Beginning as an emergency measure in the mid-1950s, the Korean international adoption program grew from a small, post-war rescue operation to its peak in the mid-1980s, when over 8,000 children per year were sent out of Korea for adoption. Most were sent to the U.S., often with the assistance of Christian organizations.
Rapid industrialization, urbanization, and poverty kept the program open in the 1970s and 1980s. The number of South Korean children sent abroad for adoption abruptly dropped as a result of negative world media coverage during the 1988 Summer Olympics, but has hovered around the 2,000 mark since 1991, according to Korean government data.
Adoption from South Korea has remained relatively stable for the past 16 years, but the growing numbers of children being adopted from other countries has created the illusion that numbers are dropping dramatically.
Since the IMF crisis in 1997, single mothers have been targeted as the new source of Korean children for the West. The Ministry of Health and Welfare reported that in 2004, all but one of the 2,257 children adopted overseas came from single mothers. About 70% of single mothers relinquish their children for adoption in South Korea, compared with less than 1% in the U.S. North Korea does not have an international adoption program.
South Korea’s dependence on the international adoption program has stunted the growth of more appropriate government-funded social welfare programs, as well as delayed the social acceptance of single-parent families.
With the 11th-largest economy of Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD) countries and the third-largest economy in Asia, South Korea is no longer an impoverished country. Moreover, with a 1.13 percent birthrate in 2006, the country has the lowest birthrate in the OECD. The impending demographic crisis coupled with the country’s prosperity makes it clear that South Korea can and must take responsibility for caring for its own children within its own borders.
International adoption is NOT the solution. Instead, the South Korean government must find its own solution by investing in sex education, supporting single parents and creating incentives for domestic adoption.
END INTERNATIONAL ADOPTION FROM KOREA.