Masho and Roba: To Denmark with little love


“It’s almost five years ago that I began following the story of Masho and Roba. This was at a time when I believed adoption was a noble act for children in need of parents, and for parents in need of children. But what I witnessed was not the tale of joy and hope that I had imagined.”
“Det er nu snart fem år siden at jeg startede med at følge Masho og Robas historie. Det var den gang jeg troede at adoption udelukkende var en god gerning for børn der behøvede foreldre, og foreldre der behøvede børn. Men det jeg blev vidne til var ikke den historie full av glede og håb som jeg havde forestillet mig.”
— Katrine W. Kjær

Part 1 | Part 2 | Part 3 | Part 4 | Part 5 |Part 6

Full episode (Danish, no subtitles)

End titles (not included in the subtitles)
“77 children were adopted from Ethiopia to Denmark the same year as Masho and Roba.”
“Of those, only 2 were classified as orphans.”
“Every year, about 30,000 children are adopted internationally.”

This Danish documentary from 2012 is heartbreaking, and it clearly demonstrates so many of the things that are wrong about adoption.

Childless, at age 44 and 46, after seven years of being unable to have children of their own, the Danish couple Gert and Henriette decide to adopt the siblings Roba and Masho, aged two and four, from Ethiopia.

The children’s natural parents Sinknesh and Hussen are still alive, but suffering from AIDS, and the mother Sinknesh has been told by her doctor that she will die “in exactly five years”, three years prior to the adoption. For this reason, and this reason alone, the couple decide, or rather allow themselves to be persuaded by the agency DanAdopt, to put their two youngest children up for adoption. Promises are made that they will receive periodic reports on their children’s progress and well-being.

Three years after the adoption, and six years after being told she had only five more years to live, Sinknesh and Hussen have received no information about Roba and Masho. They are both still alive and well enough that they’re capable of working and taking care of their three remaining children, and they still mourn the loss of their two youngest, of whom they have had no word since they were taken away. They try to confront DanAdopt and the Ethiopian authorities, but to no avail as they are stonewalled and rejected.

In Denmark, things are not going so well either. The adoptive parents are disappointed that Masho does not bond with them as they had expected. Mother Henriette punishes Masho for her “bad” behaviour by withholding affection, although it is precisely affection that she needs. They appear to make little or no effort to understand the needs of the children, but rather expect them to adapt to their new, alien surroundings without trouble, and then blame the children when this does not happen. Hardly ever after they return to Denmark do you see the adoptive parents smile, especially the mother who most of the time looks completely stone-faced.

I consider being past 40 as very late in life to have children, and especially to adopt children who have special needs because they are removed from their natural environment, old enough to already have a language and strong ties to their natural family, accustomed to their original local way of life, being ripped away from everything they know, including the love of their natural parents, and thrust into the custody of strangers who do not even speak a language they can understand. Of course they are afraid, in turn fear leads to anger, and anger leads to suffering. Being the oldest of the two, with deeper roots to her home, Masho struggles and suffers the most.

Henriette and Gert show clear signs of having no idea what they’ve let themselves in on. In their eyes, they’ve bought a product that doesn’t live up to their expectations, and which doesn’t come with any warranty. In short, they feel cheated!

At their age, it would be enough of a challenge to have their own biological child, although this would have been a whole lot easier to handle. Their own child would have been born into the family, and their bonding would happen naturally. However, having no previous experience whatsoever with raising children of their own, yet diving headlong into adopting not just one but two children as old as Masho and Roba, from a completely different culture, with no mutual language to communicate, no knowledge of their original home and customs, was a recipe for disaster because Gert and Henriette did not have even the most basic skills or knowledge to handle the situation.

It’s clear from the adoptive parents’ attitude that they had solid prior expectations as to how well this would go, as if according to a plan. When it doesn’t, they act disappointed as if it was Masho who had asked them to adopt her, and not lived up to her part of the deal. Masho, on the other hand, looks like a caged animal, marked by the futility of her situation, struggling with grief and missing her mother, the single most important person in her life, and the fact that she will probably never see her again.

“Do not worry about the children. They will forget you.
You will think about them, but they will not think about you.”
— DanAdopt

The organization Against Child Trafficking (ACT) are following Masho’s case, and working to have her reunited with her natural parents. You can follow their Facebook page Operation Masho—Reunite Masho with her Ethiopian family. You can also help support ACT by donating through their webpage.

