Protecting adopteesTwo years ago, the police arrested a host of cruel adults who exploited children as a way to attain free housing.
Dozens of parents gave their daughters and sons up to strangers in a contrived scam to secure new apartment housing benefits reserved for large families. Once given the new homes, the adoptive parents had the adoptions annulled - and they were soon arrested.
Both the birth and adoptive parents capitalized on legal loopholes that require only simple agreements between those involved in domestic adoptions. Under the current rules, the parents involved just have to register the adoption with authorities.
The children were thankfully saved from the inhumane acts of their own parents before they were forced into new homes. But it’s frightening to imagine what would have happened had they ended up in the hands of unqualified adults more interested in free housing than being good parents.
Unfortunately, some adoptees in Korea are victimized by their new parents, forced to participate in illegal activities or subject to sexual abuse. Most industrialized countries have strict legal and oversight systems covering adoption in place. These governments interview parents interested in adoption and then conduct a thorough investigation into their backgrounds. They place priority on the welfare of the children over the potential adoptive parents.
But Korea takes a completely different approach. Our country is often labeled one of the biggest “exporters” of children, having sent an estimated 160,000 kids to parents overseas since the Korean War. Its regulations and procedures for adoption are too lax and simple to ensure children get into good homes.
The Ministry of Justice belatedly decided to propose a bill to revise the nation’s adoption laws. Under the plan, adults seeking to adopt Koreans or foreign nationals would be required to obtain permission from local courts. The courts would assess the motives of the prospective parents, look into whether they have criminal records and determine whether they can afford to take care of the children.
With these changes, the focus would shift more toward the children. But the revision is not enough. The entire social system must be restructured to encourage parents to keep their children in the first place and support them if they do. If adoption cannot be avoided, we must have a mechanism in place for these children to make sure they get the care they need.
We hope the legal revision will serve as a catalyst for the nation to take a renewed look at the issue of adoption and the challenges facing single parents.