A.S.K. Loudly.

Before telegraph and telephone, the black carrier pigeon was used by The Great Barrier Island Pigeon Mail to deliver messages in New Zealand. The first public mention about them was from The Daily Southern Cross Newspaper in Auckland in 1862. We have come a long way since then…

With a similar homing instinct, thousands of adoptees sent overseas are returning to Korea and facing a great social barrier to deliver messages about legislative reform needed to stop sending children born out of wedlock to foreign countries instead of allowing them to remain with their birth mothers. The first public mention about them was from the Korean Ministry of Health and Welfare in Seoul in 1993. They have come a long way since then…

South Korea’s economy had already started growing, but expanded exponentially when the Summer Olympics were scheduled for Seoul for 1988. With Korea in the forefront of world news in those days, other countries publicly criticised their export of adopted children.

In 2004, Adoptee Solidarity Korea (A.S.K.), a reading group made up of mostly female Korean adoptees in their 30s, was formed to figure out why women in Korea felt compelled to give up their babies for adoption instead of raising them. Over the years, the group has evolved into a politically active voice in South Korea with a loud message asking why international adoption should continue in a country that is growing financially and has enough human resources in country to take care of its own. According to one founding member, Laura Klunder (adopted by a family in Wisconsin, USA, at age 1), “Our Goal is to make ourselves extinct.” (New York Times, January 14, 2015). She of course was referring to overseas adoptees becoming a thing of the past. Laura wears a large tattoo down her forearm with her adoption case number.

Over the past decade, a diaspora of hundreds of educated adoptees sent to other countries have returned to live in South Korea, mainly Seoul, and have formed a support community called GOA’L (Global Overseas Adoptees’ Link), to help each other learn the language, make friends, and lobby the government for Visas allowing the adoptees to live and work in Korea (they were successful).

In 2012, ASK and two other organisations petitioned the government to pass legislation making it mandatory that adoptions be registered so children can find their birth parents, and that mothers be given counselling and seven days after birth to decide if they want to go through with adoption. The legislation passed, but has become a two-edged sword. Because a public record is now created at the time of adoption that could stigmatise the mother, abandoned babies are on the increase in South Korea. Better to abandon a baby than to be branded as an undesirable in society because of being a single mother.

Most of the returning adoptees to Korea agree that they are not fully Korean, not fully American (or European), and are stuck somewhere in the middle, not really belonging in either country. Many ask loudly why it has to be this way…

Written by Kitty Bickford for Wooree English

www.wooree.co.nz

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