Thursday, June 10, 2021

The Movie "Forget Me Not - A Letter to My Mother" - My Perspective

I heard of this movie, "Forget Me Not - A Letter to My Mother" a month ago while I was in Korea. Here is an article on her interview.

When Sun Hee Engelstoft, a Korean-Danish filmmaker, decided to make a documentary in Korea, she had planned for it to be a happy tale about a young woman's journey to becoming a mother.  She had strong convictions that unwed mothers in Korea wanted to keep their children, but always ended up working out differently.

While this may be true for some unwed mothers, significant majority of unwed mothers really do not.  This is evidenced by so many babies being abandoned or given up for adoption even after multiple counseling and advices at the Baby Box and at the agencies. Even after two years after the initial adoption process, and being notified multiple times to take their babies back by the agencies, the Ministry of Health and Welfare, and the children's court, hundreds of unwed mothers do not want to take their children back.  Only a handful of them change their minds during the long process.

So her statement, "I’ve never met a woman who actually wanted to give away her child and that was very surprising to me because in the West, everybody has this idea about Korean women that they just easily give away their children because there are so many adoptees. I found out that this was not true."  is itself not true.  She just met only the ones that fit her narrative.

In truth, most women want to hide their child birth history as this will be a liability to them when they want to get married, or continue with their education or keep their job.  Of course the unacceptance by her family is definitely a reason.  This is obvious that her birth mother didn't want to meet with her because the birth mother wanted to remain anonymous.  If the birth mother really wanted to keep her child and was forced to give her away against her will, it doesn't make sense that the mother would not want to see her birth daughter.  Another reality is that there are many teen unwed mothers that are simply not  ready to be mothers or don't want to.  So she should have met and spoke with many other women that have given up their babies, and this would have helped her to look at a broader perspective in the movie. 

Perhaps the biggest fallacy with this movie is that she is just one-sided in terms of her view of adoption.  She needs to consider what would have been the alternative if she was not adopted. She most likely would have wound up in an orphanage, suffer parental love and care and experience the loss of emotional support and a loss of intellect and education.  She would be labeled as an orphan, and face discrimination and ridicule from the society, and would be forced out of the system at age 18 and live the rest of her lives with so much struggle and loss.  She is only looking from the perspective of a birth mother and the adoptee who was given up for adoption because the birth mother wanted to avoid being shamed, including the pressures from the society and the parents, and that adoption agencies are co-conspirators that were involved.

Her other statement, "“instead of building on the infrastructure, supporting their population and taking care of our own children, they have been sending the problems away.” is naïve, or a willful rejection of reality.  The reality of the infrastructure in Korea is that if you don't get adopted, you go into an orphanage.  Would she have preferred this instead?  

It is so unfortunate that during the eight years of making this film, she has not even attempted to understand the hearts of the thousands of orphans in institutions that long for families of their own.

Monday, June 7, 2021

Let Us Meet At SEOUL - Meet Me Via Zoom

I am honored and privileged to be a guest speaker at "Let Us Meet At SEOUL" - a program by Rev. Sung Chul Park of the Korean Adoptees Ministry (KAM). I will share my adoption story and the current development/happenings on the intercountry adoption law in Korea. This is followed by a demonstration on making "Bibimbap", a delicious Korean dish that is widely gaining world attention.

The Program is scheduled for June 19th (Saturday) at 1 PM PST, 2 PM MST, 3 PM CST, and 4 PM EST.
Below is the Zoom information:
ID: 88539565487

Hope to meet many of you at the meeting.

-Steve Morrison

Thursday, May 21, 2020

Korean Adoption Travel Restrictions Due to COVID-19

(Note:  The topic below will be discussed in great details on Thursday, May 21, 2020 at 9:00 PM EST (6:00 PM PST) at the MPAK Café via Zoom meeting, hosted by MPAK. You are welcome to join the meeting personally presented by Steve Morrison by requesting the Zoom meeting information by contacting the email at: – It’s being held Today).

The Intercountry adoption in Korea is virtually standstill due to COVID-19.
At the beginning of the year, most of the children being sent abroad were the remaining cases from last year’s quota.  Based on the three adoption agencies (Holt, SWS, and Eastern), the combined number of children that have gone home is fewer than 80 by the end of March 2020.

The Quota for 2020 was set at around 300 – the maximum allowable number of children the agencies are allowed to adopt abroad.  There is no way the agencies will meet this quota due to a significant slowdown in domestic adoption due to COVID-19 pandemic.  The quota is set by the Ministry of Health and Welfare (MOHW) each year based on the number of domestic adoption in the prior year.  The typical rule-of-thumb used is the 2/3 Rule, meaning if the agencies place 300 adoptions domestically, MOHW will allow the agencies 200 children to be placed abroad.

