealed, identities being switched, and more, are all too common. The few women who choose the unpopular option of raising their children as single parents risk a life of poverty and social ostracism—for themselves and their children. These mothers are trapped in a no-win situation in a culture that doesn’t value them as the heroes that they are.

Korean women deserve the right to raise their own biological children with dignity and respect. Married or not.

While some American women, known as “single mothers by choice,” are now opting to bear and raise children alone (the clock is a-tickin’, Mr. Right never came along, and the sperm bank is just down the street), I don’t think any woman would describe that path as her ideal. Single motherhood is booby-trapped with emotional, financial and time management difficulties. No little girl dreams of growing up and doing it all by herself.

But as an American, I at least have the perk of being praised as somewhat of a societal hero. In South Korea, that’s never the case.

In 2008, I was selected to take an all-expense paid trip to South Korea to search for my birth family. While the trip yielded no family members for me, it did change the way I understood Korean adoption and my place in the world as a mother and adopted Korean American.

As part of this trip to Korea, which was sponsored by the Overseas Koreans Foundation, we visited babies at the Holt offices in Seoul. These were all infants who were going to be sent overseas, mostly to the United States. To say this was an emotional event would be an understatement. Holding these babies and realizing they were about to embark on the same journey that I had, more than three decades earlier, was overwhelming. Not just because I knew what they were in for, but also because as a mother, I knew how much the women who gave birth to them longed to keep them.

A few days later, I visited a city-run orphanage in Seoul: the Hae Sim Orphanage. Approximately 12 children, both boys and girls, lived in this home under the loving and firm supervision of a small staff. The children, infants to age 7, clearly loved and respected their caretakers. Even the toddlers bowed politely and greeted me with smiling annyeonghaseyos. The older boys were excited to have visitors, and didn’t want us to leave. The children were beautiful—perfect, actually—and I just could not understand why nobody wanted them. I already knew that South Koreans rarely adopted domestically but these children in the city-run orphanages had even slipped through the cracks of overseas adoption. Why?

A few days later, I visited yet another orphanage outside of Seoul. This one, in Anyang, was a much larger facility with at least 40 children. We were greeted by rows of tiny shoes, lined up neatly in the hallway entrance. With volunteers and two fellow Korean adoptees from Denmark and Canada, I arrived to make dinner (spaghetti and meatballs with kimchi) for the children.

After dinner, we played. The little ones, infants through toddlers, clung to us and cried as soon as they were set down, but the older ones, ages 5 to 7, wanted to engage and interact. Perfect children in a tragic setting. It was during a talk with one of the Korean volunteers that I finally learned the truth about these city-run “orphanages.”

She told me, “The children in these homes have Korean parents. They are mostly the children of divorced couples and very poor couples.” Another ugly truth about Korea’s highly Confucianist society is that custody is almost always awarded to the father in the case of a divorce, no matter what the circumstances. If the man does not want to raise the children, or has no relatives who will take care of them, he will often leave the children at one of these homes and the mother has no rights. The misnomer of “orphanage” is widely accepted because Westerners don’t want to hear the truth, but they are simply dumping grounds for innocent victims of an archaic cultural practice. These children are not even available for adoption because they have legal Korean parents, and while the mothers long for their children on the outside, the children languish on the inside.

These children are not orphans; they have parents that are healthy, functioning and alive. That, along with the fact that Korea is still exporting its children when they have the lowest birthrate amongst all industrialized nations, and can boast the 11th largest economy in the world, is disturbing. During a conversation with Dae-won Wenger, a Swiss-raised Korean adoptee and Secretary General of Global Overseas Adoptees’ Link, he pointed out that, “The more advanced Korea becomes, the more [Koreans] are devaluing their children.”

America’s rescue mentality towards foreign children is nothing new and, in the case of Korea, stems from a legitimate history of humanitarian aid after the Korean War. But few people seem to question why overseas Korean adoption peaked in 1985, decades after a cease-fire was signed in 1953. These numbers show that Westerners who now adopt from Korea are participating in a very profitable operation, whether they know it or not. In the majority of cases, they are adopting a single woman’s child. A child like my own.

As a single mother and Korean adoptee with a sketchy adoption file, you can imagine that I have strong feelings on the issue of single mothers’ rights in South Korea. I realized that if I lived in Korea, my own daughter probably would have been adopted out or placed in a group home, and that the choice to keep her would be intrinsically attached to a life of poverty and shame.

But a movement in Korea, though small, has begun. Brave people are finally stepping forward and with advocates like Richard Boas, founder of the Korean Unwed Mothers Support Network, and allies like adoptee filmmaker Tammy Chu, birth mothers and single parents in Korea will finally have a voice and eventually be able to enjoy the rights they deserve—not just as mothers, but as human beings.

Tonight, I am writing in a hotel room in Pennsylvania, over 2,600 miles away from my little girl in Los Angeles. My upcoming performance is a very important one and may determine how much work I book over the next year. No matter how much I miss my daughter when I travel, I am proud to show her what a woman can do and I am grateful to have the right to do it.

In two nights, I will be home to bathe her, read to her and tuck her in with hugs and kisses because I am her mother and this is how it should be.

Written by girl4708

November 9, 2009 at 12:49 pm

Conceive Change

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Get yourself over to Conducive Magazine’s Blog, Conducive Chronicle and read some great blogs in honor of November, which is ADOPTION MONTH.

Here’s one of my favorite heroine’s submissions…might have to add something myself this week.

What does “Gotcha” mean?

