Monthly Archives: May 2007

Adoption and the Law

by Eleana Kim and Jane Jeong Trenka

Our present reality is such that despite the fact that adoptees are indisputably full persons, just as much as non-adopted persons are, adoptees are devalued as persons in specific ways that can be observed through how they are treated under the law.

Although international adoption has most often been debated on individualized and sentimental terms, an evaluation of the practice must have a broader scope of vision that scrutinizes the practical and legal components that make it possible in the first place.

At the core of what makes international adoption from South Korea possible are the legal mechanisms of both South Korea and adoptive countries. These legal mechanisms begin with making a child “available for adoption,” which is the process of legal orphaning.

How does legal orphaning work?

In the U.S., and in Korea, the laws that governed international adoptions from the beginning required that children be legally recognized as “orphans.” In the context of Korea’s misogynistic and conservative family registration system (hojujedo), this has meant that children, who lacked any existence under the law, were designated as their own family head, under the guardianship of the head of an orphanage or adoption agency. This “orphaning” was a necessary step that also conformed to American immigration law in particular.

In the U.S., the “orphan” was defined in special immigration acts passed by the U.S. Congress explicitly for the purpose of bringing Korean children into American families. The orphan definition requires any and all legal ties to preexisting parents be cut, such that the only recognized genitors of the child are the adopting parents. So adoptees are “as-if” born to the adoptive parents, even before they are formally and legally adopted (which often involves the issuance of new birth certificates, proving the as-if genealogical status of the child). Adoptees are thus “orphans” who are then “reunited” with their “immediate relatives” in the U.S.

It is due to this unusual state of affairs that adult adoptees who reunite with Korean relatives find that the reunification clause in American immigration policy that is the right of all American citizens has, in effect, been “used up” already, in the process of adoption. That is, adoptees are specifically banned from sponsoring their natural mothers through family immigration—the sponsorship of an immigrant through a family member who is a U.S. citizen—for immigration, even after reaching the majority age.

Whether or not adoptees wish to sponsor their natural mothers or other family members is, actually, not the issue, however. The real issue is that this is one example of how adoptees are not treated equally under American law, even though they are American citizens: To sponsor a family member through lawful family immigration, the same kind of immigration that brings children to adoptive families, is the right of all U.S. citizens, including immigrants—except international adoptees. But let’s face it—adoptees’ identities have been so manipulated by government documents, it’s pretty much impossible to prove one’s relationship to one’s natural family, even if one can manage to find birth relations.

Domestic adoptees in the U.S. have taken up the battle for their legal and human rights starting with the right to access their original birth certificates. Although other groups are working on the issue, Bastard Nation is the most visible domestic adoptee activist group working on the problem. On its Web site, it states that “millions of North Americans are prohibited by law from accessing personal records that pertain to their historical, genetic and legal identities. Such records are held by their governments in secret and without accountability, due solely to the fact that they were adopted.” Currently, only 5 out of 50 states allow adoptees unrestricted access to their own birth records.

Korean overseas adoptees face the problem of not only barriers to accessing their original documentation if it indeed exists, but also having to interpret documentation that has been deliberately manipulated in order to facilitate a speedy adoption.

The Hague Convention on Intercountry adoption recognizes the rights of the child to its background information. Thus, rather than thinking just about whether a given child is best served in its country of birth or in another country, “best interests” must also include protection and access to information, and also, we would argue, legal identities/citizenships that an adoptee can claim when s/he is of majority age. Only in this way will the child be given the same rights as others who do not experience the primary displacement of adoption. The process of legal orphaning was intended to protect the adoptive parents from challenges to their exclusive parental authority by birth parents and also to protect the U.S. government from unwanted immigration petitions by birth family, and today stands in clear violation of adoptees’ rights as full citizens. Indeed, the law in international adoption has consistently short-changed adoptees and has proven to be inflexible and unaccommodating to the needs of adoptees as they become full adults who may want to claim the same privileges and rights as others. As feminist legal scholar Drucilla Cornell writes, “the imagined heterosexual adopting family is privileged as the one deserving of protection of the state, even against the child who is a member of it” (1999: 220).

