South Korea wants to map shady adoption practices with major research

South Korea will investigate dozens of cases of adoption of children who were given shelter with their parents in the United States and Europe, including the Netherlands, in the second half of the last century. These are adoptions of children taken without the consent of South Korean parents, especially in the 1960s, 1970s, and 1980s. Mostly these were orphans or street children, less often girls. During the adoptions, however, documents were allegedly forged and identities were deliberately changed. Children were also kidnapped and registered as orphans, or abandoned by their parents.

The international adoption of South Korean children began in the years following the Korean War (1950-1953). At first, he mainly cared for orphans. After that, the focus turned increasingly to “socially undesirable” children, for example of single mothers, cultural taboos in South Korea, and children of South Korean mothers and African American soldiers stationed in the country. There was also a taboo on these children.

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In the 1970s, five thousand South Korean children a year sometimes went abroad through adoption. The military leaders who ruled South Korea after the Korean War also saw adoption as a way to improve relations with the friendly West.


South Korea’s Truth and Reconciliation Commission is conducting the investigation into the adopted children, which was decided on Thursday, by the South Korea Truth and Reconciliation Commission, which was formed in 2005 to investigate abuses from the past century, including during military regimes, to the 1990s. . Over the past three months, more than three hundred adoptees from different countries – mainly from Denmark, but also from the Netherlands – have approached the commission in Seoul with complaints about fraudulent practices related to their adoption. This was done at the initiative of Danish lawyer Peter Riegl Müller, who was himself adopted from South Korea when he was six months old, on behalf of the Danish-Korean Rights Group (DKRG). Denmark has about 9,000 adopters from South Korea, making it the “leader” in Europe.

At the beginning of December, South Korea’s Truth and Reconciliation Commission decided to deal with the complaint. It has now been decided to investigate 34 specific adoptions of children who were sent to Denmark, Norway, Germany, the Netherlands, Belgium and the United States between the 1960s and 1990s. The DKRG demands, among other things, that “the truth about overseas adoption, ethnic cleansing and deportation” come out, and that “adoption companies” be held responsible for “stealing Korean children”. The group also wants to conduct research into the sexual abuse of adopted children from South Korea.

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Some adoptees who notified the authorities in Seoul say they discovered that adoption agencies had changed identities with the deceased children, so they could never verify who their parents were. The South Korean complainants want to investigate whether the authorities themselves are responsible for the corrupt practices. They also want to know if the large amounts sometimes offered from abroad for adopted children have increased the “supply” of adoption agencies.

heal the victims

Belgian Young Virens, whose adoption from South Korea was also investigated by South Korea’s Truth and Reconciliation Commission, said December 8 on VRT that it is “very healing” for the victims “that they can tell their story and that they are heard in the country where they were born and where they were victimized.” All these crimes. But the most important investigation, she says, is “the release of the original adoption files that are still privately owned by adoption agencies in Korea.” Ferend suspects that the identity of the biological families is mentioned in 80 percent of the files.

Ferenc herself says that her grandmother gave her up for adoption without her parents being aware of it.

To this day, Dutch Alice Delhaas does not know exactly under what circumstances she came to the Netherlands in 1973. In 1995, she wanted to see her original South Korean adoption file in the children’s home where she was staying at the time, but she was not allowed to enter . Delhaas, who is active in the Dutch sister association of the Danish DKRG (NLKRG), hopes that a search in South Korea will lead to access to all the files. “We’ve always accepted that we are not given access to files and that we don’t know exactly how that happened,” says Delhas. “We have always taken it for granted, also because we were brought up with the idea that you should be grateful to be allowed to live in the Netherlands. But only now do we know how big this is, how immoral these adoptions are – and still are.”

Thousands of children adopted from South Korea arrived in the Netherlands in the 1970s and 1980s. In 1967, a television interview by Mies Baumann with best-selling author Jan de Hartog led to a real wave of adoption in the Netherlands. With “even if I only keep one,” he says in a call to save a “Korean boy” from rejection, neglect, or malnutrition. These were mostly children of South Korean mothers and Black American fathers. TV show other times dedicated radio in 2006 (Give me some Korean) into an adoption frenzy as a result of the interview with De Hartog, who himself adopted two Korean orphans.

In the run-up to the Seoul Olympics (1988), the number of adoptions decreased; The South Korean government wanted to get rid of the “child source” image.

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