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Why do hundreds of South Korean adoptions want the government to investigate the truth about their overseas adoptions

This could turn into the most extensive investigation into foreign adoptions in South Korea.

About 300 South Korean adopters in the US and Europe have filed applications demanding that the South Korean government investigate the circumstances of their adoption. Based in Denmark Danish Korean Rights Group he leads the prosecution in a battle that has the potential to turn into one of the most widespread foreign adoption investigations in South Korea.

| AP

Over the past six decades, some 200,000 South Korean children have been adopted by mostly white parents in America and Europe. The adoption industry particularly flourished in the 1970s and 1980s, when the country’s military governments saw foreign adoption as a one-step solution to reducing the number of mouths to feed and forging strong ties with Western democracies.

| Holt International

This led to the creation of special laws promoting foreign adoption, which allowed agencies to bypass child abandonment practices when exporting them abroad. They aggressively solicited children from hospitals and orphanages, and ran maternity homes where single mothers were often forced, through fear of social control, to abandon their children. These children were then given a made up story to ensure they were more likely to be adopted.

Louise Kwang is one such South Korean adoptive who believed she was found orphaned in the streets of Busan and was later adopted by her Danish parents in 1976. the adoption told her very freely that the story of her orphanage was completely made up. They had some clues as to the whereabouts of her biological parents, and Kwang finally met her father. He lived in Seoul in 1976 and there is no evidence that Kwang has ever been to Busan. At the press conference, she said: “It was all a lie. A lie made up in the adoption procedure. In Korea, I ceased to exist in order to get out of Korea as soon as possible“.

| Global link for adoption from abroad / YouTube

It wasn’t until 2013 that the South Korean government made foreign adoptions pass through family courts, ending a policy empowering agencies to control child abandonment, custody and emigration for decades. In the 1960s and 1980s, Denmark was one of the largest European countries to accept a large number of Korean adoptions. The Danish Korean Rights Group began representing people who suffered the same fate as Kwang and initially applied 51 Danish adoptions to Seoul Truth and Reconciliation Commissionby asking for an investigation. All of these applicants’ adoption procedures were handled by two Seoul-based agencies- Holt services for children and KSS. As the news spread, more adopted people dealt with by these agencies began contacting from outside Denmark. The campaign expanded to represent 283 candidates worldwide.

Truth and Reconciliation Commission | apjjf.org

Most of these adoptive people aren’t as lucky as Kwang is when it comes to getting information about their biological parents. In many cases, people found out that their information was fabricated to replace children who had died or were too sick to travel, or whose parents had chosen to take them back. According Peter Mollerlawyer and co-founder of Danish Korean Rights Group, many adoptive concerns fear that agencies could destroy the original records if retaliatory measures are taken.

Møller said they would sue Holt and the KSS for refusing to share their adoption records and falsifying their stories. At a press conference, he stated: “None of us are orphans… (In) many papers, the Korean state at the time had stamps saying that people were in the streets. If you count a little, it means that from the 70s and 80s Seoul will be flooded with baskets with children lying in the streets … The cellars will be filled with reports of missing children at police stations.

Peter Møller | Lee Jin Man / AP

It is now up to the Truth and Reconciliation Commission to decide whether or not there will be a formal investigation to deal with the growing number of complaints. The findings can help the adoptive in later legal suits that they may want to lead against agencies and even government.


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