Handicap, race, and overseas adopted Koreans

Sorry, this post is all squished and I can’t figure out how to unsquish it. Dang computer. Well anyway, from this article in Pressian published on May 14, 2007 are the following statistics:

해외입양아동 수는 보건복지부의 통계에 의하면 1953년부터 2005년까지 총 15만8703명이었다. 이 중 혼혈 어린이는 1955년부터 1973년까지 내보내졌고, 총 5546명이었다. 정부의 또다른 통계에 따르면, 1958년부터 지금까지 입양 보낸 아동 중 비혼모아동은 9만8178명, 결손가정아동이 2만8823명, 버려진 아동이 2만9950명이었으며 전체 숫자 가운데 장애아동은 3만7216명이었다.

My translation:

According to statistics from the Ministry of Health and Welfare, the number of overseas adoptees from 1953-2005 were 158,703 people. Of these, from 1955-1973 there were 5,546 mixed race adoptees. Other government statistics say that from 1958 until now 98,178 children sent for adoption were from unwed mothers, 28,823 from poor families, abandoned children 29,950 and of the whole number there were 37,216 handicapped children.

Let me break those official stats down into percentages.

Mixed race: 3.49%

Unwed mothers: 61.86%

Poor: 18.16%

Abandoned: 18.87%

Handicapped: 23.45%

So, unwed mothers is by and large the biggest issue. Mixed race is without a doubt the smallest issue. If you live in Seoul or meet a lot of adoptees that is not really a surprise.

What is a surprise is — how many handicapped kids? Almost 1 in 4?

Wow, that is a lot of handicapped kids. That’s almost a quarter of all adoptees! But where are all those handicapped adoptees? When we go to an adoptee gathering, are 1 in 4 adoptees whom we meet handicapped? Sure, there are people living with visible  handicaps that we know, but not 1 in 4. Hmmmm….. what’s going on?

Here are some facts on handicap and adoptees from the 2009 National Assembly audit. We got the info in Korean and I translated it into an understandable English expression.

1. Classifications of adoptees
(Dec. 31, 2008, # of people)
agency total sex state of family state of health
M F Unwed mother Lost child, poverty Broken family normal handicapped
total 1,250 773 477 1,114 10 126 1,126 124
Holt 503 308 195 394 5 104 425 78
Eastern 336 209 127 329 5 2 307 29
SWS 378 240 138 358 20 361 17
KSS 33 16 17 33 33

3. State of overseas adoptees’ prematurity and type of handicap from 2006 ~ June 2009

total subtotal premature handicapped children normal
harelip Hand foot mental handicap heart problem etc.
2006 1,899 713 303 21 7 24 86 272 1186
2007 1,264 500 222 4 9 15 41 209 764
2008 1,250 124 48 11 7 3 18 37 1126
June 2009 679 40 19 7 3 1 4 6 639

It’s important to note that “premature” are counted as part of the total statistic of “handicapped.” (See how the 124 matches up.)

Here’s what’s interesting:

What happened to the definition of “premature” between 2007 and 2008? A change of 222 to 48 cannot mean a change in actual condition. A change that large can only mean a change in definition. This change in definition caused the number of “handicapped” children to drop from 500 in 2007 to 124 in 2008. What was the definition of “premature” in 2007, and what did it change to in 2008? Does this mean that many “handicapped” children sent from Korea were not severely handicapped, and not in a life-or-death situation, but were just … small? That’s what I’m wondering.

Some other things that I think are whack on here – since when in the world’s greatest plastic surgery mecca should a harelip be a problem? Maybe back in the day, but in 2008 — ??

I apologize for my language. I realize I’ve been living in Korea for 5 years now so I have no idea anymore if “mixed race” or “handicapped” or “harelip” etc. are correct terms in English anymore. As you know my head is a complete language mess.  Please somebody correct my language if it’s offensive or out of date. Thanks. Anyone else who has more or different statistics — please know I am all in favor of sharing knowledge and please do share if you have.

*Statistics from the 2009 National Assembly audit, Ministry of Health and Welfare

1. 성별, 발생유형별, 아동상태별 입양실적
(2008.12.31, 명)
기관명 성 별 발생유형별 아동상태별
미혼모아등 기아.




비장애 장애
1,250 773 477 1,114 10 126 1,126 124
홀 트 503 308 195 394 5 104 425 78
동 방 336 209 127 329 5 2 307 29
대 한 378 240 138 358 20 361 17
한 국 33 16 17 33 33

3. 06 ~09.6 연도별 해외입양아 미숙아 또는 조숙아, 장애유형별 장애아 현황

소계 미숙아/조숙아 장애아 정상아
언청이 손발기형 정신


심장병 기타
2006년 1,899 713 303 21 7 24 86 272 1186
2007년 1,264 500 222 4 9 15 41 209 764
2008년 1,250 124 48 11 7 3 18 37 1126
2009년 6월 679 40 19 7 3 1 4 6 639

2 responses to “Handicap, race, and overseas adopted Koreans

  1. Thanks for sharing this info, Jane. Mind-boggling.

  2. don gordon bell


    Thank you indeed for these figures, it fills in some more details. I believe the the Premature babies were considered by Korean people as “not quite perfect” and in danger of NOT being a child worthy of raising. I would also assume that these were from Married couples rather than from Unwed mothers. Would be nice to know exactly. Premature though would not be desireable for Local adoption in CIVIL or Domestic (through the four Adoption Agencies).

    Again the government uses the term “Disabled” not “handicapped or Special Needs”, I guess someone has not informed them of the Politically Correct terms. Regardless of the terms after the five month stage these infants that are NOT adopted by Civil or Domestic adoption are only then processed for InterCountry/Overseas adoptions.

    There is much to be done in our motherland.

Thank you for visiting my blog. I no longer have time to update this blog regularly, but I appreciate your comments, even though I cannot respond to all of them. All comments (except spam) have been allowed to go through unmoderated since June 16, 2014. Any comments you see prior to that date have been read and approved by me. Thanks again, and wishing you peace and blessings.

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