Korea Must Care for Its Own Needy ChildrenDomestic adoption has been on the rise for the past several years. In 1995, only about 1,000 children were adopted, but that number grew to 1,700 in 1999. In the past, many adoptive parents wanted to keep the adoption a secret, but more and more people are opting to adopt openly and allowing the adoption be known to their acquaintances. Domestic adoption has been far outweighed by the numbers of Korean children adopted abroad: for the same period of the 1990s, over 2,000 youngsters were adopted by people overseas every year.
To date, it is estimated that about 200,000 Korean children have been adopted in and outside of Korea. Of these, almost 150,000 children were sent to foreign countries, notably the United States. This is largely thanks to the dedication of Bertha Holt, who died on July 31, and other foreign philanthropists. In particular, after the Korean War, numerous Korean children orphaned by the war and abandoned to the ruined streets owed their new start in life to these foreigners. Nevertheless, times have changed and Korea＇s economic standards have risen. The domestic and overseas view of foreign adoption has changed with the times. On the one hand, we are grateful to foreigners for their goodwill and love, but on the other hand, some feel that the large-scale foreign adoption has been a shameful indictment of Korean society. Some even condemn overseas adoption as a national disgrace. At one point, Korea had to endure the stigma and dishonor of being the world＇s foremost orphan exporting nation.
Korean adoption culture must change. It is a good sign that domestic adoptive parents are embracing open adoption. However, we have a long way to go. In Korean families, too many people adopt children to carry on the family name. In such a situation, it is no wonder that boys are preferred, and excessive emphasis is placed on health, appearance, and the blood type of the adoptive candidates. It is a far cry from the many foreigners who willingly accept and bring up disabled children. From now on, more Korean families should seek to adopt children for love and in the spirit of service, with the children＇s welfare their first concern.
Government and society must show a more active interest in abandoned children. The prospect is that the need for caregivers for these children will grow. At present, 17,000 children are being raised in 271 children＇s homes nationwide. An additional 4,000-6,000 children a year require facility care. Measures to cope with this growing need must be considered as a matter of urgency, especially as it is a need compounded by the growth in divorce, single parenthood, and accidental death of parents.
Aside from increased domestic and foreign adoption and facility care, we need more foster parents to care for needy children until their parents are willing and able to take them back. The birth parents of fostered children need not abandon their parental rights. If the social climate becomes more tolerant and accepting of these systems, we will reap the benefits.
We must take responsibility at the very least for the children who need care in Korea. Even if the world is growing smaller, does it make sense to send our abandoned children away to foreign cultures? And when we have solved our own problems, we must extend a hand to the world in the spirit of service and love.
by Noh Jae-hyun