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Protecting adoptees

July 19,2017
The biggest export of Korea used to be babies. An estimated 170,000 have been sent overseas over the last 65 years. It was in the 1980s, not immediately after the 1950-1953 war, when the biggest number of children — 65,000 — was put up for adoption abroad. Since then, Korea has been stigmatized as an exporter of children. The country has never atoned for its irresponsibility. Neither the government nor society paid any attention to how the Korean-born adoptees turned out and lived.

In May, Phillip Clay, who was adopted at 8 by an American family but deported back to Korea at the age of 29 because he never obtained American citizenship, jumped from an apartment building in Seoul after living in poverty and loneliness.

Advocates for the rights of international adoptees recently demanded an end to Korea’s adoptee system, bringing further attention and humiliation to our insensitivity.

We have stayed indifferent and ignorant of how Korean adoptees have been deserted and abused by new families. According to the Adoptee Rights Campaign, about 35,000 adult adoptees in the United States may lack citizenship because it was not granted automatically before 2000. Only then, children under the IR-3 visa were granted citizenship without a separate court process. Yet Korea continued to send out babies and children under the IR-4 visa until 2012. If they were given an IR-4 visa, they had to go through the court process in the United States all over again.

Numerous adoptees grew up under tough and painful conditions. Korea must be extra careful when it comes to overseas adoption. The government must make diplomatic endeavors to ensure the adoptees cope well with their new families and societies. Moreover, it must have the social safety and welfare system ready if they choose to return to their birth country.

JoongAng Ilbo, July 19, Page 30