Cornell further argues in At the Heart of Freedom that the natural mothers of adoptees, under an ethical law, would be given the opportunity to struggle with what the relinquishment of their child means in their lives. The law should not protect a mother who does not want to be identified by her child. Rather, the law should only protect the right of mother and adoptee to be able to work through what the adoption means to them. Whether the mother and child decide to meet or not and what kind of relationship they choose to form should be strictly between the mother and the child.

Already it is a common experience for adoptees to be treated as lesser human beings by having access to their own records restricted; their records are guarded closely by adoption agencies in both Korea and the adoptive countries. Adoptees have also had their own records withheld from them by their parents, and papers pertaining to the process of their own adoptions have been withheld from them by domestic adoption agencies under the reasoning that the papers about the transfer of their lives belong exclusively to the adoptive parents. The withholding of such documentation relegates the adoptee, without legally-protected rights to access information about him or herself, as no better than a piece of property who can be crossed-off, re-created, documented in order to suit others’ purposes, transferred, and controlled by others.

The law is what structures every person’s reality and it can delimit one’s personal agency, status and value— it designates categories by which one is defined, made known and made visible to state bureaucracy and international bodies. For adoptees, one set of legal identities is erased and replaced with another, and the traces of the first were, for many years, considered to be irrelevant, unnecessary and expendable. A better system, and one that is advocated by the Hague, but which requires vigilant enforcement, would recognize the importance of information and legal identities to full personhood.

The law should not strip and violate, but rather protect adoptees as well as their natural families so they can move through their own lives and personal histories with their dignity and humanity intact.

(Translated into Korean by Jinkyung Choi)


입양과 법률

현재 우리의 상황에서 입양인들은 비입양인들과 같이 논란의 여지 없는 완전한 인간임에도 불구하고, 법률이 그들을 어떻게 다루는 지에 있어 인간으로서의 가치를 평가절하 당하고 있다. 해외입양이 대개 개인적이고 감상적인 언어로 논의되어왔지만, 관행에 대한 평가는 이를 애초에 가능케 실제적이고 법률적인 요소를 세밀히 조사하는 보다 넓은 관점에서 이루어져야 한다.

남한으로부터의 해외 입양을 가능하게 것의 중심에는 남한과 입양 국가의 법적 체계가 있다. 법적 운영체제는 법적으로 고아를 만드는 과정, 아동을입양대상으로 만드는 일로부터 시작한다.

어떻게 법적 고아 만들기가 이루어지는가?

미국과 한국에서 해외입양을 주관하는 법률은 처음부터 아동을 법적으로고아 인지하도록 요구한다. 한국의 여성혐오적, 보수적 가족 등록 체제(호주제도) 맥락에서 이는 법률 하에 존재하지 않았던 아동을 고아원이나 입양기관장을 후견인으로 하여 스스로의 가장으로 지정하는 것을 뜻한다. 고아만들기 특히 미국 이민법에서도 따르고 있는 필수 단계이다.

미국에서고아 한국 아동을 미국 가정으로 데려오는 목적으로 의회에서 통과된 특별 이민법에 정의되어 있다. 고아라는 정의는 이전 부모와의 어떠한 법적 연계도 단절되어야 함을 요구하며, 아동의 유일한 부모는 양부모가 된다. 따라서 입양인들은 심지어 공식적, 법적으로 입양되기 이전에도 (때로 아동의 새로운 가계를 증명하는 출생증명서 발급이 포함됨) 마치 양부모에게서 태어난 것처럼 여겨진다. , 입양인들은 그들의 미국직계 친족재결합한” “고아 되는 것이다.

한국의 친척과 상봉한 성인 입양인이 미국 국민의 권리인 이민 정책의 재결합 조항이 입양 과정에서 사실상 벌써사용되었다 것을 발견하게 됨은 이러한 일반적이지 않은 상황 때문이다. , 입양인들의 경우 성년이 후에도 가족 이민을 통해 친어머니를 후원하여 이민(미국 국민인 가족을 통해 이민자를 후원하는 )하도록 없게 금지되어 있다.