“Det er nu snart fem år siden at jeg startede med at følge Masho og Robas historie. Det var den gang jeg troede at adoption udelukkende var en god gerning for børn der behøvede foreldre, og foreldre der behøvede børn. Men det jeg blev vidne til var ikke den historie full av glede og håb som jeg havde forestillet mig.”

Khara now also on Twitter

As I’m warming up to other venues on the Internet, I’ve recently started a Twitter account where among other things I will post links to websites, articles, blogs and other things that I find relevant. Please, feel free to follow me on 🙂

My most recent Twitter posts will also be visible in the right-hand bar on my blog.

A milestone: From blog to book

Those of you who have followed my blog may have noticed that there hasn’t been any activity for some time. The main reason for this is simply that I’ve been consumed by the project of turning my blog into a book. Though some of the chapters have been taken more or less verbatim from this blog, most of it is brand new. It’s been a long and laborous journey, but now at last I am finally there! The book was completed not long ago, and I finally feel ready to go public with it.

Cries of the Soul

I could not have made it without the help and support from my husband and our daughters, my husband’s family, and definitely not least the guidance and encouragement from my dear friend and mentor Joe Soll (who also wrote the introduction).

Big thanks to my friends all over the world, on Facebook and elsewhere, who have cheered me on while I was writing, and read my book after it was finished, and provided the positive feedback which has given me the confidence to also announce it here on my blog.

I am thrilled to see that in the few brief months that the book has been out, I have received four five-star reader reviews, and it also warms my heart that a number of authors have asked to include parts of both my book and my blog in books and other projects of their own.

If with this book I succeed in helping even just one adoptee, it will be totally worth the effort I put into it.

It’s available in paperback on, and a Kindle version is in the works (to be announced here on the blog when it’s ready).

Cries of the Soul

The True Story of a Korean Adoptee’s Fight to Survive

by Khara Niné

In 1970, shortly after the death of her mother, and without the consent or even the knowledge of her father, a barely one year old girl is put up for foreign adoption in South Korea. She ends up in an adoptive family where she spends her childhood suffering neglect and abuse at the hands of her adoptive parents. “Cries of the Soul” tells a story rather different from the more common, picture-perfect fairy tales of the adoption industry. With her original childhood and natural family stolen from her, Khara Niné describes the harsh reality of coping and trying to fit into a family where she doesn’t belong, of grieving the loss of parents she can not even remember, and the emotional scars which she is still struggling to get to grips with more than forty years later.

“Beginning with the trauma of lying in the arms of her beloved Umma when she died, Khara takes the reader through her life’s journey with a colorful, flowing narrative, joyous in parts, yet mostly a soul wrenching description of one woman’s struggle to survive.” — Joe Soll, author of “Adoption Healing… a path to recovery” | | | | | |



A majestic work, October 17, 2013 By Joseph M. Soll

“Cries of the Soul” is the most complete and compelling book I have ever read about the horrors of the separation of a child from her origins. Anna Freud’s statement that the horrors of war pale beside the loss of a mother is brought to reality by the gut wrenching writing of Jung Kyung Sook.

Beginning with the trauma of lying in the arms of her beloved Umma when she died, Kyung Sook takes the reader through her life’s journey with a colorful, flowing narrative, joyous in parts, yet mostly a soul wrenching description of one woman’s struggle to survive.

Those who face their demons are some of the strongest people on the face of the earth. Kyung Sook is one such person. Her story had to be told and she told it well. This book is a Must Read!” – Joe Soll, psychotherapist and author of Adoption Healing… a path to recovery.

A Must Read for Adoptive Parents, November 10, 2013 By Mary A. Coyle

This story was a tribute to Kyung Sook’s strength to live and prosper. I admire her determination to see beauty in the world around her, and her perseverance to keep going like when Kyung Sook describes the Christmas that she decorated the tree when no other family member would. The determination to choose to live when it may have been easier to take her own life. The way that Kyung Sook went on to create a family of her own in which her daughters grew up safe and happy. It is stories like hers that give parents like the me the education that we need to be better parents for our children whom we have adopted. We do listen. I know that there are not many of us, but we are out here and we do listen and learn. My own kids are growing into fine young adults. They have benefited from going to Culture Camps, cooking Korean food, and travelling to Korea (more than once) because we listened. Thank you for sharing your story.

cries of the soul, November 26 2013 By Jane hunt

This book is a wonderful read. The author covers so much about what an adoptee from korea may feel.
Her story of her family left to search for her is heartbreaking and her descriptions of fitting into a totally new culture where she is labeled an outsider is very sad.
She also manages to cover some of the corrupt side of international adoptions and is very courageous to tell her truth. She covers the spiritual side and the emotional side very well. It is a great read and an eye opener about how the adoption industry effects those in it’s grasp.

