SEOUL, South Korea (TBEN) – Nearly 300 South Koreans who were adopted as children by European and American parents have so far filed applications requiring the government of South Korea to investigate their adoptions, which they suspect are based are on forged documents running their real status or identities as agencies to export children.
The Denmark-based group representing the adoptees also called for South Korean President Yoon Suk Yeol to stop agencies from destroying data as they face increasing control over their practices amid a peaking overseas adoption boom. in the eighties.
The 283 applications filed through Tuesday with the Seoul Truth and Reconciliation Commission detail numerous complaints of lost or distorted biological origins, highlighting a deeper divide between the world’s largest diaspora of adoptees and their native land decades after dozens of Korean children were carelessly removed from their families.
Peter Møller, lawyer and co-founder of the Danish Korean Rights Group, said he also plans to sue two Seoul-based agencies — Holt Children’s Services and Korea Social Services — over their reluctance to fully open their files. for adoptees.
While agencies often cite privacy issues related to biological parents to justify restricted access, Møller accuses them of making excuses to evade questions about their practices as adoptees increasingly express frustration at the limited details in their adoption papers, which are often inaccurate. or found to be counterfeit.
Møller’s group initially submitted applications last month from 51 Danish adoptees asking the commission to investigate their adoptions, which were handled by Holt and KSS.
The move attracted intense attention from Korean adoptees from around the world, prompting the group to expand its campaign to include Holt and KSS adoptees outside Denmark. The 232 applications filed Tuesday included 165 cases from Denmark, 36 cases from the United States and 31 cases together from Belgium, the Netherlands, Norway and Germany.
The commission, which was established in December 2020 to investigate human rights atrocities committed by military governments that ruled South Korea from the 1960s to the 1980s, must decide within three or four months whether to open an investigation into adoptees’ applications. If so, it could potentially lead to the country’s most far-reaching investigation of foreign adoptions, which has never fully reconciled with the child export frenzy developed by its former military leaders.
Although the TBEN for applications from the commission comes in December, Møller said his group will try to convince the commission to accept more adoptions from adoptees on a rolling basis if it decides to investigate the cases.
“There are many more adoptees who have written to us, called us, contacted us. They are afraid to submit to this case because they are afraid that the adoption agencies … will burn the original documents and take revenge,” Møller said. He said such concerns are greater among adoptees who found that the agencies had changed their identities to replace other children who died, became too ill to travel or were readmitted by the Korean families before they could be sent to Western adopters.
Holt and KSS did not immediately comment on the applications.
In the past six decades, approximately 200,000 South Koreans have been adopted abroad, mostly to white parents in the United States and Europe and especially in the 1970s and 1980s.
South Korea’s military leaders at the time saw adoptions as a way to reduce the number of mouths to feed, solve the “problem” of unwed mothers, and deepen ties with the democratic West.
They enacted special laws designed to promote foreign adoptions, allowing licensed private agencies to circumvent proper child relinquishment practices as they exported huge numbers of children to the West year after year.
Most South Korean adoptees sent abroad were registered by agencies as legal orphans left on the streets, although they often had relatives who could be easily identified or found. That practice often makes their roots difficult or impossible to trace.
Some adoptees say they found that the agencies had changed their identities to replace other children who died or became too ill to travel, exacerbating their sense of loss and sometimes leading to false reunions with relatives who turned out to be strangers.
It wasn’t until 2013 that the South Korean government required foreign adoptions to go through family courts, ending a policy that allowed agencies to dictate child relinquishment, custody transfers and emigration for decades.