September 23, 2022

Nearly 300 People Ask South Korea to Investigate Their Overseas Adoptions | Q control policy

SEOUL, South Korea (AP) — For 40 years, Louise Kwang thought she was an orphaned baby found on the streets of the South Korean port city of Busan before her adoption by Danish parents in 1976.

She felt her whole sense of identity crumble in 2016 when her South Korean agency neutrally acknowledged that her origin story was fiction aimed at ensuring her adoptability.

“(The English file) indicates that you have been transferred from Namkwang Children’s Home in Pusan ​​(Busan) to KSS for international adoption. In fact, it was just made up for the adoption process,” Kyeong Suk Lee, a social worker at Korea Social Service, wrote in a letter to Kwang after asking for her original file in Korean.

The agency turned out to know Kwang’s biological parents, including her father whom she later met. There is no evidence that Kwang has ever been to Busan, which is several hours drive from the country’s capital, Seoul, where his father lived in 1976.

“I was not an orphan. I have never been to Busan or the Busan orphanage,” Kwang said at a press conference in Seoul on Tuesday. “It was all a lie. A lie made up for the adoption process. I was rendered non-existent in Korea, to get me out of Korea as soon as possible.

Kwang is among nearly 300 South Korean adoptees in Europe and the United States who have so far filed petitions asking the South Korean government to investigate the circumstances surrounding their adoptions, which they suspect to be unfounded. on falsified documents that have whitewashed their true status or identity.

Their efforts underscore a deepening rift between the world’s largest adoptee diaspora and their homelands decades after dozens of Korean children were neglectfully removed from their families during a boom in overseas adoption that peaked in the 1980s.

The Denmark-based group representing adoptees also delivered a letter to South Korean President Yoon Suk Yeol’s office on Tuesday urging him to stop agencies from destroying records or retaliating against adoptees searching for their roots. as agencies face increasing scrutiny of their past practices.

The 283 applications submitted so far to the Seoul Truth and Reconciliation Commission describe many complaints about lost or distorted biological origins.

Some adoptees say they found out that agencies had changed identities to replace other children who died, were either too sick to travel or picked up by their Korean families before they could be sent to Western adopters. They say such discoveries deepen their sense of loss and sometimes lead to false reunions with relatives who turn out to be strangers.

Peter Møller, a lawyer and co-founder of Danish Korean Rights Group, said he also plans to sue two Seoul-based agencies – Holt Children’s Services and KSS – for their refusal to fully open their cases to adoptees.

While agencies often cite privacy issues with birth parents to justify restricted access, Møller accuses them of making up excuses to dodge questions about their practices as adoptees increasingly express frustration over details limited of their adoption papers which often turn out to be inaccurate or falsified. .

Last month, Møller’s group initially filed applications from 51 Danish adoptees asking the commission to investigate their adoptions, which were handled by Holt and KSS.

The move caught the attention of Korean adoptees around the world, prompting the group to expand its campaign to Holt and KSS adoptees outside of Denmark. The 232 additional claims submitted on Tuesday included 165 cases from Denmark, 36 cases from the United States and 31 combined cases from Belgium, the Netherlands, Norway and Germany.

The commission, which was set up in December 2020 to investigate human rights atrocities under the military governments that ruled South Korea from the 1960s to the 1980s, must decide in three or four months whether to open or not an investigation of applications filed by adoptees. If so, it could trigger the most thorough investigation into foreign adoptions in the country, which has never fully come to terms with the child export spree staged by its former military leaders.

As the deadline for the commission to submit applications comes in December, Møller said his group would try to persuade the commission to leave the door open to more applications from adoptees if it decides to investigate the cases.

“There are many more adoptees who have written to us, called us, been in contact with us. They are afraid to submit to this case because they fear that the adoption agencies will burn the original documents and retaliate,” Møller said. He said those worries are greatest among adoptees who have found out the agencies have changed their identities.

Holt did not respond to calls for comment. Choon Hee Kim, an adoption agent who has worked for KSS since the 1970s, said the agency is willing to discuss issues surrounding its adoptions with individual adoptees, but not with the media.

Asked about the KSS letters admitting tampering with biological origins, Kim said: “The adoptees say they got such letters because they did, and it’s not like they’re making up things.”

About 200,000 South Koreans have been adopted overseas over the past six decades, mostly by white parents in the United States and Europe and mostly during the 1970s and 1980s.

Military leaders saw adoptions as a way to reduce the number of mouths to feed, solve the “problem” of single mothers, and deepen ties with the democratic West.

Special laws to promote overseas adoptions effectively allowed licensed private agencies to circumvent proper child abandonment practices as they exported large numbers of children to the West year after year.

Most South Korean adoptees sent overseas were registered by agencies as legal orphans found abandoned on the streets, although they often had parents who could be easily identified or traced. This practice often makes their roots difficult or impossible to trace.

It wasn’t until 2013 that the South Korean government required foreign adoptions to go through family courts, ending the policy that allowed agencies to dictate child abandonment, custody transfer and emigration for decades.