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The following essay was published in Pressian in Korean and featured the kangaroo picture above. Speaking in the kangaroo photo is Rep. Choi Young-hee, who held a press conference the day before Adoption Day to introduce our bill, which is mentioned below, to the public. We appreciate your support as we go into June with the goal of getting a bill made into law!!
To the Western families of over 160,000 internationally adopted children, South Korea is not known for Samsung TVs, Hyundai cars, or LG phones. It is known, rather, for the Korean adoptees who share homes with foreign families. South Korea is known either as an emasculated country incapable of taking care of its children, or a brutish country unwilling to take care of its own children. It is not known as an economically advanced country, but rather an impoverished country dependent upon the charity of more advanced nations. It is not known as a multi-cultural, global society, but rather a prejudiced and backward society that exiles children for the crimes of being born mixed-race, handicapped, poor, or to unwed mothers. For almost 60 years, this has been the perception of South Korea wherever international adoptees have lived in adoptive homes, attended schools and universities, attended church, or otherwise engaged in public life.
This image has stuck to Korea for many decades, and rightfully so. However, South Korea has a chance to decisively and permanently end the stigma of being an “orphan exporting country” in 2010. As South Korea hosts the G-20 this fall, the country has a chance to take on a new role on the global stage and raise not just its economic clout on the global stage, but also its moral clout. Taking full responsibility for the lives of all its citizens is one such way to do that at this historic juncture.
For almost two years, a coalition of adoptees, unwed mothers, and concerned Korean citizens from all walks of life have worked together to produce a bill that addresses many of the abuses of the past and sets up a new domestic paradigm of domestic family preservation that will help Korea meet international standards. The coalition is a historic one because the parties affected by the adoption law have never before created their own bill. At this time, the South Korean government can meet the era’s challenge by making the historic decision to treat international adoptees as partners by listening to their lifetimes of experience living in foreign countries that they bring back to Korea. The government also has a golden opportunity to take a system of discrimination against unwed mothers and turn it around 180 degrees to become a system that promotes acceptance, as well as personal, societal, and governmental responsibility.
These are a few of the points our bill addresses: We must close the loopholes in the adoption law that have led to so much pain for adoptees and their families in the past. We must ensure a strong central authority, per the Hague Convention, that would provide oversight over adoption agency activities and also ensure adequate post-adoption services. We must separate the adoption agencies from the unwed mothers’ homes and clinics that comprise the “baby farms” that provide the supply to meet the demand for adoption. We must support child-rearing unwed mothers materially and socially. Most of all, we need to firmly address the realities of society that are in the present, instead of engaging in wishful thinking about a time long ago or exporting our society’s “problems” to foreign countries.
Therefore, on the occasion of South Korea’s Adoption Day in 2010, our coalition urges the South Korean government to work swiftly to:
1) Ratify the Hague Convention on Protection of Children and Co-Operation in Respect of Intercountry Adoption
2) Remove reservations to the United Nations Convention on the Rights of the Child, and
3) Swiftly take all action necessary to progress our bill so it can be made into law before the G-20.
As South Korea seeks to join the ranks of advanced countries economically, the government should also join the ranks of countries that are advanced in terms of social welfare. Only by instituting and enforcing a new system that meets international standards can South Korea erase its long-standing shame of being an “orphan-exporting country” and truly join the ranks of advanced countries.
Although South Korea has long felt ashamed and guilty for “orphan-exporting,” there has never been any concerted and long-term plan, immune to the changing winds of politics, that has been instituted to take positive, concrete steps forward. Let’s do it now. While taking these steps is long overdue, it is better late than never. We appeal to you to act without delay.
Thank you very much.