By Jane Jeong Trenka | Published: November 3, 2009

Lee Pil-rye, Trenka's "birthmother"Lee Pil-rye, Trenka’s “birthmother”

November is National Adoption Month. What would such a celebration of adoption, whether in the U.S. or another country, mean to my Korean birthmother?

At the time my mother became a “birthmother,” I was six months old, and my sister was four years old. Because she passed away about nine years ago, I will take the liberty of imagining what she might say about the meaning of adoption in her life, if she could read other people’s blogs in English, and if she could blog back.

What Adoption Means to Me
By Lee Pil-rye

 

I did not give birth to my child “with my heart.” I gave birth to my child with my body – painful, and tearing.

I did not “give” my child to another mother as a “gift.”

I was desperate and without the means to earn enough money myself. I and my children were victims of domestic violence. There was nowhere for us to go. No one would help us. We were so alone. I had no other choice but to relinquish my children.

But my children did not feel relinquished. They felt abandoned.  I am so, so sorry.

As a woman in a profoundly patriarchal society, I was not allowed to divorce a man who hurt me. I did not have strong custody rights over my own children. Laws did not protect me or my daughters.

I was so desperate that I signed away my baby for international adoption the day I brought her to the orphanage. I signed her away with my red-inked thumbprint because I had no stamp. I didn’t know what international adoption meant. I thought my daughters would just live well in another country and be raised in privilege, send pictures and letters, and then come back to me, their mother.

The noise of the airplane taking off tore my heart.

The author 2 weeks after arrival in the U.S. with her adoptive motherTrenka 2 weeks after arrival in the U.S. with her adoptive mother

I went mad.

I went to church.

Maria, comfort me.

The church gave me eggs, and pencils.

When I met my older daughter again, so many years later, I pressed her face to my breast to show her that I made her with my own body. That I indulged her, allowing her to nurse for years, as long as she wanted. How much I loved her. How much I wanted to show her that. But I only frightened and repulsed her.

I prepared her favorite food and she did not remember it.

I took her to the old places where she used to play, and she did not remember them.

I spoke to her in the language she spoke as a child, and she could not understand me.

I called her by her name and she did not recognize herself.

She did not recognize me.

Maria, comfort me.

Is this our Father’s plan?

What does “Gotcha” mean?

What have I gotten from this?

I am not a whore, not a saint, not a storybook character.

I am a real person.

I am a real mother.

My name is Lee Pil-rye.

My children were never orphans.

This is what adoption means to me.

************

Lee Pil-rye’s daughter, Jane Jeong Trenka, was sent for international adoption to Minnesota in 1972, and returned to live in Korea in 2004. She is the author of Fugitive Visions and The Language of Blood, and co-editor of Outsiders Within: Writing on Transracial Adoption. She is president of TRACK (Truth and Reconciliation for the Adoption Community of Korea).

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Written by girl4708

November 8, 2009 at 2:34 am

Posted in Uncategorized

Confronting a Mother’s Pain – Redux

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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:

http://www.eastern.or.kr/eastern/board/detail.jsp?bt_no=32&c_no=002006002&b_no=22669&page=8

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?

Written by girl4708

October 31, 2009 at 4:54 am

Real Support for Unwed Moms

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from the Korea Times

Volunteers take care of babies born to unwed mothers at a welfare center in Yeoksam-dong, southern Seoul, on Jan. 8. Many of unwed mothers have to send their babies to adoption agencies because of a lack of support and difficulty with child care. / Korea Times File

 

 

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.

Written by girl4708

October 30, 2009 at 7:13 pm

An orphan struggles to overcome abandonment

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Joong Ang Daily
October 09, 2009
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

92 min.

By Limb Jae-un [jbiz91@joongang.co.kr]

See the trailer to the movie below:

Written by girl4708

October 14, 2009 at 1:24 am

Group Resists Korean Stigma for Unwed Mothers

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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…

Mok Kyong-wha, with her son, said that she broke up with her boyfriend while she was pregnant and refused when he asked her to have an abortion

Mok Kyong-wha, with her son, said that she broke up with her boyfriend while she was pregnant and refused when he asked her to have an abortion

By CHOE SANG-HUN
Published: October 7, 2009

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.

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Related

Times Topics: South Korea

Jean Chung for the International Herald Tribune

This 29-year-old woman, nine months pregnant, has decided to keep her baby instead of setting up adoption. More Photos »

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.

Read the rest of the New York Times article here

Written by girl4708

October 9, 2009 at 1:53 am

Transnational Adoption and the “Financialization of Everything”

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International adoption is often seen as a mutually beneficial relationship between children in need of a home and financially stable adults wanting to raise a child. But it is also big-money business. In line with neoliberalism, or the hollowing out of government services, many adopted children are born to single mothers who are offered little to no resources to care for their children. International adoption agencies have stepped into this gap by offering homes, and making a profit in the process. The transformation of adoption into a global business creates a further incentive not to assist mothers, who may turn to adoption out of desperation, not desire. Adoptee activists are working to shed light on this issue. Focusing particularly on South Korea, author and co-founder of Truth and Reconciliation for the Adoption Community of Korea (TRACK) Jane Jeong Trenka argues the process should be re-engineered to put the money and fateful decisions back where they belong: with the mothers and their children. TRACK is now working with the Korean government to get the the voices of birth parents and Korean adoptees heard in South Korean adoption law revisions.