입양인이 친모나 다른 가족을 후원하고자 하는지 아닌지는 여기서의 요점이 아니다. 진정한 문제는 이것이 입양인이 미국 시민임에도 불구하고 법률 하에서 동일하게 대우 받지 못함을 보여주는 예라는 것이다. 합법적인 가족 이민을 통해 가족을 후원하는 것은 아동을 입양가족에게 데려오는 이민과 동일하게 이민자를 포함한 모든 미국 시민의 권리이지만 해외 입양인만은 그렇지 않은 것이다. 하지만 사실을 직시하자면, 입양인의 정체성은 정부 문서에 의해 너무도 조작되어서 출생관계를 알아내었다 한들 친가족과의 관계를 증명하기는 거의 불가능하다.


미국의 국내 입양인들은 자신의 원래 출생증명서에 접근할 있는 권리로부터 시작하여 그들의 법적 권리와 인권을 위한 투쟁을 계속하여 왔다. 다른 그룹도 있지만, 배스터드 네이션(Bastard Nation) 문제에 관해서 가장 활동적으로 일하고 있는 국내 입양인 활동가 단체이다. 이들의 웹사이트에는수백만의 미국인들이 법에 의해 그들의 역사적, 유전적, 법적 정체성이 담긴 개인 정보에 대한 접근을 금지 당하고 있다. 이러한 기록은 단지 그들이 입양되었다는 사실 때문에 정부가 책임도 없이 비밀로 보관하고 있다.” 쓰여있다. 현재 50 5 만이 입양인들의 출생기록에 대한 무제한적 접근을 허용하고 있다.

한국 해외 입양인들은 존재하는 실제 기록에 접근하는데 있어서의 장벽뿐만 아니라 신속한 입양을 위해 고의적으로 조작된 문서를 번역해야 하는 문제에 직면하고 있다.

해외입양에 관한 헤이그 협약은 아동이 가진 배경 정보에 대한 권리를 인정하고 있다. 따라서 아동이 태어난 나라 아니면 다른 나라 어디에서 가장 보살핌을 받을 있는지 만을 생각하기보다, “최대의 이익 또한 정보의 보호와 접근권을 포함하며, 입양인의 법적 정체성/시민권은 그들이 성년이 되었을 주장할 있도록 되어야 한다고 본다. 방법으로만이 입양의 경험을 갖지 않은 아이들과 동등한 권리를 가질 있게 되는 것이다. 법적 고아 만들기의 과정은 양부모의 독점적 양육권을 친부모로부터 보호하기 위함이며, 미국 정부가 원하지 않는 친부모의 이민 신청을 막기 위한 의도를 가지고 있는 것인데, 이는 완전한 시민으로서의 입양인들의 권리에 대한 명확한 위반으로 오늘날 드러나고 있다. 사실상 해외입양에 관한 법률은 지속적으로 입양인들에게 불이익을 주었고, 성인이 되어 타인과 동일한 특권과 권리를 요구하는 입양인들의 필요에 부합하거나 유동적으로 대처하지 못한 것으로 밝혀졌다. 여성주의 법학자 드루실라 코넬이 말하듯, “상상으로 만들어진 이성애적 입양 가족은 구성원인 아동의 이익에는 반하더라도 국가의 보호를 받는 특권을 지닌다.”(1999:20)

나아가 코넬은자유의 심장에서라는 책에서 입양인의 친어머니는 윤리법아래 자녀의 포기가 자신들의 삶에 어떤 의미가 되는 지와 싸워야 하는 기회를 가지게 된다고 했다. 법률은 아동에 의해 규정되지 않으려는 어머니를 보호해서는 된다. 오히려 법률은 입양이 무슨 뜻인지 함께 고민할 있는 어머니와 입양인의 권리 만을 보호하여야 한다. 어머니와 자녀가 만나고자 하거나 아니거나 하는 문제나 서로 어떤 관계를 형성하고자 하는가의 문제는 전적으로 어머니와 자녀간의 문제이다.

입양인들에게 자신의 정보에 대한 접근권이 제한되어 남들보다 인간적이지 못하게 대우 받는 경험은 이미 일반적이다. 그들의 정보는 한국과 입양국가의 입양기관에 의해 철저하게 통제되고 있다. 입양인의 정보는 또한 양부모에 의해 보호되기도 하며, 자신의 입양 과정을 담고 있는 서류들은 이들의 삶의 전환을 담은 서류는 독점적으로 양부모의 것이라는 이유 하에 국내 입양기관에 의해 통제된다. 서류에 대한 이러한 접근 금지는 법률로 보호되는 스스로에 대한 정보 접근권 없이, 타인의 목적을 위해 지워지고 재창조되거나 기록될 있으며, 타인에게 이전되고 지배되는 하나의 소유물 이상은 아닌 것처럼 입양인들을 격하시키고 있다.

