Friday, December 21, 2007

South Korean lawmaker pushes for stricter regulation of international adoption - Korean response to the case of "Jade"

Thanks to Made in Korea blogger for the link!

By Kim Young-gyo
SEOUL, Dec. 14 (Yonhap) -- A recent incident, in which a Dutch diplomat in Hong Kong drew public fire for abandoning a South Korean-born girl whom he adopted seven years ago, was yet another indication to a South Korean lawmaker that the international adoption program from South Korea must eventually be banned.

Ko Kyung-hwa, a first-time lawmaker with the main opposition Grand National Party (GNP), has been working in defense of potential adoptees, and pushing for stricter laws on the international adoption of South Korean children since she started her career in parliament in 2004.

혻혻 "The incident shows only a part of the unfavorable side effects that can be caused by international adoption," she said in an interview with Yonhap News Agency on Friday, claiming that a child is best cared for by the biological parent, or at least within the birth community.

혻혻 A Dutch diplomat couple found themselves earlier this week at the center of an international controversy for giving up their seven-year-old ethnic Korean daughter, whom they adopted at the age of four months.

혻혻 Raymond Poeteray, 55, who has worked as a Dutch diplomat for more than 20 years, and his wife, Meta, adopted the girl they named "Jade" while stationed in South Korea. In May 2007, they put her into a foster care in Hong Kong, where they are now stationed.

혻혻 "We need to earnestly study international adoption. Yes, we do hear a lot of success stories of adoptees, but what about those who failed to adjust to their new environment? Do we ever hear from them?" said Ko. "The government does not even have any follow-up documents or reports on what happens to the children after they were adopted."
South Korea, the world's 11th-largest economy, has been criticized both at home and abroad for its low rate of domestic adoption. Government figures show that there have been about 87,500 domestic adoptions versus 158,000 international adoptions since the Korean War ended in 1953.

혻혻 It was after the Korean War that Christian organizations first founded international adoption agencies in Korea, motivated by the poverty of many Korean children whose families were devastated by the war.

혻혻 International adoption rates from South Korea grew in the 1970s as the country industrialized, and peaked in the 1980s. From the 1990s until the present, unwed mothers have been under intense pressure to relinquish their children.

혻혻 "This case, though rare, could have happened at any time. Why are we still sending our own children to foreign countries, when we are capable of taking care of them ourselves?" she said.

혻혻 She also urged her colleagues to pay more attention to the adoption issue, saying a revision bill that she and some other lawmakers submitted in November is pending, but is not likely to pass during the regular parliamentary session, which is to end in December.

혻 혻 "The bill is first aimed at limiting the number of international adoptions to the minimum, by allowing it, for example, only when a child needs special medical care (only available) in foreign countries."
More practically, however, the reform bill is aimed at preserving biological families, rather than just stopping international adoption at once, she said.

혻혻 "The most important thing is to keep those families together: the bill, when passed, would enable single moms to have a four-week period to give deep thought to whether she really needs to give up her child. Many women I met had second thoughts after they let their children go abroad," said the lawmaker.

혻혻 Stressing the need for financial support for single moms who want to raise their children themselves, the biological fathers must be held legally liable for their children, she said.

혻혻 "It would also allow internationally adopted children to go back to their biological family and regain their relationship, if, and only if, the adoption was irrevocably dissolved," she said.

혻혻 Under current South Korean law, the adoption of Jade cannot be formally dissolved by the Dutch couple, as the child is still a South Korean citizen. Moreover, the status of her residency is uncertain; she was never naturalized as a Dutch citizen, nor did she officially become a resident of Hong Kong. She goes to school in Hong Kong and speaks Cantonese and English, but not Korean.



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