Real, raw, and heartfelt, December 30, 2013 By Nanci Dru

Cries of the Soul is an autobiography of the life of a Korean adoptee who grew up in Norway that is told in beautiful and haunting vignettes that are seamlessly woven together. Although the book may be of particular interest to adoptees, it is such a compelling book and written in such a lovely way that I recommend it for any reader (though not young children; although Khara Nine, nee Jung Kyung Sook, writes with the innocent voice of a child, it is a book for those mature enough to understand the painful and dark side of adoption). What I loved most about this book is the author’s voice. It is the voice of a girl who appreciates the innocence of climbing trees and her beloved stuffed animal. Her detail is spot on — I have never been to Norway but felt I was there alongside her with the beaches and fjords. Her descriptions of happy occasions are punctuated with the abuse she suffered at the hands of her adoptive parents, and these moments when the reader is suddenly swept from an idyllic situation to the reality of her abuse are jarring and suspenseful. Her writing is reminiscent of fairy tales, but real and without the happy ending. Interwoven with the stories of her childhood are her adult musings on finding her sisters, learning of her father’s death, and her own family in Norway. The book has all the lessons of a great psychology or self-help book but is told as an incredible life story. I highly recommend this thoughtful and thought-provoking work.

Updates – New facts fall into place

One of the things with being adopted is that you can never be sure whether the information you have about yourself and your natural family is correct, inaccurate or even true. You also never know if errors are made intentionally, tailored specifically to make you more “adoptable”, or just due to laziness or sloppiness on part of those managing the information, or whether there simply wasn’t any accurate and correct information available to begin with.

Occasionally you come across something new. It could be trivial, or it could be ground-breaking in that it explains major aspects of your life. In the last six months I’ve come across two bits of information, one somewhat trivial, and the other of the more ground-breaking kind.

Both the posts mentioned below have been changed to reflect the updates.

Update One: In Memory of Appa

(Link to post)

A while ago, about a year after I wrote “In Memory of Appa”, my sister wrote to tell me that my father died in July of 1974, not 1976 as I had previously thought. While this isn’t a detail that changes much in my life today, it still matters that I know, and that I know that I know, and for that little peace of mind I am grateful.

Update Two: Birthdays

(Link to post)

My sister also wrote me to discuss my birth date. We established long ago that the birth date as stated in my passport and all other official papers is not correct. She pointed out that birth dates were often recorded according to the Chinese lunar calendar, not the Western one. Yet when translating dates from Chinese to Western, such as in the case of adoption, it was and probably still is the sloppy common habit to keep the month and day numbers, and just add the Western year, rather than going through the complicated work of calculating it properly.

For example, someone born on the seventeenth day of the third month during the Western year 1968 would simply get their birth date translated to March 17, 1968, when in fact the proper birth date would translate to April 14, 1968.

My sister was not only concerned with the date, rather she was firmly certain that the year was wrong as well. I had been born in the spring … but a year later!

Since the Chinese calendar follows the moon, the months and day numbers move quite some distance from year to year, as seen from a Western calendar perspective. In the example above, it’s a matter of about a month’s difference. But if that person had been born on the seventeenth day of the third month a year later, instead of March 17, 1968 or April 14, 1968, their birth date would be May 3, 1969.
Passport photo

Why someone would change my birth date by a whole year is unclear. It might be a simple matter of misreading sloppy handwriting in the original documents, or it could be something else. The consequences, however, are more serious. When I was adopted, I was said to be two years old. I was small and allegedly underdeveloped, the explanation for which was that I suffered from malnutrition.

But when I look at my passport photo now, I see a barely one year old baby girl. I was thought to be a year behind in every aspect of my development, it was even suggested that I was “retarded”, but in truth I was really simply a year younger than everybody thought. I even lost my baby teeth at the same time as children believed to be a year younger than I was. I had learning problems in school, but I was really struggling to learn stuff meant for kids a year older than I was.