Transnational Adoption and the “Financialization of Everything”

By Jane Jeong Trenka

AUGUST/SEPTEMBER 2009 CONDUCIVE

During the presentation of a paper named “Domestic and Overseas Adoption and Unwed Mothers’ Welfare” at the South Korean parliament complex in Seoul on March 4, 2009, Dr. Mi-jeong Lee of the Korean Women’s Development Institute remarked that after the Korean War, capitalist South Korea sent children abroad permanently to adoptive parents, while socialist North Korea had a different philosophy in handling the crisis. Instead of sending children for adoption, it sent children to other countries with North Korean nurses, and the children were brought back later. Dr. Lee said that considering this, when the North criticized the South for “exporting” children for adoption, the South “had nothing to rebut against North Korea.”

Although transnational adoption has been normalized to a great many people, this kind of child-care arrangement is in fact highly abnormal in the history of the world

My point is not to defend the North Korean regime, but to point out that when the two Koreas were faced with the same post-war situation in 1953, they chose radically different ways of caring for children. Transnational adoption is not an inevitable result of war and poverty. There are different ways of addressing the same problem. (That is, if the problem is how to provide care for children — not how to provide babies for parents). Although transnational adoption has been normalized to a great many people, this kind of child-care arrangement is in fact highly abnormal in the history of the world, and the practice is now governed more by the almighty dollar than the “best interests of the child” or international law, which is not so easily enforced.

In his book A Brief History of Neoliberalism, David Harvey outlines the social damage that neoliberalism has wreaked globally, and based on neoliberalism’s own theory, predicts the current financial crisis that we are struggling to cope with now; the system carries the seed of its own destruction. The book purports that neoliberal practices are based on the idea that freedom equals free markets. However, this idea of achieving ultimate freedom through free markets has instead resulted in government deregulation, which has in turn transferred valuable public resources and essential government services to the private sector. Letting the market run unfettered — auctioning off precious public resources and farming out public services to the private sector —enriches a few, but impoverishes and endangers the rest of us. Pretty soon, private companies are running the government with their lobbying and government-business tie-ups, even though it is the government’s job to govern business. The public interest takes a distant back seat to profit. In a nutshell, neoliberalism is, as David Harvey puts it, “the financialization of everything.”

Adoption has become all about the “freedom” and “choice” of adopters, to the detriment of basic human rights in “sending countries.”

Personal “freedom,” depletion of natural resources, government irresponsibility, bending over backwards for private enterprise, and considering everything and anyone sellable: Let me posit that transnational adoption has become a neoliberal project. Adoption has become all about the “freedom” and “choice” of adopters, to the detriment of basic human rights in “sending countries.” Even though social welfare services are the responsibility of the state, transnational adoptions are performed by private lawyers and agencies. And, in both South Korea and the U.S., where transnational adoptions are performed by private businesses, not public social welfare agencies, the inevitable questions arise: Who are the most organized and monied people? Who has a business at stake? Who actually shapes the laws that govern adoption? It’s certainly not the birthmothers!

When people talk about the “reform” of intercountry adoption, it is often couched in terms of eliminating the monetary incentive that drives it. If this truly can be done, mass transnational adoption as we know it, which transports tens of thousands of children a year to foreign countries, would be almost completely wiped out. Transnational adoption would only exist for a very few special cases, as recommended by international conventions. The mass production of adoptees would give way to real social welfare programs that support unwed mothers with childcare, education, and adequate monthly stipends for daily necessities in countries like South Korea. People who claim to care about children and unwed mothers would heavily support family preservation programs instead of opening new exploitable markets in places like Ethiopia as soon as other “sending countries” start to shut off the supply.

Yet that kind of situation is at present only a pleasant fantasy. Transnational adoption as it is practiced today is a business that exists in a world of global capitalism where anything — including brides, sex slaves, and the children of vulnerable mothers — can be purchased for the right amount of money. In South Korea, which still sends over 1,000 children per year to Western countries even 56 years after the end of the Korean War, the majority of adoptees have come from unwed mothers. In 2001, 97.2% of Korean adoptees had unwed birth mothers. This is the direct result of a policy of neglect towards unwed mothers by the government on a social welfare level. This practice is then enforced by the adoption agencies that prey on resourceless women, and reinforced by usually well-meaning but emotionally vulnerable adopters, who are willing to accept as inarguable and immutable whatever cultural “knowledge” the adoption agencies dole out, which in reality is just targeted advertising for a very expensive, non-returnable product.

The adoption agencies would like to portray themselves as the leaders of the movement to end the monetary incentive behind transnational adoption. They would like to be perceived as the people who originally came up with the wonderful idea to preserve families instead of separating them. But, let’s look at this logically. The ideal situation, which everyone seems to pay lip service to, is for children to stay with their own families in their own countries. Therefore, the adoption agencies should be working to put themselves out of business. The agencies say that they are doing wonderful work in “sending countries” to support families, but the reality is that the adoptions themselves fund this work. In other words, supporting vulnerable families is directly at odds with their main source of revenue. Adoption agencies exist because of adoption, not in spite of it. Their work to support families will therefore always be half-hearted. This contradiction exists on the organizational level.

Read the rest of the article at Conducive Magazine

Written by girl4708

August 24, 2009 at 4:51 pm

Posted in Uncategorized

EDITORIAL Trading in Babies

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By So Yung Kim

AUGUST/SEPTEMBER 2009 CONDUCIVE

Opening Salvo

I was raised to view everything in terms of how much money something costs. We never wasted food; we never even threw away a rubber band or a paper clip. We wore homemade clothes to make every dollar stretch. These were the values my adoptive family taught me.

A few things my mother always reminded me of: I was chosen, they paid a lot of money to the adoption agency to bring me here plus the price of my airplane ticket, and my life in Korea would have been one of poverty and deprivation.

