It’s common practice in Korea that young, single mothers who give birth in hospitals, are confronted by adoption agencies who give them a choice between having the hospital charges covered in return for giving up their newborn child for adoption, or paying the entire bill themselves.
There are endless reasons why so many women decide to part with their babies: Some because they are too poor to afford the hospital expenses, some because single mothers are, by and large, not accepted in Korean society. Some mothers are even tricked into signing the release papers while they’re still under heavy sedation after birth, unable to know what they’re doing.
And the state of Korea gets their cut of the adoption profits, from this heartless exploitation of desperate young women, causing so much grief for both the mothers and their lost children. Would it not be better instead to help those young mothers, preventing future tragedies by letting them keep their babies?
In time I hope that adoption will finally come to an end, and maybe the Korean government would set up a fund to help adoptees too, so that we could have a chance to heal, and to find our lost natural family, without ruining ourselves both financially and emotionally on our search. I think it would be the least you could do for us, a sign of respect to those of us who lost everything.
Many young mothers see no other way than to give up their babies. They are told it’s for the best, for them and for their babies. I think it’s tragic that adoptions will not end before the Korean government decides to help people who need more financial support, to develop proper social welfare.
Old ways and customs must go. The threshold for deciding to give up a child in this closed society is way too low. Even children of divorced parents are put away in orphanages and put up for adoption as if they were really orphans, and this is generally accepted. As usual, children always suffer at the hands of stupidity, poverty, prejudice and the everlasting up-keeping of appearances.
My advice to single mothers in Korea? Don’t be a single mother in Korea! Not the way things are now. You will swiftly find yourself at the lowest step of the social hierarchy, right down there among adopted and orphaned children, homeless people and prostitutes. I wish I could tell you different, I really wish that things would change, but this is how it is for now.
And we adoptees are right down there with you, because we don’t have family trees or the right blood lines, really. Shame on us! Its all our own fault that we got sent abroad. And according to old traditions we can never get married to anyone, because we know nothing of our history. We can not tell our prospective spouses where we come from, simply because we have no idea. We have been denied this knowledge. We are doomed, according to Korean tradition, so our only option is to find someone not Korean, or a Korean who like us is adopted
I now fully understand what my Korean sister meant when she told me that she was happy I was living here in Norway, and not in Korea. I thought it was a strange thing to say, and I was hurt when she said it, but now I see it clearly. Koreans have a very old-fashioned way to think of life, and my life would have been weighed down with shame.
I was married, then divorced, and now I am together again with the man that I first fell in love with. We have two perfect daughters: They are of mixed race, Korean and Norwegian, yet still I can keep my head held high, knowing that they carry within them the best of both worlds.
During and after the Korean war, many children were born who were of mixed race, born from Korean women and American soldiers. Many were sent out of Korea, because Koreans would neither accept nor tolerate them. Now, if I had lived in Korea today, with my daughters and their father, we would have faced those same old prejudices, been treated with less respect, and found ourselves at the bottom of this patriarchal society. What would be fair about that?
Nothing is fair when it comes to adoption business, and downright medieval Korean culture. My motherland has become a very rich country since the war ended in 1953, partly on the profits from sending their children away. But society changes too slowly, and the old attitudes still make it too easy to keep sending children out of the country.
And now there’s complaint of the rising number of elders. The growing question is, who is going to take care of them? Most of the children who get sent away are girls, and we even see young Korean men today facing the lack of young women to marry. It’s still not as bad as in China, but even so, a man looking for a bride is up against tough competition – and the requirements for what they have to be able to offer in terms of professional and financial status only increases. I have a nephew to prove it.
Another part of the problem is that Korea is divided between North and South, and the South has to realize that they have sent away a considerable part of a whole generation – actually two generations now – and left them to their own destinies, most of them girls. We won’t come running back some day to pick up where we left off for the greater Korean good.
You’ve taken everything away from us, from me, and in my heart I both love and hate you so much. I used to blame my adoptive parents, I’ve blamed the worker at Holt in Korea, I blamed myself for not being loveable enough, I’ve blamed the world, but I have learned that in the end the only one to blame is in fact you, my motherland, for selling me, having me kidnapped and sent away for money. And really, you who live in Korea today ought to thank us adoptees for your improved lifestyle. Our contribution as human merchandise has helped make Korea a much wealthier country, and we’ve featured as a regular post on the national budget for many years.
We’re the generation – generations now – that you sent abroad. Maybe you will remember us one day, when you see how useful we could have been in Korea when the void left behind after us begins to catch up with you. We’re the ones who would have taken care of your elders, who would have married your sons, and borne and raised you new children, but you went for the money instead, and now it is too late.
When I was in Korea as a tourist in 1986, travelling with other adoptees to see where we come from, the Korean people we met pitied us for being adopted. We were pitied because if we returned to live in Korea, we would be at the lowest level of society, frowned upon and resented or even despised by everyone around us. I was, and would forever be, a lost daughter, missing abroad, and in their eyes it would perhaps be better if I stayed that way.
I say that it is the other way around. I pity you for having lost us, for having sent, and still sending, your children out of the country. I pity you for the shame you will feel on the day you come to realize what you have done, both to us, and to yourselves.
Recently I was invited to listen to the South Korean prime minister when he visited Norway. I decided that as long as he wasn’t going to say anything about the unfairness of foreign adoption, maybe even offer an apology, however minor a comfort that would be, I wasn’t interested.
Korea can never fully compensate me for what I have lost. And they can never grant me my biggest wish, that I’d meet my natural mother and father again. He was lost to me along with everything else. And nothing can mend the mental and emotional scars from my abusive childhood.
So what do I want from them? The one thing that would give me comfort is if they give up the human trafficking that is so cleverly disguised as “adoption”, so that no more children will have to go through what I have, and others like me. That they will realize and publicly admit that adoption is a painful road of tears and sorrow, and that it can never be the beautiful thing that it is said to be.
But what can I do? What can we do? I have a dream! Like earthquakes and lightning can knock down big trees and huge buildings, we adoptees, and the natural mothers who have lost children to adoption, together we can knock down the way many people look at adoption today. We could shake the adoption business down to its very foundations, and perhaps even end it once and for all.
If we lined up together, in front of the Court in Haag, and in front of the United Nations, to unite our voices and share our stories with the world, then perhaps the world would listen and understand. If you can imagine it, it can happen.
Together we would be dynamite!