More South Korean adoptees call for investigations into their cases – The Diplomat

Peter Moller, fourth from left, a lawyer and co-founder of the Danish Korean Rights Group, attends a news conference with a group of South Korean adoptees in front of the Truth and Reconciliation Commission in Seoul, South Korea, November 15, 2022.

Credit: AP Photo/Ahn Young-joon, FileAdvertisement

Nearly 400 South Koreans adopted as children by families in the West have asked South Korea’s Truth and Reconciliation Commission to investigate their adoptions by the application deadline on Friday, as Seoul faces mounting pressure to anticipate a child export frenzy driven by dictatorships who ruled the country until the 1980s.

The commission said Thursday it had decided to investigate 34 cases among the 51 adoptees who first submitted their applications in August, in what could potentially become the country’s most far-reaching probe into intercountry adoptions yet.

A total of 63 adoptees from the United States, Europe and Australia filed applications with the commission on Friday, claiming their adoptions were affected by forged documents that laundered children’s status or identities, as the agencies take thousands of children each year wanted to send abroad.

The adoptees accused the agencies of fabricating documents to ensure their adoptability, such as B. falsely registering as orphans when they had living relatives, or switching their identities with other children, resulting in lost liaisons or false reunions with birth relatives.

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Similar questions were raised by many of the 306 adoptees who had filed requests in previous months, urging the commission to pressure authorities to fully open their documents and determine whether the government was responsible for the corrupt practices.

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Most of the requests were filed through the Danish-Korean rights group, led by adoptive lawyer Peter Møller, who during a news conference on Friday urged South Korean officials to take active steps to prevent authorities from hiding or destroying records.

“It’s a big, big concern because now the clock is ticking,” Møller said. “They will conduct the investigation and take on either 30 or 50 (cases) at a time … and we have major concerns (agencies) that … the documents will be hidden.”

Commission officials say the probe is almost certain to be expanded as they believe the evidence is clear adoptions were facilitated by forged documents that washed children’s status or identities. The Commission will consider accepting applications received after August in the coming months and may merge the cases it sees as similar to speed up the investigation.


The 34 adoptees whose cases were accepted by the commission were placed through Holt Children’s Services and the Korea Social Service. The commission’s investigation would also eventually include the Eastern Social Welfare Society and Korea Welfare Services if it accepts cases filed Friday by adoptees in the United States, Australia and Sweden.

Jasmine Healey, who represents a group of adoptees sent to the United States and Australia via Eastern, said adoptees from the East often found themselves being made fake “paper orphans” by the agency to secure their adoptions facilitate abroad.

There have also been instances where Eastern has allegedly deceived adoptees’ birth families who never consented to their adoptions, or adoptees who grew up using another child’s identity, resulting in some being reunited with the wrong family .

“The lifelong impact of these injustices on adoptees, their Korean families and adoptive families cannot be underestimated,” Healey said.

“The inability to know who you are, who you belong to, where you come from, being cut off from knowing your family history which is such a strong pillar of identity, the consequences of which could be dire or sometimes devastating for adoptees.”

Eastern did not immediately respond to requests for comment.

About 200,000 South Koreans, mostly girls, have been adopted abroad over the past six decades, mostly by white parents in the United States and Europe.

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The agencies were run by board members close to military leaders who saw adoption as a tool to reduce the number of mouths to feed and remove socially undesirables, including children from unmarried mothers or poor families.

The adoptions were also aimed at deepening ties with the democratic West amid fierce regime competition with rival North Korea, according to military government documents obtained by AP.