[LETTERS to the editor]International adoptions are a way out of Korea’s low birth rate conun

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[LETTERS to the editor]International adoptions are a way out of Korea’s low birth rate conun

As a foreigner here, I cannot but wonder about the sheer numbers of infants, children and adolescents one sees in rural and urban South Korea. Is this view due to high population density? I also see many pregnant women. I always thought this appreciable ubiquity of Korean women in good hope seemed to leave European and American baby-makers trying in the dark because the sighting of a pregnant woman there seems rare. Thus it came as a big surprise when the National Statistics Office recently announced a “record low” rank for South Korea among the world’s birth rates per nation. The figures stated for Korea (from 3.47 percent in 1975 down to 1.08 percent in 2005) completely counter my observations.
Even more surprising than the figures themselves was the overwhelming reaction by the public. People talked and joked about it everywhere. Some were worried while others teased each other about who had “done” enough to fulfill national “offspring obligations” and who had not. This media “wake up call” stirred citizens and should be called an “early-to-bed” call instead. Since I’m not a demography expert, I won’t try to refute the numbers. But I remain skeptical, as in the old adage: “If you beat a statistic long enough it’ll always confess.”
Globalization causes unprecedented mingling of peoples and persons because of growing opportunities and widening inequalities. Due to the inevitability of such mingling, I suggest carefully reversing country-inherent low birthrates along with international adoption. If Korea, as publicized, needs at least three offspring per family, why not ―hypothetically ― two of their own plus one adopted (or vice versa)? The same could be suggested to governments in Europe. If rich countries permit guest worker quotas to ease current and future demand in their workplaces, why not encourage such “entrances” already at the time of infancy? Along with many other benefits ― not least for the adoptees ― social and linguistic “integration” would be easier and more meaningful in countries that fear the loss of human resources, creative brainpower and financial caregivers of the elderly.
In recent decades, Korea has contributed to worldwide child adoption while the country underwent a rough period of development. Meanwhile, Korea has joined the ranks of developed countries and Koreans can be proud of that. With the new status, the time seems ripe for Korea and other industrialized countries to share resources with the youth of the world. And if serious about its recent pledges at overcoming discrimination against foreigners and children of inter-ethnic parentage, Korea would be an excellent place on Earth to provide ample food, shelter, love, and a great education to children adopted from poor countries.
There is nothing wrong with informing the public about national birth rates. But to avoid fear-mongering and hysteria, it should be the task of the media to offer food for thought by putting the figures in perspective in a meaningful global context. Marx’s ideas about social determinism must have been right when he observed that (paraphrased) one’s decisions materialize as a direct reaction to one’s socio-economic circumstances.
Perhaps these reactions are part of an innate human rationality that we should use as a sign to pause and think. Many people at the grassroots and on the Internet already have used this rationality ― i.e., deciding to postpone conception based on economic circumstances ― to become alert and active about global issues such as poverty, pollution, global warming, energy shortages, global public health and lingering inefficient global communications.
Born and unborn children deserve these processes to be supported now, but for the sake of the planet and its human and non-human inhabitants, more so than for nations.

by Mike Reinschmidt
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