A whole host of issues that I went through as a child now makes perfect sense: You can’t expect a one-year-old to match the development of a two-year-old, and you can’t demand that a six-year-old matches the learning abilities of a seven-year-old. And if a child is already a year behind in school, without being offered help, she most likely won’t be able to catch up, resulting in poor grades, endless frustration, and a shattered self esteem.

I didn’t get help, I wasn’t able to catch up, and that has followed me to this day.

~ Khara

Australian PM Gillard Apologizes To Victims Of Forced Adoption

This twenty minute video (below) contains the entire speech by Australian Prime Minister Julia Gillard on March 21, 2013, where she on behalf of the Australian nation apologizes to victims of forced adoption, both the children and their mothers and fathers. This is a historical moment, the first and so far the most important admission of a government to such wrongdoings.

The speech touches upon most if not all aspects of forced adoption in heart-wrenching detail.

“[…] Churches and charities, families, medical staff and bureaucrats struck at the most primal and sacred bond there is: the bond between a mother and her baby.”

The adoption methods described in the speech are brutal, and strikingly similar to those that have been revealed through investigations in Korea, and are most likely present in many other countries as well.

“For the most part, the women who lost their babies were young and vulnerable.

“They were often pressurised and sometimes even drugged.

“They faced so many voices telling them to surrender, even though their own lonely voice shouted from the depths of their being to hold on to the new life they had created.”

No apology is complete without a promise and commitment to make matters right, and to do better in the future.

“To redress the shameful mistakes of the past, we are committed to ensuring that all those affected get the help they need, including access to specialist counselling services and support, the ability to find the truth in freely available records and assistance in reconnecting with lost family.

“We resolve, as a nation, to do all in our power to make sure these practices are never repeated. In facing future challenges, we will remember the lessons of family separation. Our focus will be on protecting the fundamental rights of children and on the importance of the child’s right to know and be cared for by his or her parents.

“With profound sadness and remorse, we offer you all our unreserved apology.”

The rest of the world would do well to follow Australia’s lead in this matter.




Felix Sit Annus Novus! (Happy New Year!)

Adoption starts with loss, and ends happily ever after … Or does it, really? To share one’s life journey with the world takes courage. It is tough and often painful work. It’s not the adoptive parents’ right, or the so-called happy adoptees’ right, to criticize what is written, because it comes from the writer’s soul. Please respect that, and respect the fact that not everyone who is adopted has had a great, wonderful life.

You may have heard the phrase “Adoption is a permanent solution to a temporary problem”. I know that I have used it myself a few times before on my blog. The part about “temporary problem” has to do with the situation which leads to adoption, such as single motherhood or poverty. Many adoptions could have been avoided if, instead of taking the children away from their natural parents during such periods of hardship (which is the “permanent solution” part) the parents might receive help, financial or otherwise, which would allow them to raise their children themselves. Adoption is permanent – and often destructively traumatic both to the children and to their parents. By helping the natural parents one would ensure that, when whatever difficult situation they are in, the children would still have a chance to grow up in their proper home in the care of their proper family. And yes, Adoption is a business, a trading of souls. This must be understood. It is as plain as the nose on your face.

And adoptive parents must also understand that we adoptees never came from them: we came from our natural parents. To deny this truth is disrespectful and ruthless. So many books, blog posts, essays and articles have been written about the problems of adoption and the struggles of adoptees. The truth is all out there, easily accessible, and anyone involved or interested in adoption has only to reach out to learn. To not do so is to blindfold and lull oneself into a dream of lies that says problems do not and cannot exist. Please wake up! You can’t mould us into something that we are not. If you think you can, then you have swallowed the fairytale whole, and you’ve chosen to believe that everyone will live happily ever after. But so many things can and do go wrong with adoption! To think that an adopted child can simply start over fresh is an illusion. It’s not that simple. The fact is that every child, however young when adopted, carries emotional baggage, the results of traumatic experiences that led up to the adoption – and the adoption itself is one more of those.