A few things society always reminded me of: Adoption is a good outcome; severing all ties to birth parents is naturally good; poverty was the main “push” factor in my adoption; my white parents’ desire for children, and their ability to assert that desire in the form of dollars, was the main “pull” factor.

The secret, however, was that the push and pull came from the same side — the side of wealth and capitalism and ruling classes that save on social welfare spending by trading their social castaways on a vast and vibrant market.

Surrounding the adoption industry is a protective cocoon intricately spun by agency PR machines, humanitarian aid organizations, and governments that provide tax subsidies for families adopting children. For example, the United States offers adoption tax credits of up to $12,150 per domestic or internationally adopted child, and several individual states provide additional credits or deductions to offset adoption expenses. On the international market, adoption travel and tourism agencies promote a seamless shopping experience for wealthy Westerners seeking healthy foreign infants. They maximize profits by offering pre-adoption, adoption, and post-adoption homeland or heritage trips. One agency even claims to “specialize in international adoption, humanitarian, and missionary travel”.

Read the rest of the article at Conducive magazine

Written by girl4708

August 24, 2009 at 4:46 pm

Posted in Uncategorized

EDITORIAL International Adoption and the Fight for Human Rights

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By Hilbrand W.S. Westra

AUGUST/SEPTEMBER 2009 CONDUCIVE

“There are simply not enough healthy, adoptable infants to meet Western demand – and there’s too much Western money in search of children. As a result, many international adoption agencies work not to find homes for needy children but to find children for Western homes.”

From, ‘The Lie we Love’, E.J. Graff, associate director and senior researcher at The Schuster Institute for Investigative Journalism

Saving children from starvation and death will always make news headlines. In the case of adoption, especially intercountry adoption, this is far from the reality most of the time. What once was presented as a last resort for children without parents has become a global enterprise where children seemingly are sold to the highest bidder under the supervision and agreement of involved nations.

The practice of adoption has become an international market where children migrate mainly from relatively impoverished countries to more affluent countries with the help of funding from churches, NGOs, and financial institutions. Prospective adopters find themselves in a cafeteria system, where they can choose between domestic or intercountry adoption, and then have their pick from a variety of genders and skin tones. These consumers can also decide whether or not they are up to the task of raising a child with a physical or mental handicap. The final cost will determine which international program they will be limited to. For some it’s not a matter of money because banks and financial institutions, especially in the United States, will provide loans to facilitate overseas adoptions.

Read the rest of the article
at Conducive Magazine…

Written by girl4708

August 24, 2009 at 4:42 pm

Posted in Uncategorized

Who Am I? The Mystery of #4709

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Finally! After over a week of insane transcribing, translating, proof-reading and turning into subtitles, as well as an epic mad dash to the last second and unsuccessfully getting the finished product in time for our presentation, (where Jane had to do a voice-over in real-time for the ENTIRE episode) and another three days of file-sharing technical difficulties – here is the SBS documentary (no chance to proof read the subtitles) on adoption agency records access, featuring yours truly…

Go TRACK!!!

Despite a few places where there’s been a heavy hand on my story…I just really really really appreciate all SBS has done for my case, and for exposing some of the serious problems regarding the control of records. They were amazing to me, did an amazing amount of research, and truly investigated what the central issues are concerning adoption law and conflict of interests.

Those core issues are:

* The adoption agencies are the ONLY ones who have access to adoption records – this excludes even the government.
* Nobody but the government has any power to monitor adoption agency activities. Their power is limited and they don’t exercise it.
* KCAR, the new central organization created to assist with identity retrieval, is a private organization with no governmental power, relying only on adoption agency cooperation. KCAR has no original documents and no access to them.
* Even today, children with living parents’ identities and social histories are fabricated in order to make them available for adoption. Their original identities are never recorded with the government, and only the adoption agencies hold this information.
* Adoption agencies know their presence replaces social services and feel entitled to funding from the government. (but they don’t want government oversight or government access to documents)

Given the above issues, is it any wonder so many adoptees and first parents are unsuccessful finding the truth?

From the bottom of my heart, for me and for ALL ADOPTEES who only seek the most basic information about their identity, which should be every person’s unalienable civil right, I thank SBS’s We Want to Know That director, Kim Ji Eun, and all of her tireless dedicated staff.

Thank you also to TRACK, who brave many slings and arrows asking Korea – and the world – to stop looking away. Only through recognition of the ugly truth and reconciliation through correction, of the causes and mechanisms of its creation, can Korea begin to replace their shame with pride.

Here are my video comments and updates on the documentary:


Written by girl4708

August 8, 2009 at 1:04 am

Posted in Uncategorized

and not about to be silenced…

with one comment

Thank you, Outlandish Remarks, for the link

Written by girl4708

July 24, 2009 at 1:49 am

Posted in Winds of Change

Tagged with

Dis Place

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Ahh, another self-portrait.

This time it’s 5:30 a.m. in Seoul, S. Korea, and I’m waiting for the first train of the morning.  I’m reading Jane Jeong Trenka’s new work, “Fugitive Visions,” and it’s disjointed nature perfectly describes adoptedness.  How I felt growing up in the midwest.  How I struggled with all the western world put on me.  How I preemptively reject everyone because I can’t deal with the first rejection.  How I long for love, even though I expect only rejection. How I deal with now.  How every second of every minute I am sort of nowhere, because my head is always flooded with all these complicated clashing noisy distracting frustrating churning thoughts. The therapist would ask, “how do you feel?”  How can one possibly begin to put a finger on all that?  Because every moment is all that, and never just one thing.  We come from a place where we draw the kind of attention nobody wants.  We live in this place as ghosts in society.  We inhabit this space, this interstitial space.

