아직도 세계 네 번째인 나라
그러나 조국은 그를 환영하지도 않았고 어머니를 찾아주는 일조차 인색했다. 그는 스스로 어머니를 찾기 위해 금메달을 따야 한다. 선수단을 환영하는 플래시가 터지는 공항에서 그는 외롭게 울음을 터뜨린다. “나를 왜 버렸나요? 당신 정말 나쁘다는 말 하려고 찾아왔어요.…그래도 엄마! 조금만 기다려. 내가 아파트 사 가지고 갈 테니까, 무조건 기다리고 있어!”
입양은 친부모가 자녀를 양육할 수 없는 경우, 법에 의해 보호가 필요한 아동과 입양부모가 새로운 부모-자녀관계를 맺고 영원한 가족을 만들어가는 과정이다. 우리나라도 가입한 유엔아동권리협약은 입양아동의 이익과 권리를 최우선으로 보장하고 발달단계별 지원을 규정하고 있다. 특히 입양인의 건강한 정체성 형성을 위해서는 아동과 친부모의 알 권리가 보장되고, 공개입양과 함께 뿌리 찾기에 대한 입양부모의 수용적인 양육태도가 필요하다.
그러나 국내입양은 혈통주의, 미혼모에 대한 편견, 정부의 소극적 재정 지원으로 인해 활성화되지 못하고 있다. 더구나 최근 해외로 입양되는 아동의 98% 이상이 미혼모의 자녀이다. 그 결과 한국은 중국, 러시아, 과테말라에 이어 4번째로 해외입양을 많이 보내는 국가가 되었다.
특례법 고쳐 조건 엄격하게
이제 한국은 세계 13위의 경제대국이요 글로벌 이슈를 다루는 G20회의 개최국이라는 국격에 걸맞기 위해서는 이 오명에서 하루 빨리 벗어나야 한다. 이를 위해 정부는 입양특례법을 개정하고 헤이그협약에 조속히 가입해야 한다. 이로써 정부는 민간기관 주도로 진행해 온 해외입양 허용조건을 보다 엄격하게 규정하여 해외입양을 유도하고 남발하는 관행에 제동을 걸고, 입양인 정보를 구축하여 친부모를 쉽게 찾도록 지원해야 한다.
이와 동시에 정부는 청소년의 눈높이에 맞는 성교육을 강화하고, 미혼모와 그 아동에 대한 사회적 차별을 예방할 뿐만 아니라 ‘이미 태어나 사랑이 필요한’ 혼외출생아의 양육수당과 미혼모의 자립을 현실적 수준에서 지원해야 한다. 이는 저출산문제를 해결하기 위해서도 필요하다.
by Lee Hye-won, Professor of Social Welfare at Anglican University
Translation by Emily Cashell
Recently, the nation’s interests have been centered around the Winter Olympics which are being held in Vancouver, Canada. The Korean national’s acquisition of gold medals brings to mind 2009’s Take Off, a movie which brought millions of viewers to tears. The main characters of this movie each do their best to win a gold medal for their own reasons. One of the main characters, who was placed in an overseas adoption with his sister at age seven, gave up his successful career on the American team and came to visit Korea. He longed to see his mother whose face he did not even know.
Still the world’s fourth country
However, his native country did not welcome him and did not even help him find is mother. In order to find his mother himself, he had to win the gold medal. At the airport, as the team members were welcomed with flashes of light, he burst into tears. He cried, “Why did you send me away? I came to say bad things to you…Nevertheless, mom! Just wait a little bit. I will buy you an apartment. No matter what, just wait!”
In circumstances where birth parents can not care for their children, these children, who by law need protection, are placed in a new parent-child relationship with adoptive parents. This process of forming a new, permanent family is called adoption. Our country has entered the UN child right’s agreement. This treaty guarantees that adopted children’s benefits and rights are the top priority and stipulates support classified by developmental age. In order for the adoptee to develop a healthy sense of identity, the country should guarantee the child and birth mother’s right to know and the adoption should be public. Also, the adoptive parents should have a receptive attitude about finding roots.
The international adoption agreement which was selected at the 1993 Hague Intercountry Private Law Convention clearly states, ‘It is best if the child is raised by the birth parents in the household in which it was born, however, in unavoidable circumstances a new adoptive household within the birth country should be sought. Only if a suitable household within the birth country can not be found, as a last resort, following legal proceedings, a stable household in another country will be sought’.
The birth parents should be offered information about the adoptive parents as well as sufficient time to think about the adoption. There is also emphasis on the adoption agreement being made after the birth of the child. However, Korea has not yet entered this agreement. Korea was urged to enter the agreement in 2005 at the National Human Rights Meeting, however no major developments had been made. What is the reason for this?
Since the age of the “Three Kingdoms”, families have secretly fostered children in order to carry on the blood and family lines. After 1953, the surge of war orphans and mixed blood children meant many children were placed in adoptions overseas. In 1980, Korea was ranked number one in the world for international adoptions, and in 1988, during the time of the Olympics, Korea was criticized as being a ‘big nation in child export’. At this point, the government planned to discontinue overseas adoptions.
Because of the importance of blood line, prejudice against single mothers, and the passive arbitration of the government, domestic adoption is not being revitalized. Futhermore, at present, more than 98% of children placed in overseas adoptions are the offspring of single mothers. As a result, after China, Russia, and Guatemala, Korea ranks fourth in the number of international adoptions.
The conditions and laws of overseas adoption should be applied strictly
Korea is the world’s 13th major economic power and is the host of the G20 meeting where global issues are handled. If Korea is to live up to these positions, it must free itself of this disgrace immediately. In order to do this, the government must amend the adoption special case law and join the Hague agreement as soon as possible. The government should impose more strict regulations on private organizations that control and regulate overseas adoptions. They should put the brakes on the overuse of international adoption and provide information that will support the adoptee in easily finding birth parents.
At the same time, the government should reinforce appropriate sex education for youth. In addition, not only should discrimination against single mothers and their children be prevented, but also, single mothers should be provided with a child care stipend and a realistic level of support to help them stand on their own two feet.These steps are needed to resolve the low childbirth problem.