It’s time to recognise things for what they are. For the people in Adoptionland this means to think different, and to rid themselves of the illusions that keep them from seeing the truth. Adoptive parents must learn to raise their adopted children with the respect and care that they need, and adopted children must understand that many of their emotional problems stem from being adopted – both the adoption itself and their experiences from before that. And, above all, things must change so that adoption no longer is the preferred solution to any problem, but that it instead becomes a last resort when all other options have been tried and exhausted. Personally, having grown up as an adoptee, I would prefer to see adoption abolished completely.

Those of you who read, understand that when someone writes from the depth of their soul, it is not an invitation to find faults or make rude comments. Do not criticise someone until you have walked in their shoes. And if you have nothing nice to say, then it may be better if you say nothing. Not many share as much deep, personal stuff on their blogs as I have chosen to do. I could of course have chosen not to, but then this blog would have had no purpose: it would not have been the same without sharing my heartfelt feelings, painful memories and warm ones, as well as humour and despair. Much of the raw emotion that I have dug out of my heart and the core of my soul has found its way into my blog, and I have cried enough to fill rivers and streams in the year that went by since I started writing my very first blog post. I wish for 2013 to be a year when we learn to be more compassionate towards each other, no matter where we come from.

A happy new year to all!

I’d like to share a few words that I wrote last year in a moment of sadness, for my dear Umma:

An endless longing
For a while you held me. I looked at you and I felt safe. I was loved for a moment. Like the wind, your sweet, kind words flew away, never to be heard again. Your kind touch, your voice and face, gone in a second. I was just a tiny bundle when you went home to God. You left me when I needed you the most, though we shared your last moment on Earth. My heart has ached now for over four decades. When will I find peace? Where can this girl find treasures, like hidden memories of you? Somewhere inside I know you well, your face, your shape, your voice, but its so hard to find you again. And my grief is an endless ocean of tears. I miss you Umma. I am craving for your love. Your absence filled my world for too long. I think of you whenever I see a falling star, the rainbow or the Northern Lights. I think of you when I see the waves on the sea and feel the wind in my face. Because like the Elements on Earth mean everything for our lives here, you were everything to me for a brief time: my beloved Umma.



Have a Cookie Christmas!

One of my few happy childhood memories is an old Christmas cookie recipe from my grandmother on my adoptive father’s side, which my adoptive mother baked from time to time. I’ve made a tradition of baking these with my children before Christmas every year. They are a light, golden colour (my boyfriend says they’re Golden Retriever-coloured), sweet and slightly crispy, and have their place right next to the gingerbread cookies on our table. And like gingerbread cookies they may be decorated with frosting, plain white or coloured according to your personal preference. You may eat them along with hot chocolate, coffee or mulled wine (which in Norwegian is called “gløgg”), whilst watching the snow falling outside the window, listening to Christmas carols and feeling the butterflies in your stomach flutter about as you look forwards to the holiday and to spend time with your closest family and friends, which for me is what Christmas is all about: lots of good food in the company of dear, happy faces, and making sure every year that my children experience a much better Christmas than the ones I grew up with.

May this season be blessed, and help heal old wounds in the depth of my soul and others’. May it bring joy and peace to children who live in troubled families, who maybe suffer abuse, and may not look forward to Christmas. I know this too well, as I was one of those children myself.

This post is a season’s greeting from the cold North. I wish you all a merry Christmas, and a happy new year, everyone who read my blog and have followed me so far on my journey of healing. I thank you all from the bottom of my heart, and I hope that each and every one of us can help a troubled child in this season, which is indeed meant to be a happy one. It could be the kid next door. Reach out a hand, as a good, compassionate fellow human being. Even if it means you have to contact the police or child protective services. Pay it forward and get the ball rolling. I wish someone had done that for me when I was a little girl. If everyone will take a small part in this responsibility, maybe this world will become a better place to live for all some day.

I’d like to share my recipe with you, in case you’d like to try it too. Unfortunately I’m unfamiliar with American/imperial measures, so I’m afraid this is all going to be in metric. I wish you good luck with the cookies 🙂

1/4 litre soured milk
1/2 kilo sugar
30 grams Salt of Hartshorn (ammonium bicarbonate)
50 grams butter, melted
Wheat flour to make a perfect doughMix everything together in a bowl, keep adding flour and knead until you have a smooth dough.

Take about a quarter of the dough at a time, place on table and flatten with a rolling pin until about 2-3 millimetres thick. Use gingerbread men cutters to cut out cookies from the dough, put onto baking plate covered with parchment paper, and place in oven at 200°C for 3-4 minutes. They are finished when they are white to light golden brown and slightly puffed up.