And I look up and see this;  I must dig out my camera and shoot.

You know, it isn’t just about the past or the future or fate or gratitude or luck or anger or depression or hopeness. (the mispelling is an inside joke)  It’s about this photo.  It’s about all these layers.  How many layers?  How many layers…

Somehow, Jane managed to capture those layers, after layers, after layers.  We are each of us sifting through this morass of experiences, trying to organize our books in order to live.  But Jane just says, “see?  this is just how it is for me/us.” She is an excellent writer, but her book is no book:  it is a documentary film about a reluctant exile and finding the soundtrack to describe such an epic journey.  The visions are a deck of cards, shuffled. It is a document of how we think;  how we must think, to just be.

There is no protection from adoptedness.  There is no avoiding it or denying it, try as we might.  Yet our adopters and society insist on this myth of equality, banishing us to a life of silence.  No other diaspora that faces racism would be told the racism they experience doesn’t matter/is cancelled out because they were chosen. But adoptees live this daily.  Neither are we allowed to grieve our losses, because it hurts others, and we are taught that their emotions are more important than ours.  Is it any wonder so many adoptees have sardonic characters?

That would be me I am describing.

I have avoided other adoptees all my life, so it was surprising when I first met them to discover that they, too, had sardonic characters, biting wit, and were always recognizing the irony in everything.

When I first heard about adoptees returning to Korea;  that they met and had a community, I thought how counter-productive for their self actualization.  At that time, I had wanted to believe that with a little hard work, I could just slip right in and reclaim my Koreanness, and that reclaiming Koreanness WAS self actualization.  But Korea won’t let me.  Because my banishment was total, and I will forever be a foreigner here.   The adoptees you meet from all over the world are also lacking Koreanness, despite blending in here.  Adoptedness is the state we all understand, the land we all inhabit.

The truth is, we can never be like others in either society.  The adopting world needs to know that.  The adoptees need to recognize that before they can heal.  The Korean people need to see exactly what exile does to the little people they send away.  And the international adoption agencies need to stop toying with all those populations’ hopes and dreams. Their machine works.  But what of the lives they have affected?  Ask me.  Ask both my moms, wherever they may be.

So I have decided to become a card carrying returning adoptee member and join this community here.  And it is not about belonging to something/anything, out of desperation for company, for I am most comfortable with and accustomed to isolation.  It is about Jane’s pioneering work and vision.  It is about the kind of person I am.  It is about truth and justice.

The adoptees who have chosen to live here are a resilient bunch.  And for those that are activists in adoption reform, they are beyond mere resilience.  They are advocates for others and proactive about improving/resolving not only their own lives, but all the other lives affected by this crazy experiment gone awry.  I am proud, proud, proud to be invited into the fold.

Anyway, read Jane’s book.  Maybe then you can understand.  We’re not just ungrateful malcontents.  We are survivors and freedom fighters.

Written by girl4708

July 24, 2009 at 1:17 am

Relative Choices

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Click on the image below to reach a great collection of NY Times blog entries on International adoption.

Then, if you have about an hour you can listen to NPR’s Talk of the Nation about the difficulties accessing records for International Adoptees  (they barely scratched the surface, of course, but it is a nice cross section of both concerned adoptive parents and IA adoptees from various parts of the world.  It’s nice because it obviously shows a significant change in attitudes from back when most of us adult adoptees were growing up.)

http://67.228.33.219/audio/20071120_totn_04.mp3

Written by girl4708

July 23, 2009 at 9:23 am

Posted in Bittersweet Hope

Korean Adoptees for Fair Records Access

with one comment

It’s been less than a day since I started this Facebook group, and there are about 5 new members every half hour.  Maybe that should tell Holt and the other international adoption agencies something, ya think?  I mean, they claim to care about the children, but that seems to only be before they are adopted.  Afterwards, we get treated like unreasonable pests. There are A LOT of us, and even if we loved our adoptive families, being treated like this can make a person RIGHTFULLY angry.

Since when was wanting to know missing years, your name, your real birth date, how you came into being, and if you were loved  unreasonable?

If this describes you and you’ve been given the run-around in pursuit of your fundamental right to know about yourself, then do sign up for our Facebook group

A facebook group for Korean adoptees who have experienced undue difficulty accessing their records.
.

Between 1995-2005, 76,646 adoptees have returned to Korea to search for their natural parents. That’s over 61% of all adult adoptees! Only 2,113 (2.7%) have succeeded.

Are these poor rates of success due to our prospects, or due to ADOPTION AGENCY SUCCESS AT BARRING ACCESS TO OUR DOCUMENTS?

We believe it is the latter, and we know from experience that discouraging tactics are employed to withhold records whenever possible.

The Hague Convention on Intercountry Adoption protects the identity of adoptees, yet despite there being 78 other member countries, S. Korea has yet to join. Current efforts to prepare for joining the Hague Convention are inadequate and rely on adoption agency cooperation, with little or no oversight.

The combined voices of the over 70,000 can not be ignored by the Korean government. We want to document our suppression, so future adoptees are not turned away with no clues about their histories and current adoptees can try again and get the proper respect they deserve and access to documents about their own lives.

If you have experienced ANY DIFFICULTY currently or in the past getting fair access to your records, please join our group and share your experience on our wall.

Please stand up and be counted – and spread the word! Tell your FB friends, other KAD groups, and KAD organizations!

Written by girl4708

July 22, 2009 at 9:11 pm

Posted in Uncategorized

Adoption Day Puppet Fun

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I can’t believe I forgot to post this from May…

We mean to change things in Korea, for the better, and have fun doing it, too….

