Introduction Choi Hyong-Sook, a Korean unwed mother who once lost her child to adoption, but who fought to take him back and is now raising him as an unwed mother, is working to transform an unjust social order into one where we can all be more fully human. She delivered a paper titled “Counseling Services of Adoption Agencies Experienced by Unwed Mothers” on Feb. 24, 2010 at the 60th Women’s Policy Forum of the Korean Women’s Development Institute (KWDI) in Seoul. The paper described the experiences of five unwed mothers who participate in the group called Korea Unwed Mothers & Families Association, also fondly known to the Seoul adoptees as “Miss Mamma Mia.” Their organization, launched officially in June 2009, now claims over 250 unwed mothers as members nationwide, while the most active members of the group are a handful of mothers raising their children in Seoul, who have also made efforts to also reach out to birthmothers and overseas adoptees.
The following is an excerpt from Ms. Choi’s paper given at the International Conference Hall of the Press Center in Seoul in the forum titled “Reality of Unwed Mothers and Support for Self-Reliance,” hosted by KWDI and sponsored by the Korean Unwed Mothers Support Network. Due to strong interest from adoptees, KUMSN is now in the process now of translating Ms. Choi’s entire essay, as well as other papers presented on that day.
Opinion About Consultation Services of Adoption Agencies
So far, I’ve told you about five cases. I believe that some of you are already familiar with this subject and others of you might be startled to learn about this.
You’ve heard real experiences that unwed moms experienced when they visited or got consultations from adoption agencies during the years 2005-2009.
Just as five years ago – when I first got a consultation – or now, adoption agencies advise unwed mothers before they give birth to sign a written consent for adoption and relinquishment of parental authority. However, the consultation or education regarding a single mother’s child custody is barely undertaken, if at all.
The biggest problem is that it is very hard to get “proper” information about adoption or rearing children through adoption agencies. Recently, most unwed moms are using the internet to find information about pre-delivery or consultation, and when they search the web with the term “unwed mother,” they can see the list of unwed mothers’ facilities run by adoption organizations.
Furthermore, it is almost impossible to get information from adoption agencies or from consultations about how to raise your children, while it is not hard to get much information about adoption.
Even though Korea has been ranked 13th in the world economy, it is also ranked fourth in international adoption in 2007. The total number of Korean children adopted overseas since 1953 is over 160,000, and this number is overwhelmingly ranked first in the world.
In an attempt to remove the stigma of Korea being the country of child adoption, the government in 2006 set May 11 as the annual “Adoption Day,” and they suggest that for five months, all attempts should be made to place a child in domestic adoption before sending them for overseas adoption.
On the one hand, celebrities who have adopted children accentuate how noble and beautiful adoption is.
As a result of these efforts, the number of domestic adoptions (1,388) surpassed overseas adoptions (1,264) for the first time in 2008, but still, three children are sent overseas every day.
In the discussion about adoption, children and their birth parents are thoroughly excluded.
Adoption starts with the severing of the connection between the parent and the child.
While nobody cares about the experience of the birth mother that puts her child up for adoption, our society denounces unwed moms as irresponsible people who abandoned their children.
Adoption agencies often say that adoption is “giving birth to abandoned child through one’s heart.
What kind of mother can send her child easily? Our hearts are broken when we hear that.
In fact, insufficient time and information is given to unwed moms for deciding whether to send their children for adoption or rear their child.
Korean unwed moms are not abandoning their children, but giving up their babies under inevitable circumstances.
On the other side of adoption, there are birth parents who live their lives hiding from society due to their guilty conscience for abandoning their children.
Unwed mothers’ organization founded: Korea Unwed Mothers & Families Association
For unwed moms who are in a desperate situation, I think they need accurate information about raising their children.
There are many unwed moms who give up custody of their children not knowing about the services that they can get from the government.
To share the hardships that unwed moms have faced and to support those who need help, four unwed moms gathered June 29, 2009 and decided to organize a group, opened the internet community called Mamma Mia on June 29th, 2009 and opened the Web portal “Naver” to support unwed moms who need help and information.
As you saw in the cases above, adoption agencies do not provide proper services for unwed moms. So we think adoption agencies and unwed mothers’ facilities should be separated.