If you use a hot air stove, the cookies will be more puffed, and a bit more crispy too. Do not leave in oven for too long, as they burn easily. A bit of trial and error may be required the first few times. Leave on a cooling rack for a few minutes. When they’re done cooling, they should be sweet and slightly crunchy, and ready for the cookie jar to wait for Christmas.

Be warned that the ammonium bicarbonate does smell rather intensely, both when you mix the dough and when you take the cookies out of the oven, so you may want to keep your kitchen windows open during the worst of it. It’s well worth it, though.

These cookies represent one of the happiest memories from my childhood, from a Christmas many, many years ago when I was overwhelmed by a whole mountain of them. Baking them, and eating them, brings that memory back to life from the depth of my soul, and makes my inner child smile. I wish that this year it will rain cookies on everyone! 🙂

Once again, Merry Christmas!
Happy Holidays!
God jul!
Feliz Navidad!
Fröhliche Weihnachten!
Joyeux Noël!
Hyvää Joulua!
즐거운 크리쓰마쓰!
And a Happy New Year to all!


~ Khara

Congratulations! It’s a Living Doll!

Like any other day the playground is filled with children going about their playful business under the watchful eyes of their mothers. A little to the side, however, slightly away from the others sit a separate group of four women gossiping loudly among themselves, laughing and clearly enjoying themselves and the fantastic thing that they have in common: they are all adoptive mothers, each of them has adopted a little child from Korea, all of them girls, and would you believe it, they all came from the same children’s home and, as if that by itself wasn’t perfect enough, they all even happen to have the same birthday! What a remarkable coincidence! How could such a thing come to be? It can be nothing less than a sure-fire sign of luck, that Destiny and God’s will have collaborated to make these women’s adoptive motherhoods utterly, utterly special. The girls are by no means siblings: A pair of twins might have been possible to explain, even a group of triplets if you really wanted to push it, but four? No, they had clearly been given the same birthday for a higher purpose.

And what purpose more perfectly obvious than to celebrate their birthdays together, every year for the rest of their lives? They will be so happy, and it will all work out so nicely, said one mother. And just think about the birthday cake, replied another. And the third, laughing, said why not pretend they’re all siblings and dress them all alike. And they all agreed that this was a wonderful idea, very happy and content with themselves.

I was watching and listening from a distance, and my heart cried for these children. Where’s the respect for the child? We’re met with this attitude the very moment we get adopted, the moment when we lose everything, and it continues to follow us throughout our whole lives. A birthday is a painful reminder of what we lost, an unfathomable loss of everything that was near and dear, safe and true.

And since apparently, to Western eyes, all Koreans look alike, it does not matter that we are treated like dolls, little Asian dolls for Western women to play with and dress up in Asian-looking clothes, with Asian-looking haircuts. And each of the little doll-like girls get an Asian-looking doll to play with. How thoughtful of their adoptive mothers to ensure that their adopted children are brought up as outsiders within the society that surrounds them, to drive home, as if with a jabbing finger, the continuous reminder that they are different, as if they don’t stand out enough by their looks alone.

When you stand out like that, as a child, you don’t stand out as something special. You stand out as a clown. And not the funny, happy kind of clown, but a clown that is sad and afraid because she’s so different, and because all the others tease and bully her for it. It’s a part that suits us so well because we’re tailor-made for it, having been brought up as cute and adorable little Asian living dolls.

And I am truly amazed. Do you, the adoptive parents, really buy this nonsense? Do you not see the connections that are right in front of your eyes? Right, then I shall give you some shocking news. Imagine, if you can, row upon row of baby beds at a hospital or children’s home, and in each bed is a child earmarked for adoption. Some administrator decides that the first few from the left will be given this birth date, the first few from the right another, and so on. Record-keeping is hard work, so why waste it on getting the details right, when the demand for children to adopt is great enough that nobody really cares, and when it’s just as well that there is no paper trail that leads inconveniently back to the original, natural parents? Change a few little things here and there, a new birth certificate with a new birth date, a new name, and falsify any names of birth parents, and you have a falsified record. The children will get new birth certificates anyway, when they get to their new family: birth certificates where the adoptive parents are listed as the real ones. Thus everyone will live happily ever after, and we will celebrate our fake birthdays, with grand parties that you adoptive parents give us, smiling and cheering on that fabulous day.