Written by girl4708

July 22, 2009 at 1:49 pm

Posted in Winds of Change

Tagged with

Baby Exporting Nation

with 2 comments

I posted this before, but this copy has English Subtitles…

Written by girl4708

July 22, 2009 at 2:58 am

Posted in Dealing with the Devil

Tagged with

K Care – South Korea’s new central adoption authority

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Written by girl4708

July 21, 2009 at 11:06 pm

Posted in Winds of Change

Tagged with

Ghosts

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From Korea Times Editorial

Korea Continues to Deny Overseas Adoptees Access By Jennifer Kwon Dobbs and Jane Jeong Trenka

The Ministry of Health, Welfare and Family opened a central adoption information service center Wednesday to provide post-adoption services to adoptees searching for their birth families. However, there’s one significant problem that the ministry has ignored: adoptee access.

This center is meant to fulfill the requirement of a “central authority” by the Hague Convention on Intercountry Adoption. Click on the central authority’s new Web site (www.kcare.or.kr) featuring images of adoptees for whom their birth families are searching and you’ll find it is completely in the Korean language. Can an overseas adoptee whose first language is either English or French read or use this?

Since 1953, South Korea has sent over 160,000 Korean children abroad to 14 Western countries. It is the oldest and largest adoption program in the world, despite South Korea’s economic miracle.

Reunion with birth families is a primary reason for adoptees to return to South Korea. From 1995-2005, the ministry reported that 78,000 adoptees came to South Korea to search for their families. Yet only 2.7 percent were reunited. What accounts for this low success rate?

Mads Them Nielsen, former director of post-adoption services at Global Overseas Adoptees’ Link (G.O.A.L.) from 2001-2003, said, “In a given year I received approximately 240 requests including e-mail inquiries. I have reunited only 10 cases. The main problem was getting information from the agencies.”

The lack of adoptee access includes not only records and translation, but also active adoptee representation.

Although the central authority has prominent representation by adoption agencies, an overseas adoptee who lives in Seoul, who was a potential candidate for the board, was dropped without explanation.

His replacement, Steven Morrison, is an adoptee living in the United States who is head of Mission to Promote Adoption in Korea. He cannot regularly attend meetings or events in Seoul important to the information service center’s decision-making process due to his overseas residence.

At an institutional level, the ministry continues to view adoptees as a whole as children and discriminates against them as “orphans” and “foreigners” who cannot represent their own interests and who should not make decisions about themselves.

However, adoptees continue to struggle to make their voices heard. The ministry’s second hearing on the revision of South Korea’s civil and overseas adoption laws on July 1, sponsored by the Korean Women’s Development Institute (KWDI), marked the first time in 56 years of international Korean adoption that a critical mass of overseas Korean adoptees were able to directly communicate their own interests in a governmental forum. The KWDI provided professional, simultaneous translation services.

This public hearing was originally intended to be the last one before the ministry sends its suggested revisions to the Adoption Law to the National Assembly.

However, after seeing the number of adoptees and supporters who turned out to voice their opinions, Park Sook-ja, director of the ministry’s family policy bureau, announced that another public hearing might be necessary to further discuss adoptee and single mother concerns.

But the ministry has not released information about a third public hearing. Instead, it has rushed toward opening the service center both online and onsite without consulting overseas adoptees and without any regard for the comments they gave at the last public hearing.

The ministry intends for the center to bring South Korea into compliance with the Hague Convention on Intercountry Adoption.

In accordance with the convention, it should hold the records of the adoptees and assist with birth family searches. It should also serve as a watchdog over the agencies. However, the center is incorporated as a private entity, not a governmental agency with sufficient oversight.

The center’s facilities and problems are the same as the old GAIPS (Global Adoption Information and Post Services Center) Adoption Information Center.

In fact, it is located in the old GAIPS office ― they have yet to even change the sign on the door. GAIPS failed to establish a sufficient working relationship with overseas adoptees because it was not willing to provide language access.

Despite appearing to make improvements, the South Korean government continues to deny the adoption community authentic access and services. Fifty-six years and counting of adoption history, overseas adoptees are still waiting.

Jennifer Kwon Dobbs, professor of English at St. Olaf College in Minnesota, is the author of “Paper Pavilion.” Jane Jeong Trenka is the author of “The Language of Blood, Fugitive Visions,” and co-editor of “Outsiders Within: Writing on Transracial Adoption.” They are members of Truth and Reconciliation for the Adoption Community of Korea (TRACK), a group advocating for transparency in adoption practices both past and present to improve the lives of Korean families and adoptees.


Written by girl4708

July 21, 2009 at 10:31 pm

Posted in Winds of Change

Tagged with

Practical Hints about your Foreign Child

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I can’t embed their streaming video, but here’s the link to Deann Borshay’s compilation of post Korean War footage of Korean children, justaposed against an instruction manual for how to care for your newly adopted Korean children, circa 1961.

Sara and I saw this at the exhibit at the Wing Luke Asian Art Museum downtown Seattle, and it was stunning, in the literal sense, to watch.

There is little I can say about the cultural insensitivity and racism of the people saving us. I cry inside thinking how the same things are being done to children all over the world, whose new adoptive parents really have NO CLUE what the child came from and what the child goes through to assimilate.

Written by girl4708

July 19, 2009 at 5:29 am

Posted in Scattered Seeds

Tagged with ,

Approved for Adoption Teaser

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In a word:

beautiful

Many Americans can not fathom how many adoptees there are in Europe. But here in Seoul I meet the ones who have returned, and I must say, they are distinctly European in their outlook and the way in which they have handled (or not) the burden of being raised in distinct mono-cultures. We just got word of this animated film and look forward to its completion and eventual release.