The information that desperate unwed mothers get when they search on the internet is mostly advertisements for unwed mothers’ facilities that are run by adoption agencies, and the consultation they get is mostly focused on adoption. Adoption should be the last solution after deep consideration and after trying to rear one’s children. Even after a consultation on raising one’s children one should have to go through several consultations before a mother decides on adoption.
Since most unwed moms get pregnant even before they are ready, they are usually emotionally unstable during their pregnancies, and go through physically and psychologically hard times.
As in the cases above, even though they hope to raise their own child, because of their realities, they keep switching back and forth between adoption and raising their child, and as a result they experience confusion. Therefore, before they decide to send their child for adoption, sufficient time should be given to them to consider their choice of adoption or raising their children.
As discussed in the public hearing for reforming the “Special Adoption Law on Adoption Promotion and Procedure” held Nov. 10, 2009 by Choi Young-Hee, a member of National Assembly, adoption agencies should notify unwed moms that a memorandum of abandoning parental authority is not enforceable by law. They should not mislead the unwed moms with documents that are not legal papers.
In my opinion, with sufficient consultation and time, the ratio of unwed mothers who decide on adoption will drastically decrease.
In the instance of one facility that provides support for unwed mothers’ counseling, for rearing and for raising, the portion of unwed moms who decide to raise their children is about 82 percent, while only 37 percent of unwed mothers that give birth in facilities run by adoption agencies decide to rear their children.
Agencies should be prohibited from charging the unwed parents who want to get their child back the money used while processing the adoption. Such expenses can be another reason for unwed parents who are in financial difficulty for abandoning their child.
In order to help the unwed parents’ families raise their children, social understanding should be improved and a social support system must be formed.
Korea has the lowest ratio of unwed mothers among the OECD nations, but almost 90 percent of adoptees are the children of unwed mothers.
The reason unwed mothers’ children are adopted is because the social support system for unwed mothers is not well established.
My child was born twice. The first time was when I gave birth to him, and the second time was when I got him back from the adoption agency. There is a mother with a hurting heart who buys clothes every year on her child’s birthday. Her child was sent for adoption. In addition, there are those mothers who when re-united with their children that were sent for adoption blame themselves regardless of whether their child had a good life or not.
If unwed mothers were provided with more information about rearing their children before they gave birth, single unwed would not need to live their lives blaming themselves.
Here, unwed moms who are the parties to those mentioned cases, sit together.
We eagerly hope that no mother or child ever experiences the pain we had.
We, the unwed mothers, are responsible for our behavior.
We hope that our children can grow cheerfully and healthy so that they can be promising people and receive much recognition from society.
We’ll raise our children in that way.
Choi Hyong-Sook is the PR Manager for Korea Unwed Mothers & Families Association. Choi also runs a beauty shop. She is 39 years old and has a six year old son. She’s been with her son for six years, and though it’s been difficult at times, it’s also been joyful, as he is the hope in her life. Choi continues to work hard for the benefit of her son’s future. Here is a photo of her beautiful boy.
Lee Seungho is majoring in electrical engineering at Sungkyunkwan University in Seoul and worked for GE Healthcare as an intern. He is co-president of JES International and a member of TRACK (Truth and Reconciliation for the Adoption Community of Korea).
More Information on This Issue:
For more writing (mostly in Korean) by Choi Hyong Sook and Rep. Choi Young-hee of the Democratic Party and the rationale of the proposed law revisions to Korea’s adoption law created by a coalition of unwed mothers, internationally adopted Koreans and Korean allies, please go here.
To check the publicly available federal tax returns of any U.S. non-profit organization, including adoption agencies, please check a site such as www.guidestar.org.
For a look at how babies are harvested for adoption, and a South Korean perspective on the program, take a look this 60-minute video by South Korea’s national broadcaster, KBS.
To support adult adoptee and birth mother rights, consider purchasing a Conducive Humanitarian & Human Rights tee. Proceeds from tees will support an adult adoptee and birth mother organization. All tees are sweat free and available in organic cotton. To see the selection of Adoptee and Birth Mother tees at Conducive’s Humanitarian & Human Rights Tee store, click here
See Jane Jeong Trenka’s Series on Korean Adoption
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