But our true past, that which made us who we were up to the moment when you took over our lives, has been effectively amputated and is lost. Even our names, everything old that might remind us of our past, and thus make us curious about our true origin, must all go, be kept hidden away for as long as possible, until the day the adopted child gets curious enough to begin asking questions.

Adoption never ceases to amaze me: how people don’t know anything, or choose not to see the truth behind adoption because their ego comes first. You can buy anything with money, even a child. Where is the conscience, that little voice within who says “Stop! Think again! You shouldn’t do this, because there are so many things that can and will go wrong. And they will go wrong, that’s for sure.”


Korea – The Land of “Morning Quiet”?

Like aliens in a strange land, far outside the Korean border, many of us struggle with feelings of loneliness and of being outcasts. We grow up looking different from those around us. Some of us wake up, sooner or later, and  go on homeland tours and adoptees’ gatherings, and a whole new world presents itself up to us. Suddenly we’re able to see that each of us is no longer a lonely alien individual, but that instead we are parts of a group of many aliens, strangers with similar backgrounds, and similarly out of place. A true eye-opener.

Pagoda in South Korea. Photo by vansero on Flickr. Used under Creative Commons.

Pagoda in South Korea. Photo by vansero on Flickr. Used under Creative Commons.

And we realize that we could all have grown up anywhere, anywhere in the world: here, there, or anywhere else. Ending up where we did was just as random as a lottery ticket. And just as there are winners and losers in the weekly lottery draw, and just as no-one can tell in advance who will win and who won’t, some of us were lucky enough to be put in good homes with suitable adoptive parents, whereas others … well, not so fortunate. And just like with the lottery, the losers by far outnumber the winners.

But how much is that golden ticket really worth? And why were we selected for the lottery?

We are the debris left behind from the Joseon* (see description in the frame below) or Cho-sen period, when much of the Korea that we know today was formed. This includes the social norms, and specifically the attitude of the government and of people in general towards orphans and children of single mothers: Neither are in very high regard, and society would rather we had been swept under a rug and forgotten about if that was possible.

* From Wikipedia: Joseon” (also Chosŏn, Choson, Chosun, Cho-sen), was a Korean state founded by Taejo Yi Seong-gye that lasted for approximately five centuries. Joseon was the last dynasty of Korean history and the longest-ruling Confucian dynasty. The Joseon period has left a substantial legacy to modern Korea; much of modern Korean etiquette, cultural norms, societal attitudes towards current issues, and the modern Korean language and its dialects derive from the culture and traditions of Joseon.

Then came the 1950’s, and the Korean war, after the end of which, in 1953, the adoption frenzy began. In addition to the usual Korean orphans, a new wave of children were born of Korean mothers and American fathers. Those fathers were soldiers who for the most part had returned to the United States, if they had not been killed in battle. Left behind were single, unwed young women and their fatherless children, along with the shame that followed in the eyes of Korean society.

In 1955 commercials started to appear, mainly in USA, advertising the need for adoptive parents to take in orphans from Korea, particularly those of mixed race. Korea then became known as the Land of Orphans, a view that it unfortunately has been stuck with ever since. The process was fuelled and fired for a great part by Harry and Bertha Holt who, according to themselves, went into the adoption business for good Christian and humanitarian reasons, although the fact that they made a great deal of money in the process did not seem to slow them down even the slightest.

The children who were sent out to be adopted during the first wave, from 1955 to around 1970, were considered true war orphans. Later, through the Eighties and Nineties and to this day, they are mainly children of single mothers, yet still considered orphans for the purpose of adoption. Unfortunately, little has changed in Korea in terms of attitude towards orphans and single mothers since the war. For almost every single “orphan” that gets sent out of Korea, a mother is left behind, heartbroken and very much alive, wondering where on Earth her precious baby is.

So are we really fortunate, or what? Our golden ticket is a leftover from the legacy of the Joseon era, making us truly the Cho-sen ones, sent away not because we were lucky, but because we were an inconvenience, a symbol of poverty, a burden of shame, and … surprisingly easy to get rid of.