법률은 개개인의 현실을 구조화하는 것이며, 개인의 주도권, 지위, 가치에 제한을 있다이는 정의되고 알려지고 보여질 있는 범주를 국가 관료주의나 국제 기구에 지정한다. 입양인들에게 있어 하나의 법적 정체성은 삭제되고 다른 것으로 교체되며, 첫번째의 흔적은 수년 동안 중요하지 않고, 불필요하며, 희생될 있는 것으로 간주되어 왔다. 헤이그에서 옹호된, 그러나 주의 깊은 실행이 필요한 보다 나은 체제는 정보와 완전한 인간으로서 법적 정체성의 중요성을 인지하는 체제일 것이다.

법률은 빼앗거나 침해해서는 안되며, 입양인 뿐만 아니라 그들의 친가족도 스스로의 삶과 개인적 역사를 통해 나아갈 있도록, 그들의 존엄과 인간성이 손상되지 않도록 보호하여야 한다.

(영한번역: 최진경)

Chickens launch eggs on Halt

SEOUL, August 1, 2008 (Impoverished Women’s News) — A guerilla group of overseas adoptees Tuesday night vandalized the offices of Halt Adoption Agency, wreaking untold amounts of stinking destruction upon the building.

The overseas Korean adoptees — identified only by their surnames Park, Kim, and Lee — became drunken, dressed in chicken costumes, and drove stolen chicken delivery scooters to the office, where they unleashed 157,000 – 200,000 rotten eggs upon the outside of the building.

“Each egg is a symbol of one overseas adoptee,” cackled one resistance fighter. “We are dressed as chickens to point out the absurdity of Westerners calling our Korean mothers ‘biological mothers,’ as if they are laying hens.”

The drunken chickens dropped pamphlets stating their support for an immediate overseas adoption ban before they left this stunned reporter in a cloud of scooter smoke and sulfur!!!!!!!!!!!

It is unknown how the heat and intense sunshine of Seoul will react with the rotten eggs on the Halt Adoption Agency building in the upcoming days, when many adoptive families are scheduled to visit the building.

Overseas Korean adoptees protest at Myeongdong Cathedral

SEOUL, August 5, 2008 (Impoverished Women’s News) — Six hundred overseas Korean adoptees marked the last day of their international Gathering Sunday morning by donning Chosun dynasty-era women’s veils and marching in front of Myeongdong Cathedral to protest the treatment of unmarried mothers in South Korea.

“We believe that the treatment of unmarried mothers in this country should be relegated to the past, just like the veil,” said an organizer. “We wear the veil as a symbol of oppression to call attention to international adoption as a symptom of the limited rights of Korean women,” she added.

While many adoptees had no interest in ever stepping foot inside a church again, many articulated the importance of the location of the protest.

“The adoption industry has in many ways been created and sustained by church programs and religious fanatics, so it’s important to let the church know that what they have done in the name of Jesus Christ is quite un-Christian — sort of like the Inquisition — and we want them to stop,” said one veiled protestor.

Organizers of this year’s gathering remarked on the improvement of this year’s event over a similar one in 2004, noting that a research symposium headed by Kim Park Nelson and Eleana Kim made a lot of people go, “Hm.” “I’m pleased to see that we have more political action and networking this year, and slightly less drunkeness and hooking up,” said the Alpine Jackrabbit, “although there is a time and a place for that, definitely.”

Critics of such meetings say it is way too fucking hot in Korea to hold such events at the beginning of August, and that the registration fee should be waived for all European adoptees living in Seoul because it’s hard for them to make money here, and they are also helping out by making sure the visitors don’t get lost and starve to death, or have to eat triangle kimbab out of the GS 25 for a week.

Overseas Korean adoptees attended “The Gathering” in Seoul from Tuesday until Sunday.

Children of adoption workers kidnapped by “birthmothers”

“Birthmothers” retaliate, kidnap children of adoption workers

RECEIVING COUNTRIES, May 5, 2008 (Impoverished Women’s News) — A self-identified group of “birthmothers” retaliated against the adoption industry early Monday morning, kidnapping thousands of children of adoption agency workers at traditional shopping malls worldwide.

