Depending on Mr. Armitage

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Depending on Mr. Armitage

Richard Armitage, the newly appointed U.S. deputy secretary of state, is a typical military man. He has wide shoulder and big eyes full of fire, reminiscent of a commander at a battlefield. He graduated from the U.S. Naval Academy and fought in the Vietnam War. His only hobby is weight lifting.

In his book, U.S. Secretary of State Colin Powell, who shares a close relationship with Mr. Armitage, recalled their first meeting. According to Mr. Powell, at first sight Mr. Armitage seemed to have every reason to join the World Wrestling Federation. Judging from his appearance only, the direction in which the Bush administration's North Korea policy will head seems to be obvious. But we can never judge a person by appearances.

Mr. Armitage has eight children, among whom six are adopted from foreign countries. They are from Asia, Africa and Europe and his house in Virginia is a little world of its own. His appointment as deputy secretary of state was reportedly delayed because the FBI took a long time to investigate the relations between his adopted children and their biological parents. We, who have the shameful reputation for being the largest exporter of orphans, find it hard to look Mr. Armitage in the eye.

Since the end of the Korean War, 140,000 Korean children have been adopted by foreign citizens, doubling the number of children adopted by domestic households. The United States, where adoption has been considered as a moral obligation of the leading classes of society, adopted 80,000 orphans and is the largest destination. As social recognition of adoption slowly changes in Korean society, the number of children adopted in domestic households is rising, but still has not reached the number adopted abroad.

A few days ago, ARTE, a French TV channel, aired a 90-minute documentary program about a woman adopted from Korea searching for her roots. Sophie was adopted by a French family when she was four years old and visited her homeland after 25 years. In her eyes, Korea was a foreign and strange country. The program contrasted the bright neon lights of bars and hotels in Seoul and an outsider's struggle in searching for her identity, tacitly accusing Korean society of a loss of ethics and responsibility. Currently 90 percent of Korean children given up for adoption are adopted by foreign families; most are sons and daughters of unmarried mothers. Many unmarried mothers choose to abandon their children because of their lack of financial means to raise children, not because of societal disapproval. What Sophie had the most trouble understanding about Korea is the reality in which mothers give up their children because of poverty. Until when will we have to depend on another Mr. Armitage?


by Bae Myung-bok

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