Korean adoptees from abroad and birth mothers protest
Thanks to the K@W listserv. More to come on Dandelions. G.S.
By Kim Young-gyo
SEOUL, Aug. 5 (Yonhap) – Roh Myung-ja has gotten together with her son
every year since 2004, when she was reunited with him after giving him
up for adoption about 30 years ago. She is one of thousands of Korean
women whose children were adopted overseas.
The 49-year-old Roh believes what she has experienced in the years
before her son returned to her should not happen to anyone. Now, she
works as a staff member of Mindeulae, (Dandelions), a civic group of
South Korean parents whose children were adopted overseas and who oppose
the nation’s adoption system, which sends thousands of orphaned and
abandoned children abroad.
“We hope that no other mothers have to go through the pain and
suffering that we went through. Overseas adoption leaves deep-rooted
scars both on the birth mothers and the children,” Roh said in an
interview with Yonhap News Agency on Saturday.
About 30 Korean adoptees from abroad and 10 birth mothers, including
Roh, came together Saturday for a rally in downtown Seoul calling for
the government to abolish international adoption from South Korea. The
mothers and adoptees were not all related to each other.
They held up picket signs that read, “Real Choices for Korean Women
and Children,””Korean Babies Not for Export” and “End Overseas
A signature-gathering drive also began to express opposition to overseas
adoption. The civic group plans to collect one million signatures
Government figures show that there have been about 87,500 domestic
adoptions, versus 158,000 international adoptions, since the end of the
Korean War in 1953.
In 1977, Roh had to give up her 11-month old child, and had no idea
that her son had gone to the United States.
“I was literally shocked when I got a phone call in 2004 saying that
my son is coming from the U.S. to look for me,” Roh said.
Roh said that no one asks or is responsible for what happens to the
children after they were adopted overseas.
“My son luckily turned out fine. But who knows what other kids
undergo?” she said. “The day when I took my son shopping for the first
time, he said to me, ‘This is my first time in my life that I went
shopping without caring that I am not white,'”
Roh’s son, who was not able to make a trip this week to Seoul from South
Dakota, wholeheartedly supports her actions, she said.
Jaeran Kim was one of the adoptees from overseas who joined in
Saturday’s protest. A social worker focusing on domestic adoption in the
U.S., Kim was adopted from South Korea by a U.S. family in 1971.
“When people talk about the adoption, they don’t care about how the
child grows up or how it affects the birth mothers,” she said. “The
adoption system is too much dominated by the adoptive families and the
Kim stressed that she did not have negative experience as a Korean
adoptee in the U.S. and is in a good relationship with her adoptive
“It is not a matter of whether you had a good experience or bad
experience as an adoptee. The adoption system goes way beyond that. It
works within a political, institutional structure of society,” she said.
Kim, who was on her third visit to South Korea, has not been able to
find her birth parents yet, but plans to live in South Korea with her
husband and children for a while in the future.
“Adoption does not only affect me as an adoptee, but it also affects
my family — my husband and children. My children do not have their
grandparents in South Korea, and they lost their part of the Korea
culture, too,” she said.
She argued that a child should be adopted by the extended family or
extended community at least, and that international adoption should be
the last option.
South Korea, the world’s 11th-largest economy, was the fourth country
in 2004 following China, Russia and Guatemala to send the most children
to the U.S. for adoption, according to a research paper by Peter Selman,
a British scholar.