Here’s the write-up from Imprint TALK: Fresh Asian Pop Culture

Approved for Adoption, a hybrid animated/documentary, is being hailed as the Korean Persepolis. Persepolis was an Oscar nominated film in 2007 that used animation to tell the story of the narrators memories of childhood and adolescence. Approved for Adoption uses a similar technique where the main subject matter of the film, Belgian-Korean comic book artist Jung, goes back to Korea for the first time since he was orphaned. The animated sequences will help illustrate the memories of his childhood growing up with his adoptive parents in Belgium. The film is directed by French filmmaker Laurent Boileau. No word yet on an official US release date. This is a pretty unique perspective on the whole Korean adoptee story because of the European setting. There are, of course, many similar stories that have been told from Korean-Americans who were adopted at a very young age. Here’s hoping that it will get a chance to play in the United States in the near future. Here’s the official blogsite for the film. It’s in French only though: http://approved-for-adoption.blogspot.com/

Written by girl4708

July 19, 2009 at 3:44 am

Posted in Bittersweet Hope

Tagged with ,

Grim Facts

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  • 161,558 Korean children have been sent abroad between 1958 and 2008.  108,222 were sent to the USA (67%, followed by 11, 165 to France, 9,297 to Sweden and 8, 702 to Denmark.  (MHWF – Ministry of Health, Welfare and Family Affairs report)  These figures do not include the adoptions that occurred between 1954 when Holt began international adoption and 1958.  Nor does it include private non-agency adoptions.
  • The Hague Convention on Inter-country Adoption was created in 1993.  15 years later, Korea has yet to sign or create a central governmental agency to oversee adoption, even though 78 other countries have such agencies.
  • The Hague Convention states that the right of the adopted child to know about their natural parents should be protected even when it contradicts the rights of natural parents or those of adoptive parents.
  • Between 1995-2005, 76,646 adoptees have returned to Korea to search for their natural parents.  Only 2,113 (2.7%) have succeeded. (MHWF)
  • The central agency proposed under the new draft of revisions to Korea’s Special Adoption Law will not be a governmental agency and will not oversee original recods, but rely on adoption agency cooperation for duplication of records.
  • Holt Korea alone has 4 stories of records on their adoptees (MHWF)
  • Somalia and the USA are the only two UN states which have not signed the UN Convention on the rights of the child.
  • Korea has yet to enforce three articles of the 1989 UN Convention on the Rights of the Child, despite the National Human Rights Commission of Korea making recommendations to do so in 2005.
  • The proposed moratorium on international adoption for 2012 has been struck from the new draft of revisions to Korea’s Special Adoption Law.
  • As of 2004, Holt Children’s Services had 142 employees and 11 regional offices in Korea.
  • There are 25 unwed mother’s shelters in Korea, 17 of which are run by international adoption agencies.
  • There have been 4,896 cases of cancelation of adoption by civil law in Korea in six years. (Supreme Court Records)
  • 1,250 Korean children were sent abroad for adoption last year (MHWF)
  • Last year 1,506 children were born of unwed mothers, 920 who were adopted before they were three months old.  Most were never registered on birth certificates to their natural parents.  Therefore, there will be no record that exists should those children or their parents ever wish to search for each other in the future.
  • According to the new draft of revisions to Korea’s Special Adoption Law, obtaining identifying information about natural parents will take a court order.
  • Korean citizens receive a subsidy for adopting, but women who chose to raise their own babies receive much less than the adopting parents do, even though as single moms they need the money more.
  • The proposed 100,000 won a month subsidy an unwed mother who keeps her child gets amounts to just over $80 US.  A one room apartment without utilities here typically costs at minimum $250. And deposits can run well over a thousand dollars.

Written by girl4708

July 4, 2009 at 5:03 am

Posted in Bittersweet Hope

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My Theory

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All during the search in Wonju people would tell us what happened and how it was back then, but actually none of them knew and they were all theories.  Well, here’s my theory, based upon the later realization that my age was deliberately tampered with:

Someone from Wonju added Kim Sook Ja to my document because they knew we were siblings and it would be easier and less paperwork.

Then, someone else at Holt didn’t like that because it made us harder to adopt as siblings, so they attempted to distance our relationship by changing my birth date, but that’s all they could do because the mayor’s stamp was already on the two for one document.

I don’t know why they gave us different family names.  Maybe those ARE our names.  Maybe we’re half siblings.  There are many stories where grandmas end up taking care of their daughter’s children of different fathers, or of women forced to give up their children by other men when remarrying.  Anyway, there are many scenarios that can explain two half siblings.

Holt didn’t have any theories.  They only said that nobody imagined adoptees would return asking questions…

Written by girl4708

July 3, 2009 at 3:49 pm

Separated by adoption?

with 3 comments

So yesterday, the t.v. station sent me a still from the documentary.

This is the photo of me, Suh Yung Sook, on my log book entry, next to the photo of Kim Sook Ja.  Both of us were recorded as coming from the same city, on the same day, and ATYPICALLY we were both entered on the same document.  Holt Korea says we couldn’t possibly be sisters, because we have different family names – however, the document says our names were made up.

Holt Korea produced this photo of the other girl at our meeting in Seoul, presumably to prove to me that she was not my twin, because it says on that document we are the same age.  (which I always thought had pretty low odds anyway)  But instead of discouraging me, it made me think there was an even greater possibility we could be siblings.  What do you think?

