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Supporting adoptees

July 22,2017
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46-year-old Han Ho-gyu has been abandoned twice. His biological parents gave him up, and he was adopted by an American family in 1978. He lived as an American named Monte Heinz. In 2009, he was abandoned by the United States.

He only learned that he did not have proper citizenship as his adoptive parents failed to get his documents, when he was arrested for drug possession. He and his parents sought ways to obtain U.S. citizenship to no avail. In the end, he was deported to Korea.

Eight years have passed, but he is still an alien in Korea. Due to his limited Korean proficiency, he stays around Itaewon, central Seoul, where English is spoken commonly. Aside from a few fellow adoptees who were also deported from the United States, he had no one to confide in. One of them was arrested for bank robbery with a toy gun, and another was convicted after he got into a fight.

Society has been apathetic towards adoptees who were abandoned twice. Kim Sang-pil, 43, was deported from the United States like Han and killed himself in May, but their stories were only recently addressed when the New York Times reported on them, writing “Deportation is like the death sentence to them.” It is estimated that about 20,000 Korean-born adoptees in the United States do not have citizenship. They could get deported for reasons like being convicted of crimes.

When the stories of deported adoptees were reported on the JoongAng Ilbo on July 17, many readers emailed in response. An executive at a small company wrote, “I would like to hire them. I understand how they feel as I lived in a foreign country for years.”

The Korean government should not remain so indifferent. At the government level, the issue has never been officially brought up to the U.S. government or U.S. Congress. An adoption agency official said that they hope President Moon Jae-in will be more interested in the issue since he was formerly a human rights lawyer. A diplomatic solution for the deportation of adoptees should be sought.

“I want to be reunited to my parents waiting for me in the United States,” said Han.

A bill to give citizenship to the adoptees who have become adults is pending in the U.S. Congress, but it is unclear whether it will be passed due to Donald Trump administration’s anti-immigration stance.

The author is a national news reporter of the JoongAng Ilbo.

JoongAng Ilbo, July 19, Page 29

Song Wu-young