Article about Korean “export” of babies

This article just came to my attention. It's from the Seoul Journal, and published in today's New York Times (kind of a companion piece to yesterday's piece on the stigma of single mothers in Koea).
I have some critique of this article, including that the facts seem wrong.
Six thousand Korean children a year – given up for adoption by unwed mothers or abandoned by their parents – are adopted by American families alone.
6,000 adoptions to America a year is not factually correct, and hasn't been since the 1980s. The numbers for the past decade have been in the 1500-2500 a year range.
Last year, according to State Department immigration figures, 5,742 Korean children were adopted by American families.
The number according to the State Department is actually 1,065 in 2008. See here.
But those who support foreign adoptions say very few Korean families are willing to take in children who are not blood relations. In a country where most families proudly display thick volumes of genealogical charts, where the Confucian respect for ancestors remains very much alive, there is little place for children of a different bloodline.
I think this is rapidly changing. Korea now completes more domestic adoptions than international adoptions. And people don't know that Korea used to have an accepted practice of domestic adoptions, (I read a book a while ago that described the cultural acceptance of domestic adoption pre-war. I can't find the citation but when I do I'll link it). While I think Confucianism plays a role, we can't just continue to use that as an overriding factor.
Anyway I thought it was interesting to read. The language alone and use of word choice always fascinates me. In spirit I am glad Korea is critiquing its own practices, I am disheartened that some of their facts are wrong.
Full article here.

Author: JaeRan

Assistant professor at UW Tacoma, writer, and researcher.

3 thoughts

  1. I think it’s interesting to look at comparisons with Japan, since Japanese and Korean culture shares so many things… although talking about those similarities always runs the risk of encountering rather violent disagreement from both Japanese and Koreans.
    One big difference since WWII is that Japan became a rich country much quicker than Korea. Japan has strong social safety nets in terms of things like subsidies and pensions. There’s definitely stigma against single mothers, but it’s lessening, and it sounds like it’s not as bad as it is in Korea. And Christianity never got a strong foothold in Japan the way it did in Korea. Evangelical Christianity seems to have a really strong set of values surrounding adoption, and it might be a greater influence for Korea than Confucianism (though the two are also compatible and can go together). Cultural attitudes towards children and people with disabilities are also a huge factor.
    One thing Japan and Korea have in common is that that they’ve gone through really rapid social changes. They went from feudalism to democracy within centuries. As much as people in the U.S. stereotype an unchanging and traditional East, historical reality is totally different. So once social change is agreed on, it’s going to happen rapidly.

  2. The article is actually from 1988. That’s why the mention of the Olympics and also why the figures seem anachronistic.

Share your thoughts

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s