Posts Tagged ‘Korean adoption’

Seoul then and now:korea-evolution

Koreans doing laundry then and now:

Television then and now:

South Korea’s economy then and now 

korea economic


Baby boxes then and now:

korean baby boxes

Baby boxes then: Babies in cardboard boxes on a flight operated by Harry Holt Proxy Adoption Program, some of the airplane’s seats were removed to make room for the boxes. (1) and (2)  Baby Box now: baby abandoned anonymously in a metallic and heated box built and operated by pastor Lee at his church.(3) and (4)

International adoption began in the aftermath of the war, to save biracial babies from racism. It continued in the 1960s, 70s and 80s because of poverty and rapid industrialization that led to mass abandonment of children. In the 1980s and 90s, the country is rich but adoption is needed because of Confucian values that make families reluctant to raise someone else’s male child, because of stigma against unwed mothers.
International adoptions, say adoption supporters, should  continue until Koreans change their mentality, until Korea evolves…  But that will never happen as long as there is an adoption agency that prevent Korea to evolve.

Korea now…


child support

Park Eun-jeong (not her real name), a single mother of two, suffered a car accident just seven months after her divorce back in 2014. Her husband had agreed to wire 800,000 won ($688) monthly for child support when signing his divorce papers. But he abruptly changed his phone number and stopped paying the funds after learning about Park’s accident. (5)


(1) “Impressions on Meeting the Harry Holt Plane” by Arnold Lyslo, 1958.
(2) To Save the Children of Korea: The Cold War Origins of International Adoption, by Arissa H. Oh.
(3) Opinion divided on the merits of South Korean pastor’s ‘baby box’
(4) Should This Man Get a Nobel Peace Prize?
(5) South Koreans still struggle with idea of child support, Korea Herald.





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“Give an orphaned or vulnerable child a birthday to remember!” Holt International says.

holts liar

About three months before my 9th birthday, on January 29th, 1975, Holt gave me a birthday to remember.

There were about 12 of us girls who had been transferred from another orphanage. Holt gave each of us a birthday to remember.

There were no gifts, no cake, no birthday party. Nothing like that.

There were two (or three) men sitting behind a table with lot of papers. One of them was the director of St. Paul’s orphanage.

One man asked us our age, while others were busy writing on the papers. We were all the same age.

He then asked if any of us knew our birthday.  I  raised my hand and I answered proudly because I was the only one to know her birthday.

The man  gave each of the other girls a birthday and a new age. He also gave me a new age and a new birthday.

My birthday is on April. He gave a new “birth”day on November.

Another man said, “From now on, if someone asks your age, it’s important to give your new age… and you, MyungSook,  your new birthday.” He repeated it several times that it was important to remember our new age.

We did what they told us without questioning…

I didn’t question then because I was only a vulnerable child who obeyed the adults.

As an adult I want the world to know how adoption agencies are using the words “orphaned child”,  “vulnerable child” and “give a birthday”.

Vulnerable, I was.

Orphaned, I was not.

I want the world to know how Holt gave me a “birthday” that has nothing to do with my birth.


My family background information made up by Holt is here.

I want the world to know why I hate Holt and adoption agencies.

family background





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korea exportsClick on the image to enlarge it

Suggested reading:

“Every dollar earned was vital to the continued ability to industrialize. It is estimated that overseas adoption contributed between $20 and 40 million in hard currency every year in the 1970s and 80s. At that time, if any Korean company exported even $1 million in goods, they were acknowledged by the government. Also, by sending children from marginalized groups overseas, the government saved a lot on social welfare that could instead be reinvested in economic development.”  Quote from  Korea Times – Opinion.

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Against international adoption because kids belong in families, not in orphanages.

I went through two orphanages before being adopted.

The first orphanage was aweful.  We were beaten every day for any reason or no reason. No child should ever live in such institution, not even for a day. After four months in the horrific orphanage I was transferred to another orphange for the sole purpose of adoption. I lived at the second for ten months.

No, there is no error in my subtitle. I’m against international adoption because kids belong in their families, not in orphanages.

I was not an orphan while I was living in the aweful orphanage.  I was not an orphan while I was being processed for adoption at the second orphanage. I should have been living with my family, not in an institution. I shoud have been with MY family, not with a new family, not with a couple in another country who needed someone else’s child to build a family.

Most of the kids in both orphanages were not orphans. The rare orphans had extended families. They should have been living in their families, not in an institution.

The first orphanage was overcrowded. There were seven or eight houses which were called cabins :  two or three for boys, three for girls, one for mentally handicapped kids and one for preschoolers. In each of the girls’ and boys’ cabins lived 30 to 50 kids; there were less kids in the cabins for the handicapped and preschoolers.

