[LETTERS TO THE EDITOR]Adoptions: Korean disgraceMore than a week has passed since the Adoptee Gathering 2004 in Seoul. From Aug. 4 through Aug. 8, over 400 adult adoptees representing 15 nations returned to Korea, the land of their birth. Yet the vast majority of the approximately 200,000 Korean adoptees that have spread throughout the world since 1953 will never return.
And scores of adoptees who have chosen to live and work here in Korea did not attend the gathering ― whether by choice, lack of financial means, or working conflicts. The decision to be here was neither simple nor easy. And never will it be so.
Certainly we are small in numbers, but what we represent, what the product of our pasts reveals about this small peninsular country which in the 50 years since the end of the Korean War has become the 12th largest economy in the world, is a history that continues to allow itself to be marred by the unequal circumstances of poverty, social conservatism, political inferiority, missionary zeal, racism, prejudice, ignorance, the unequal status of women and a lack of social welfare and sex education. The simple fact that South Korea continues to export its children abroad, at the rate of more than 2,000 babies per year, especially when the domestic birth rate is at an all-time low, is nothing less than a disgrace.
Now that the Korean press has filed away its reports, the television crews have packed up their bags, and the stories about “successful” adoptees, tearful reunions, and adoptees’ struggles with identity can once again be forgotten, what does that leave us, the adoptees, with? Now that the press, with the aim to assuage and indulge the guilty conscience of the public, has gone on to the next newsworthy item, what will be done as a result of all those editorials calling for an end to international adoption? What changes will be made as a result of Koreans’ embarrassment and shame about the adoption “issue”?
I think nothing will be done ― by Koreans, that is. Because if the government was going to do something about changing the policy on international adoption, it would have done so already, as it has promised to do in the past.
Despite every obstacle we face, it is we, the Korean adoptees, who are now taking the initiative to organize ourselves and say, “International adoption should not be an option.”
by Kim Stoker