Brief History of Korean Adoption
First, today's South Korea (Republic of Korea) bears
little resemblance to the Korea of the early 1950s as typified by
M*A*S*H. Even with its up and down economy, South Korea is a modern,
industrialized nation, on par with its American and European trading
The Korean adoption program dates back, however, to
the early 1950s when US servicemen were fathering children with
Korean women outside of marriage. Illegitimate, mixed race children,
to use the old-fashioned terms, had little place in traditional
patriarchal Korean society. These children were severely scorned and
abused. Henry and Bertha Holt, founders of what is now known as
Holt International, began
their international adoption program in Korea with the adoption of
eight Amerasian children.
Since that time, it's estimated that more than
150,000 children have been adopted from Korea to the US, Australia,
Canada, and much of Europe.
Bear in mind, Korea, like many other countries, is highly ambivalent by its
successful intercountry adoption program, and is increasingly stepping
up efforts to encourage more domestic adoption. Through a series of yearly
quotas, it is hoped that Korea will be able to reduce intercountry adoption entirely.
However, Korean culture and its emphasis on blood/genetic ties and family name continues to
remain a difficult obstacle to reaching that goal. Therefore, your ability to adopt from
Korea within a reasonable timeframe shouldn't be affected any time soon.
For more information on the history of the Korean
adoption program, I encourage you to read these helpful articles:
Benefits of the Korea Program
Here's what we personally found to be most appealing:
The availability of healthy infants and toddlers
- There are many children, also,
with mild and/or easily
correctable special needs, too. (Note that
the wait for healthy girls can be considerably longer than boys.)
Foster family care - The babies aren't housed in orphanages. Korean babies are placed
with foster families where they are well provided for in warm,
loving homes until placement.
Excellent medical care. Korea's medical care
system is first-rate and comparable to the US and Canada.
Reasonable timeframes -
Approximately 12-14 month timeframe from application to arrival of our
baby (note that agencies with smaller programs will have longer
timelines and vice versa)
Less onerous paperwork (although what is required is plenty enough!)
- Unlike other countries where separate dossiers are required, the
Korean program accepts the US homestudy as documentation enough.
Lower costs than other intercountry programs. Approximately
Travel or escort options. You can choose to
have your child escorted to the US rather than having to
travel (although many parents do indeed travel to pick up
their children and I would urge you to do if you can.)
No religious restrictions or infertility
requirements - some countries require a particular religious
affiliations, others require a specific diagnosis of infertility.
Overview of the Korean
Adoption Service Information Agency, is affiliated with Eastern. These
four primary Korean agencies are responsible for protecting and
providing for its orphaned and abandoned children. They are
answerable to the Korean government and only work with certain
adoption agencies who have been approved to place Korean children.
Requirements and Restrictions for Korea
These are the basic, rock-bottom requirements.
(Note: these requirements are sometimes modified for children with
special needs. Ask your agency for details.) Your American adoption
agency may have additional requirements and restrictions:
Marital Status: Married couples, married at
least 3 years. One divorce for each member of the couple is
acceptable. Singles not accepted.
Age: No more than 45 years old at the time of
the baby's arrival in your home.
Infertility: No restriction. However, no more
than 4 children already at home.
Family Income: $25,000 minimum.
Weight: (This is a peculiar requirement to
Eastern Social Welfare, SWS and their affiliated agencies) Parents
may not weigh more than 30% of what is considered normal body weight
for their respective heights. Your agency, if it's affiliated with
Eastern or SWS, will have a weight/height chart for your review.
Holt and Korea Social Services do NOT have a weight restriction.
Think you may be over the weight limit?
View the Weight/Height Chart used by
NOTE - Eastern has liberalized their weight
requirements. If your doctor testifies to your/your spouse's current
good health and normal life expectancy - and you're amenable to a
weight loss plan - you should be OK. Contact your agency for more complete
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For more information, check out the
Department Guidelines for Korea.
Photolistings and Other
International Adoption-Related Websites
Now that you've explored the general side of things,
here are some (again, not all) online resources I think you'll find
interesting and useful. I've chosen a grouping of Asian and
non-Asian sites. Some of these include photolistings of waiting
children. Some wait because they are a bit older. Others due to mild
to moderate special needs (many of these highly correctible.)
A word about photolistings: There are many
schools of thought about these. Some adoption professionals and
parents dislike the "puppy and kitten" advertising quality. Others
are concerned about the child's privacy. I think these are important
issues. I, however, believe when handled ethically and properly,
photolistings do indeed help find needy children homes. But it will
be up to you as a prospective adoptive parent to thoroughly check
out the agency behind the photolisting. There are many unscrupulous
agencies who will photolist particularly cute children who are, in
fact, not available for adoption at all or will "bait and switch"
unsuspecting adoptive parents. So be cautious and smart.
Korean, International and General Adoption-Oriented
Email Lists and Forums
Electronic mailing lists are an excellent way to find out what's involved in adopting
internationally. From paperwork to the latest proclamations from the Immigration and
Naturalization Service, here's a chance to ask your questions and meet like-minded folks!
These represent just a few that are available to you. (See
YahooGroups and check out their
complete listing of adoption-related groups - there are hundreds!)
NOTE: The hyperlink is the mail address, the
secondary comment is what you put in the body of your e-mail message, if
When my husband and I attended an introductory open house at the adoption agency we
eventually selected, a newly adoptive family was featured. The couple appeared to be in
their 30s and had one biological child. They were white. Their adopted son was under a
year old. A smiling handsome boy with an Asian face.
During their talk they told our group about their experiences with the agency and the
adoption process. They spoke about waiting for their referrals and bonding with the few
photos we all receive. Then the mom, sitting with her happy son upon her lap, remarked
that when she first gazed upon her son in person at the airport, her first thought was, "Whoa,
this baby is really Korean!"
Of course, one minute after that thought, it was done with and forgotten. Their son was
home. But I appreciated her candor. It's been said if you wouldn't consider marrying
outside of your race/ethnic group/religion - or wouldn't want your son/daughter
marrying outside those parameters - transracial adoption might be
more than you're ready to handle. (And no, love isn't enough. Nor colorblindedness. Race is a real deal in America - a subject few of us deeply
understand until we have children of color as our sons and daughters.)
And if you think I'm overstating the case, think again. These are some of the very same
issues your social worker will ask you about during your
But don't think for a second that race in a racially-conscious society doesn't matter. It
ARE different. Multi-racial, adoptive families are REALLY different. And if you decide to
go this route, how you and your family see and are seen by the world will change
I personally like those kind of challenges. Being of a minority religious faith, I have
the vantage point of knowing -- in my heart and in my bones -- how it feels to be
different. How our children deal with being both a racial and religious minority -- in
addition to being adopted -- well, remains to be seen. But it's my hope that a strong
sense of self and humor will help them make their way successfully in their own personal
journeys. (For more thoughts about transracial adoption and parenting issues,
see the adoptive
By now you've decided on Korea (or some other international program.) Our next step?
Choosing the right