Law change leads to illegal, shady adoptions
It turns out the baby girl, who was less than one year old, was adopted casually without proper procedures being followed.
Police said that the adopted parents, a 27-year-old army sergeant surnamed Lee and his wife, Yang, 32, took the newborn girl from a single mother they met on an Internet forum, without bothering with formal adoption procedures.
Lee married Yang in 2011 and they were not able to conceive.
Last year, they found a post from an expectant single mother on an Internet forum. It read, “Looking for someone who will raise my child without any questions.”
The couple met the expectant mother and agreed to take the baby when it was born.
The couple registered at a clinic in Hongje-dong, Seodaemun District, northern Seoul, under their name, and the pregnant woman gave birth last September. She immediately handed the newborn baby to the Lee couple, who pretended Yang was the birth mother. The baby was registered as Lee and Yang’s child.
Shortly afterward, though, Lee and Yang’s relationship grew rocky, and Yang abandoned Lee and the child on July 5. The next day, Lee departed for an eight-week army training program, leaving the infant in the empty apartment.
When Lee returned to the apartment last month, he discovered the child’s corpse. He reported the matter to the police, which determined that the baby starved to death.
Illegal Internet adoptions have increased since a new adoption law was passed in August 2012 that requires mothers wait at least a week after the child is born before giving it up for adoption. They must also register the baby in their family history, which wasn’t required previously.
The Special Adoption Act was meant to protect children. The reasoning was that forcing mothers to take time to consider their actions might lead to fewer adoptions. In fact, it has led to an increase in both cheap and easy illegal adoptions, which keep the babies off the family registry, and to more abandoned babies. The birth mother of Lee and Yang’s dead daughter used the Internet to find a way of unloading her child without her ever getting it on her permanent record.
It’s not hard to find posts headlined “Looking for adoptive parents” or “Take my baby” on Internet forums such as the one Lee and Yang visited, mixed in with legitimate questions about adoption procedures.
One post described a single mother who could not pay her hospital fees or afford to raise a child on her own. “Even if I give up the baby for adoption, I am trying to avoid it getting on my record. I am looking for someone to raise my child.”
Some mothers are not aware that such procedures are illegal but some are.
If caught, people involved in such illegal adoptions can spend up to three years in prison and could pay a fine of up to 20 million won ($18,440).
According to the National Police Agency, there were 139 cases of abandoned babies nationwide in 2012. This year, that number increased to 152 cases between January and July.
“There has been a sharp increase in the number of babies being left at our church,” said Pastor Lee Jong-rak of the Jesus’s Love Community Church in Nangok-dong, Gwanak District, Seoul. “These are the side effects of more stringent adoption procedures.”
The church is known for its “baby box” in which unwanted babies can be left anonymously.
In defense of the law passed 13 months ago, the Ministry of Health and Welfare said all mothers should register the birth of their babies and put them in official records so that infants wouldn’t be handed around casually. Unfortunately, that is a side effect of the new law.
A welfare official said that in order to crack down on illegal Internet adoptions it has requested police investigation and will also monitor such Web sites more carefully.
“If single mothers have to register the birth of the child on their family registry,” said Kim Sang-yong, a law professor at Chung-Ang University, “there have to be supplementary laws that enable the information to be kept private if the mother desires.”
BY JEON IK-JIN, MIN KYUNG-WON [firstname.lastname@example.org]