My daughter thinks there might also a resemblance between both of us and my son…

My daughter Sara, to the left, and David, to the right

According to the birthdates Holt gave us, I am six months OLDER than Kim Sook Ja, so they say we “couldn’t possibly” be sisters, even though on the earliest document from Wonju, it says we are the same age.  Upon closer inspection, my age appears to have been re-written/traced-over/changed. It is CLEAR from these photos that I “couldn’t possibly” be older than Kim Sook Ja!  What is OBVIOUS, though, is that my birth date was grossly off target (probably a full year off), which is a ludicrous degree: a degree that would only be lost on some adopting parent ordering a child sight un-seen.

Holt has repeatedly tried to explain away the Wonju document and stood behind the log book entries’ data as written, even as it becomes revealed that the data has such serious and obvious discrepencies.

Holt tried NOT to help me search for Kim Sook Ja and only acquiesed under pressure from me about going public.

Holt, who says they found her and called her, says she has not replied and is therefore uninterested in finding out whether or not we are siblings. 

Did Holt tell her about the discrepancies between the Wonju document and the log book entries? I bet they didn’t.

Did Holt pass along any information about me or that I merely wanted to know the truth? NO.  And they wouldn’t even let me send her a brief note with my friendly sentiments.

On a cold March day in 1966, two little girls began a journey which would change their lives forever.  That day was the day they were transferred to an orphanage to begin their life as orphans, to be adopted and sent away to foreign lands with foreign people.

You and I were together that day.  You and I were together the next four days and possibly the next nine months.  Were we together prior to that day?  Only meeting can rule out the remote possibility of relations undocumented.

You are the only living person I know who has anything to do with my past and I would at the very least like to contact you, however you feel comfortable.  We are sisters in solidarity, and I would be interested in hearing how you’ve fared in life.

Fondest regards,

Leanne Leith

Holt defines any self representation by me as CONTACT, even though I still don’t know her name or where she is.  They merely told her some adoptee thought she was their sister, and left it to her to decide if she wanted CONTACT (i.e., viewing the above note), even though they failed to provide her with the full story.  To me that note is an INVITATION to contact, handed off by a third party.  These semantics have done possibly irreparable damage.

Holt did an excellent job scaring her away.  This is how it is for us adoptees, being forced to have the same people who brokered our adoption be the only ones with access to our files and the only ones who can facilitate contact.  Now tell me that isn’t a CONFLICT OF INTEREST?

They say this is to protect the other adoptee.

I say it is to protect themselves from being exposed as breaking up a sibling goup.

And you know what?  After moving to Korea, I can tell you that all Asians do not look alike, and that if unrelated and the sharing of abandonment date, place, and documents were really as random as they say, one would expect the two children pictured above to look radically diffferent.

At this point, I of course don’t want to meet her if she doesn’t want to.  But I would like to prove conclusively that we are or are not related, just so I know what’s true and not true about this chapter in my life.  We can meet in a DNA testing lab – that’s all I need from her at this point.  Of course I would be interested in hearing how she fared, but just the truth is enough.  And Holt should have provided her with all the information they had, so she could have made an INFORMED decision about receiving contact from me.

Wouldn’t anybody in my circumstance want the truth?  Does the way Holt has dealt with my case resemble the actions of people who purport to CARE ABOUT FAMILIES?

How many other Korean adoptees were split up for ease of sale and they are none the wiser?  Holt says they have nothing to hide.  But even if they  don’t, I believe their actions speak louder than their words, and they are afraid that if I find Kim Sook Ja and we are sisters, then it will expose them as an organization that SEPARATES families in order to create new ones.

Written by girl4708

June 24, 2009 at 1:07 pm

Posted in Dealing with the Devil

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More unsolved mysteries

with one comment

I’ve been up thinking about this number problem…

I’ve never been good at solving mysteries, and so this is keeping me awake.

notice how my age is much heavier than all the other writing on this document, as if it has been written over and changed from a “2” to a “3.”

Also, Kim Sook Ja’s name is written in different handwriting.

WHY would someone add another child to my document and then CHANGE my age to something older?  A whole year older?

The little square photo of me was taken at the same time as the photo of me and the nurse.  However, all the Koreans here and most people in general say that even if that was taken soon after I was found, there is no way I am 3 years (2 years American) Korean in that photo.  And if it was taken before I was found, then my family was one of the few rich families that could afford a camera. (Not likely.  That is a statue of Jesus in the background, btw… )

I asked Mrs. Seol how she could know Kim Sook Ja was younger than me by 6 months, and she told us that children’s ages were estimated by their physical examination and usually the number of teeth they have.

It says in my medical report documents that I had 16 teeth.  That would place me at 13 to 19 months age.

Clearly, with no Second Molar, I was probably not already two years old. So WHY would they list us as the same age?   Kim Sook Ja’s photo clearly shows she is at least a year older than me. (if not older)  A year’s difference between children at the time in development is HUGE.

It seems to me that the age discrepancy on the document was intentional.

In most cases I have heard of an orphan’s age being changed, it is changed to a younger date to make the child more desirable for adoption. So to change me to  year older at such a young stage in development is bizarre, as more adoptive parents would rather have a 14-18 month old old than a 24+ month old child.

Unless perhaps there was some child identity swapping going on? AND, it is much easier to change a “2” to a “3” than it is to change Kim Sook Ja’s age “3” to another number.

Or maybe if I was stolen, or more likely – my abandonment might have been contested?  (I’m sorry Mrs. ____ there are no 2 yr. olds here, and no sisters either.  We only have 3 yr. olds from that week)

This little document just gets weirder and weirder every time I look at it.

Written by girl4708

June 22, 2009 at 5:34 am

Posted in Dealing with the Devil

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