It was in 1974-1975 in Korea. It’s written in the texts on the history of Korea that there were that many kids in orphanages because of poverty and of  rapid industrialization and urbanisation. It’s written in texts on Korean adoption that Korean adoptees came from different waves; the adoptees from the 1970s were from poor families due to rapid industrialization and urbanisation.

What’s written here doesn’t come from history books. It comes from my experience as an “orphan”.  This is what I’ve seen or heard during the 14 months I was instutionalized.

I was called to the office of the orphanage to be questioned. I gave my former address to the office worker. She wrote all the information I gave her. I told her I didn’t know my new address yet, but if she could bring me to my former house, I could go to  my married elder sister  who lived a few steps away and I could also go to my new home from there. She promised me they would search hard for my former house and my elder sister and would call me back in a week.  But they never call me back (they would never contact my sister). The orphanage was overcrowded, yet they kept me.  [link and link]

Poor or rich, once kids were brought to the orphanage, parents were encouraged to leave them. There was one girl of a rich family in my cabin. Her mother had came to fetch her the same afternoon she had entered the orphanage. But the housemother of our cabin invited them to discuss with her in her room before letting them leave. At the end of the day, she told us the girl would stay with us and appointed her as a “balang”.  Balang, in the language of the orphanage, was a title given to the kids who were chosen among the older kids to be in charge of running the daily life in the cabin and  had more priviledges than the ordinary kids.

It was a horrific place to live. Food was not good, we didn’t eat enough and there weren’t enough of shoes for everyone.  Sometimes the balangs would steal shoes from other cabins or a balang would go to a boys’ cabin to ask them to give us some shoes.  We had to go to another building to eat. The best shoes were taken by the balangs, and then the first kids to reach the pile of shoes. The last kids were left without shoes or with shoes that didn’t match, or both for the right feet or both for the left feet.

I heard from the balangs that the orphanage director was rich. He made more money from selling the sports ground a few weeks after my entrance to the orphanage.

The orphanage didn’t do adoption, but adoption agencies workers and other orphanage directors could pick  some adoptable/salable kids whenever they needed.

The director-driver of another orphanage picked about a dozen kids including me from the girls’ cabins. Once again, for the third time (the first being at a police station), I gave  the address of my former house and I told him he could bring me to my elder sister who lived a few steps away from there. He told me he would search for my sister and would come back in a week to bring me to her. I didn’t know we were transferred to his orphanage only to be put up for adoption.

The second orphanage was for girls only.  It was ran by Catholic nuns, thus the kids were raised as Catholics regardless of their parents’ religion.  It was a source of adoptable children for adoption  agencies and individuals who could come to pick the child/children they wanted without going through an agency. All the girls who had been transferred from the aweful orphanage were put up for adoption (with Holt Children’s Services) the next day  after our arrival.  We were given new birthdates and new ages to make us younger. We were told we couldn’t go to school because we would go to the USA soon.

There were only three groups of about thirty girls; at least the two- thirds of the kids were preschoolers (because younger children were more adoptable than older children). There were no handicapped kids (because they are usually not/less adoptable). Many were placed by their parents temporarily or until the age of 16 or their majority; others like myself were taken from other orphanages (mainly from the aweful orphanage). A few weeks after our arrival, a lost girl was brought by a nun; she had lost her grandmother while they were visiting Seoul.

It was a nice place to live with modern facilies, good foods and clothes, thanks to donations from foreigners. There were many American visitors. They would entertain us, give us gifts, or take pictures of us. We would perform a variety show of dance, singing and sketches to welcome and thank them.

Two sisters who had been temporarily placed were taken back by their mom. Eavesdropping a conversation between the nun and our housemother, I learned that their mom was single.  The nun was saying she was angry at the girls’ mom  for not listening to her.  She had tried to convince the mom to leave her daugthers at the orphanage; she had told her they would be better off at the orphanage and that she would be better off too, that it would be very difficult to raise two kids alone, that she was irresponsible and crazy to raise two kids alone. But the mom was crazy and stubborn, she wouldn’t listen to her.  Later I heard news of the two girls from the schoolgirls. They were  very happy to live again with their mom.

Another mom came to fetch her two daughters. She stayed outside the entrance gate to talk to her eldest. We were all excited when we heard who she was. She told her daughter to go fecth her little sister so they could go back home. And then the mom and the girls left without notifying. We told the nuns and the director that the two girls had just ran away with their mom. The director seemed worried. They ran after them and brought them back. They went to the office with the mom. We waited impatiently trying to guess what they were talking about.  They finally got out of the office at the end of the day. Much to my surprise and disappointment, the mom left without her daughters. It was even more suprising when she brought her youngest, third daughter next day.