In major metropolitan centers around the world where children of impoverished women were sent for adoption, the children of middle-class adoption workers went missing, and adoption agency buildings were looted and burned in simultaneous, apparently timed, attacks.

“We are holding the children at a safe but undisclosed location,” said a spokeswoman for the the group claiming responsibility. “Adoption workers who wish to know where their children are being held may apply to our search process, but they should know that we do get many requests and we are very, very busy so they have to be patient,” said the woman who spoke through a translator.

The armed group of insurgents loaded previously undisclosed files, some up to 50 years old, onto trucks and drove to undisclosed locations. Many adoption agency buildings were doused in gasoline and lit on fire. “We thought it would be a good idea to show them a real fucking fire,” said one mother, who asked to be named but who has been anonymous for so long it would be weird to start naming her now.

Adoption workers wondering how to locate their “first children” were urged by the militant mothers’ group to “apply to our Web site if you are interested in locating … biological offspring. We take Visa or PayPal.”

“Make sure you know who to contact first, whether in your own country or another, because like I said, we are very busy,” she added.

The common theme of the day seemed to be grieving adoption workers. “Our children were stolen! Can’t they do something to get them back?” wailed one adoption worker as the firetruck’s siren wailed even more in the background. “What about the government?”

American lawmakers, when asked to give a statement, responded via their interns. “We’re sorry, but we are too busy to care unless you have a rich, well-organized lobbying group or a personal connection with a lawmaker,” they said. “ERROR! ERROR! ERROR!” they added through their automatic e-mail service.

A spokesman for an advocacy group for ethical adoptions said in an interview via phone with Impoverished Women’s News, “We are not sure at this point if it would be ethical or in the best interests of the child to give them back. Most likely it is not. The children have already been integrated into their new environments.”

“We have been aware for quite some time now that human trafficking in intercountry adoption is indeed a problem, which is why we’ve proposed a decades-long programme of reform which might change things in the future, maybe, I guess, if everyone agrees, maybe, it could. Of course adoption always entails loss…. sigh…. I need a snack. Is it 5:30 yet?” the spokesman added.

“Shit, I just lost my job!” she added, when she realized that she was talking about the kidnapped children of middle-to-upperclass adoption workers who speak English, not poor colored women who can’t speak English.

The kidnappings are part of a new wave of violence that has been sweeping across “receiving countries,” first in sporadic and seemingly benign incidents, followed by more organized and open guerrilla warfare. Discontent has been festering for decades in “sending” countries as “birthmothers” — often called “mothers” in local dialect — have become more vocal about the exploitation that has resulted in the “international adoptions” — sometimes referred to as “kidnappings” in local dialect — of their children.

The timed attacks against adoption workers affect relatively few people, so pretty much nobody gives a hoot. In addition, the “birthmothers” are working on brainwashing the general public so that those who may have witnessed such attacks are actually in favor of them.

The sorrow of the mothers of the children now being held by the “birthmothers” has been leavened by the few letters and photographs from the children of the workers that are being occassionally delivered through third parties. Most letters from the children mention their thankfulness that they can, in their new homes, “receive a college education.”

One of the more enlightened and progressive “birthmothers,” who had taken a daughter about 10 years ago and seems to know something, said, “Our family prays for our kidnapped daughter’s ‘birthmother’ every day on ‘Kidnapped Yer White Ass Day!’ That seems to make everyone feel good. We also take her to camp for one week every summer so she can be with other white children and learn the customs of the white people. It’s expensive but it’s worth it. She can say, ‘Hi!’ in her native language. Isn’t it cute?”

“I am talking with my group now about trying to make more family preservation efforts for the children of adoption workers,” she said, while crossing her fingers behind her back.

A few of the children mentioned their dissatisfaction with the process that had brought them to their new homes, but they were advised to shut up.

No one is working for the safe return of the children.


Published: Monday May 21, 2007

Farmers riot in China over “one child” policy

Police clashed violently with protesters in southern China as thousands of angry farmers rioted over the nation’s controversial “one-child” family planning policies, residents said Monday.

Angry farmers besieged up to four township governments in Guangxi province on Friday and Saturday, with police and protesters clashing in at least one demonstration, they said.

