SEOUL, Aug. 5 (Yonhap) – Roh Myung-ja has gotten together with her son every year since 2004, when she was reunited with him after giving him up for adoption about 30 years ago. She is one of thousands of Korean women whose children were adopted overseas.
The 49-year-old Roh believes what she has experienced in the years before her son returned to her should not happen to anyone. Now, she works as a staff member of Mindeulae, (Dandelions), a civic group of South Korean parents whose children were adopted overseas and who oppose the nation’s adoption system, which sends thousands of orphaned and abandoned children abroad.
“We hope that no other mothers have to go through the pain and suffering that we went through. Overseas adoption leaves deep-rooted scars both on the birth mothers and the children,” Roh said in an interview with Yonhap News Agency on Saturday.
About 30 Korean adoptees from abroad and 10 birth mothers, including Roh, came together Saturday for a rally in downtown Seoul calling for the government to abolish international adoption from South Korea. The mothers and adoptees were not all related to each other.
They held up picket signs that read, “Real Choices for Korean Women and Children,””Korean Babies Not for Export” and “End Overseas Adoption.”
A signature-gathering drive also began to express opposition to overseas adoption. The civic group plans to collect one million signatures nationwide.
Government figures show that there have been about 87,500 domestic adoptions, versus 158,000 international adoptions, since the end of the Korean War in 1953.
In 1977, Roh had to give up her 11-month old child, and had no idea that her son had gone to the United States. “I was literally shocked when I got a phone call in 2004 saying that my son is coming from the U.S. to look for me,” Roh said.
Roh said that no one asks or is responsible for what happens to the children after they were adopted overseas.
“My son luckily turned out fine. But who knows what other kids undergo?” she said. “The day when I took my son shopping for the first time, he said to me, ‘This is my first time in my life that I went shopping without caring that I am not white,'”
Roh’s son, who was not able to make a trip this week to Seoul from South Dakota, wholeheartedly supports her actions, she said.
Jaeran Kim was one of the adoptees from overseas who joined in Saturday’s protest. A social worker focusing on domestic adoption in the U.S., Kim was adopted from South Korea by a U.S. family in 1971.
“When people talk about the adoption, they don’t care about how the child grows up or how it affects the birth mothers,” she said. “The adoption system is too much dominated by the adoptive families and the adoptive agencies.”
Kim stressed that she did not have negative experience as a Korean adoptee in the U.S. and is in a good relationship with her adoptive parents.
“It is not a matter of whether you had a good experience or bad experience as an adoptee. The adoption system goes way beyond that. It works within a political, institutional structure of society,” she said.
Kim, who was on her third visit to South Korea, has not been able to find her birth parents yet, but plans to live in South Korea with her husband and children for a while in the future.
“Adoption does not only affect me as an adoptee, but it also affects my family — my husband and children. My children do not have their grandparents in South Korea, and they lost their part of the Korea culture, too,” she said.
She argued that a child should be adopted by the extended family or extended community at least, and that international adoption should be the last option.
South Korea, the world’s 11th-largest economy, was the fourth country in 2004 following China, Russia and Guatemala to send the most children to the U.S. for adoption, according to a research paper by Peter Selman, a British scholar.