Every new girl were put up for adoption. Some of the girls who had been temporarily placed were adopted too. We would often talk/hear about the USA as if it was a country of fairy tales. We all wanted to go to the dreamland. When a few kids had left, the director would bring more kids from the other orphanage to put them for adoption.

Although I was happy to have many friends to play and live with, it was a great sadness to see them leaving. After only a few weeks at the orphanage, I didn’t want to make new friends, because all friendship was to end with a separation. It was a greater sadness to be separated from my father. I missed him every day, but I was hoping to be reunited with him. I trusted the director of the orphanage just like I trusted all the adults I had met before him. I thought he was searching hard for my sister. I understood you can easily locate people when you have an address only two years after my adoption.

Adoption supporters make statement such as “Children deserve families” on which everyone can’t help but agree. The adoption agency which processed my adoption made a similar statement, “Every child deserves a home of his own”.  They call us crazy for being against adoption. They say to be against adoption is to be for keeping children institutionalized for life. [link]

I was kept in an orphanage because some people were thinking “Children deserve families”. They were thinking of a new family/home, and they offered me for adoption without my father’s consent. I was thinking of my family, the one I was born to.

Adoption supporters are talking about adoptive familes, while we are talking about our families (that is our natural families). They’re advocating for the childless people who need someone else’s child to build a family and for the self-righteous Christians to indoctrinate the children, while we’re advocating for the children and their families.

That is why they are worried about the decline in the number of adoptions. Deline of adoptions for prospective adopters means thay can’t become parents, and decline of adoptions for adoption agencies means less money.

The first orphanage I lived in was the kind of orphanage that adoption supporters would like to use today  to promote international adoption. They would use black and white pictures of poor orphans living in an overcrowded orphanage. They’re actually using old black and white picture of Romanian orphans to pressure Romania to re-open its door for adoptions. They’re even using adoptees.

Once an adoption supporter, after learning I was adopted at 10 years old, assumed that I wanted badly to be adopted  while growing up in an orphanage. He told me I should speak to the whining adoptees to shut them up.

Having been through two orphanages, I know that there were that many kids in the orphanage because kids that were abandoned, lost, runaway, temporarily placed by their families or removed from their families by authorities were all kept without differentiation as orphans/unwanted/abandoned.

No parents would ever leave a child alone in a street if they hadn’t known some adoption workers were collecting children. No parents would ever bring a child to an overcrowded orphanage if they hadn’t been reduced to chose between an orphanage and starvation. No parents would ever chose to  give away a child they had been raising and caring for X number of years if they hadn’t been reduced to adoption or starvation.

There were that many kids in orphanages because of poverty, because struggling families were given no other option than orphanage/adoption and starvation, because kids in orphanages brought foreign money to the country, because adoption agencies made money from selling kids.

In every sending countries, adoption system incentivizes the abandonment, buying, selling, stealing and kidnapping of children, and the coercing and tricking of the parents.

It begins with setting up  an adoption agency and orphanages in a country devastated by a war, a famine, a natural disaster or years of dictatorship. Once adoption agencies are set up, it’s nearly impossible to eradicate them. ( So far Romania which is the only country who has succeded, is still under pressure to resume international adoption.) They are set up to stay forever in the country to separate more families.

Adoption agencies in a country at its most vulnerable are catalyst to child abandonment. Over time, abandonment/adoption become a inherent part of the society: poverty, divorce, sickness, or any reason become a reason to give up children for adoption. When the country becomes rich and modern, unwed moms are given the choice between adoption or abortion. Adoption agencies is a business selling children; a business’ goal is to make money. To make money, they need both the clients and the products (children). They need to maintain a steady supply of children to keep their business.  If  the economy of the country improves, they find other sources of supply. At last they can get “special needs” children. Decline in the number of adoptions is not good for them. To counteract the work of activists, unwed moms will be given a baby box.

unlistened-to voice

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My family hojuk has seven pages.  The first page contains information about the chief of family (my dad).  My mom and my brother are on the fifth page, my sisters are on the sixth, and I’m on the seventh page. The picture below shows a part of the first page.


My orphan hojuk is only one page.  “Father: No record. Mother: No record” and a  birthdate (made up by adoption agency) are written on it.  It was created to make me adoptable. The  picture below shows a part of the translated version of my orphan hojuk (family registry created for adoption).









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