However, many of us visit Korea, once we grow up, and find that our lives have been based on lies. Many of us have families in Korea, or at least had at the time of our adoption, meaning we were never really orphans. In order to be an actual orphan, you must be without living natural parents. For a bewildered number of us, this turns out not to be the case. Many have found their families, even their parents, still alive. Others were not so lucky: To use myself as an example, I was sent away for adoption when I was one year old, yet I learned from my living family in Korea that my father lived until I was five, and he had been searching for me until he died.

Today Korea is forced to face their shame: Not that of having to deal with orphans and single mothers, which is why they entered the adoption race to begin with, but that of having to admit the lies behind the adoption trade when the adoptees return to find out the bitter truth. Finally, matters are beginning to get addressed, but Korea still has a long, long way to go. Despite being “found out”, they keep on doing it. Despite the country’s low birth rate, babies are still being sent abroad for adoption as orphans, whether they are really orphans or not. Single mothers are still being pressured, and pressured hard, to give up their newborn. Even today, divorce is considered an acceptable and legal reason for putting your kids up for adoption, and the horror is that these children have living parents.

As I have said in my earlier posts, Korea needs to part with its medieval ways and bring themselves into the twenty-first century. To allow more generations to grow up as victims of the outdated and ruthless adoption practice is unacceptable. Those children need to grow up in their natural surroundings, and if possible with their natural family. Even actual orphans would be better off growing up in the country where they were born. The war is over now. Korea is no longer the poor country that it once was, back when this all started. In fact, their financial growth has been built in part upon the adoption business. The Holts have caused more  than enough damage. It is high time to turn things around. No more mothers should be forced to give up their children, and no more children should have to grow up without their mothers or their natural family. It is madness, and it must end.

Korea, the land of Morning Calm. No wonder why you are called that. Since you’ve sent away so many of your children, for generations now, your mornings must be exceptionally quiet. The ghosts of Harry and Bertha Holt must be exorcised, but it will take time for the wounds to heal. Meanwhile children will continue to suffer … but now they cry for justice, and the world needs to hear them. Be quiet no more.



A New Hope?

Could this be what we’ve been waiting for? If this article from The Korea Times is anything to go by, there just might be a glimmer on the horizon. Here’s what it says:

Korea to join adoption convention

By Kim Bo-eun. Published on November 16, 2012.

Click here to go to the original article at The Korea Times.

The government plans to join the Hague Convention on Intercountry Adoption to better protect the human rights of overseas adoptees.

“We are in the process of making domestic laws accord with the standards of the convention,” said Lee Kyung-eun, director for child welfare policy at the Ministry of Health and Welfare said Friday.

The ministry announced a set of measures to increase support for Korean overseas adoptees. They include aiding them in finding their parents, providing them the necessary services when they visit their home country and expanding opportunities to have contact with Korean culture.

“If the parent or family is unable to provide a home, the child should be sent to certified domestic institutions. International adoption should be the last resort,” she added.

“Support for single moms also needs to be expanded, as most cases of adoption arise due to the lack of it,” Lee said.

She added that the government needs to create a division in charge of adoption policies so that it can certify and oversee adoption institutions.

Korea is yet to become a signatory to the International Convention Protecting the Rights of Overseas Adoptees which went into effect in 1995 worldwide. It has been ratified by 91 countries so far.

The reason Korea had not yet been able to join the convention is because its laws did not meet the required standards.

But, the government has made efforts to lay the groundwork for the joining. A special act on adoption was enacted on Aug. 5. The act only allows adoption after court approval.

The ministry plans to create a taskforce with other ministries by the end of this year to prepare for the joining of the convention.

According to ministry data, some 240,000 children were given up for adoption from 1958 to 2011. Among them, 165,000 were adopted overseas while 76,000 were adopted domestically.

The number of overseas adoptees has been decreasing since it reached its peak in 1985. The domestic adoption rate began to surpass overseas adoption for the first time in 2007 because of stronger regulations against the latter.

Kim Do-hyun, director at KoRoot, a nonprofit organization for Korean overseas adoptees, said that although Korea has shown great progress, it still has far to go.

“The government needs to change the current reporting system in which parents voluntarily register their child within 14 days of birth, to one where births are immediately registered by government officials,” said Kim.

“Such a system provides babies legal rights and a safeguard from laundering, trafficking or abduction,” he said.

He added that the government needs to provide single moms as much financial support as they are providing orphanages, to help them afford to keep the babies.

Click here to go to the original article at The Korea Times.