The demonstrations occurred after local governments this month dispatched “family planning work teams” to levy fines on families that were violating government population control policies, they said.

One woman in Shapi township, speaking on condition of anonymity, said up to 20,000 people had gathered and rioted there on Saturday, hurling rocks, breaking windows and torching public property.

“The farmers were really angry because the family planning team was going around to homes and making farmers pay fines if they had too many kids,” the woman told AFP by telephone.

“If the farmers had no money they took things from them. Property with value they confiscated, things with no value they destroyed.”

The work teams confiscated everything from livestock, to electronic goods and household items such as pots and pans and teapots, according to the woman and other accounts by locals posted on the Internet.

Photos on the Internet showed family planning work teams dressed in military fatigues and helmets carrying sledge hammers as they marched through Guangxi villages.

On Friday, similar demonstrations erupted in neighbouring Shuiming township, with locals confronting up to 1,000 police armed with clubs and dogs, one witness said.

“It’s hard to say how many people were there, (but) you could say there was a sea of people,” a man in Shuiming township told AFP also on condition of anonymity out of fear of government retribution.

Hong Kong press reports said up to 50,000 farmers protested against the family planning policies in the four Guangxi townships in recent days. Residents and Internet postings indicated the situation was calm on Monday.

Authorities were trying to impose fines ranging from 6,000 yuan (780 dollars) to more than 60,000, depending on how many children the families had, according to the residents contacted by AFP and the Hong Kong reports.

Local and provincial government and police departments refused to comment on the unrest when contacted by AFP Monday.

China has since the 1970s enforced strict family planning measures to control its population, which at 1.3 billion people is the world’s biggest.

Reports of abuse by authorities enforcing the law, such as forced late-term abortions and forced sterilisations, as well as arbitrary fines, are common.

In general, China’s urban dwellers are allowed one child, while rural families can have two if the first child is a girl.

Online chatrooms were awash with postings on the unrest, with some saying that the provincial government had ordered the family planning crackdowns in regions where the population was growing too fast.

Other postings said that local governments were levying the fines in order to raise salaries and bonuses of government workers in the impoverished province.

The protests come against a backdrop of rising social discontent nationwide as the gap between rich and poor has widened during China’s breakneck economic growth.

According to the latest figures from the Ministry of Public Security, there were 87,000 protests, officially termed “mass incidents,” reported in 2005, up 6.6 percent on 2004 and 50 percent from 2003.

Gender Empowerment Ranking

Once again, let’s look at Korea vs. the top countries to which adoptees were sent. The OECD makes this composite ranking based on many factors including economic and political and empowerment of women and health.

Norway – 1
Sweden – 2
Denmark – 4
Belgium – 5
Netherlands – 7
Australia – 8
Germany – 9
Canada – 11
U.S. – 12
New Zealand – 13
Switzerland – 14
Italy – 24
Japan – 42
South Korea – 53

To place S. Korea in context, Chilean women fare slightly better with a ranking of 52, while women in Botswana fare slightly worse with a ranking of 54. Korean women earn $0.46 for every $1.00 a man makes.

The mass international adoptions of the children of single Korean mothers is a feminist issue because it has to do with reproductive choices and economic empowerment. Yet international adoption is not inevitable; it is governments that allow international adoption. I don’t see any adoptions from Botswana lately.

France, and Luxembourg did not get a ranking (I don’t know why). Out of curiosity, I looked at China, which is not an OECD country, but they didn’t get a ranking either.

More statistics at OECD

Two videos of Korean orphanages

::Welcome to Geon Orphanage::

 I think this video is really well-done. It gives factual  information about the kinds of Korean children who live in orphanages today, and it shows a modern orphanage. It appears to have been made by a younger white male English speaker, most likely an English teacher here.

Now, the following video by Holt International visually invokes the Korean War, stressing that terrible period of time as if it still exists. I think it is a common tactic for adoption agencies involved in Korean adoption to keep hammering on the Korean War forever and ever, which is why so many adoptees and adoptive parents are surprised to see a very modern Korean when they get here. Of course, the narration is overly sentimental, designed to grab at heartstrings instead of shedding the light on the harsh realities of the barriers that Korean single mothers face in being able to raise their own children.

My Name is Life