All adoption process has been impacted by COVID-19. Starting from April 1, 2020, the Korean government has placed a 14-Day Quarantine Period on all foreigners visiting Korea, and on all the Korean nationals returning to Korea from foreign visits.

The Family Court’s adoption process has slowed down as well due to the limited number of judges and staff present at the court to keep the ‘social distancing’. All these and more have significantly slowed down the adoption processes, not only in intercountry, but in domestic adoptions as well.

Three Options available for adoptive parents:

1.    Delay the adoption process
        By choosing to wait out until the travel restriction is lifted or COVID-19 clears
        Expected delays of 5 – 6 months or more

2.    Go to Korea when notified and go through the Quarantine period by choosing extended stay in Korea
        The Option most families choose
        Go through Quarantine period of 14-days after arrival
        After the Quarantine period, visit the agencies and the Family Court
        Typically two months stay in Korea
        Pick up the child and return home
        Financial burden – a big challenge, $100 / day (meal & lodging)
        Cheaper option may be exercised after the 14-day period

3.    Go to Korean when notified and go through the Quarantine period, but not choosing the extended stay (Not recommended)
        The first visit of 14-day Quarantine
        Show up in Court
        Fly back to the US
        Travel back to Korea and undergo another 14-day Quarantine
        Pick up the child and return
        Not recommended.  28 days of quarantine. If you can afford it, choose extended stay

The Travel Requirements

        All visitors to Korea must download and install the 
“Self-Quarantine Safety Protection App”
        This is Mandatory action issued by the Ministry of the Interior Safety
        Must abide by the guidelines issued
        Must conduct self-diagnosis for 14 days

The Consequences of violating the Quarantine

Face immediate deportation for:
        Those who refuse to download the app
        Those leaving the designated quarantine area without permission
        Those who detour or go out of the designated route from the airport to the quarantine facility will be fined up to $10,000 or One Year in Prison

At the Boarding Gate

        Thermal check to detect high body temperature measurement at or above 99.5⁰F (37.5 ⁰ C)
        Brief Interview
        Based on the thermal check and the interview, if a problem arises, the person may not be allowed to be boarded
        If high body temperature is detected, two more measurements will be made 10 minutes apart.
        If the temperature goes down, he/she may be allowed to board

The government designated Quarantine facilities

        14-Day stay is required
        $100 per day includes lodging and meals
        Paid by the visitors
       The travelers must sign the facility acceptance agreement before boarding
        Local regional cities may impose additional examination or restrictions

The information provided is valid and active as of this posting on May 21, 2020. Most of the travel information is from the LA Korean Consulate website at (
If there is a change in the policy, I will update the information with another post.

Please don’t get discouraged. Please treat this experience as if this is happening to your birth child. Don’t let anything stop you from getting your child home.  Stay safe and stay healthy.

(For more information and discussion, contact for the Zoom meeting information Today, May 21, 2020) 

Sunday, May 3, 2020

The COVID-19 and the Adoption Laws Impact on Korean Adoption

This article appeared on the May 1st issue of the Joong Ang Daily in Korea.  The article gives a detailed look at the recent COVID-19 pandemic impact on both the domestic and intercountry adoption in Korea.  The article also looks at the negative impacts of the Special Adoption Law of 2012 that have sent more children into institutions. Joon Ang Daily is one of the major newspapers in Korea and widely read.  
Original Article Source:

Children Continue to Grow While Adoption is Virtually at Standstill

The Reality of Adoption Shadowed by ‘COVID-19 Tragedy’

By Sang Un Lee, Editor in Chief, JoongAng Daily, Posted May 1, 2020

Minsoo, who is slated to be adopted abroad, is playing with his foster mother Lee Keum Sun.  At 18 months old, his adoption is delayed by the COVID-19 pandemic, and that worries many who care for him. 

An 18 months old boy Minsoo (pseudo name) lives with his foster family in Suwon City.  If it were not for the COVID-19, he may already be in the US with his family.  But now it is uncertain when he will be allowed to leave on a plane.  Minsoo is growing leaps and bound each day.  He considers his foster parents to be his by calling them mommy and daddy and can speak a little.  He considers the foster parents’ children like his older brother and sister and is attached to them.  
The adoption agencies note that a typical 15~16 months old child will have a tough time adjusting to the new environment.  Their situation is a little different than the children adopted earlier.  For Minsoo, it will be a challenge to be able to attach to the new adoptive family, and may have to long endure the pain of separation from the foster parents.  
  •  Travel challenges on visiting parents limit their visits to court
  • Some parents give up the adoption process
  • More restrictions on top of already lower adoptions due to the adoption law
  •  Urgent solution and policy revision is needed
Minsoo was born in October 2018 and was relinquished by his birth mother at the Social Welfare Society (SWS).  SWS spent 5 months of efforts to find a family within Korea for domestic adoption, but without success (The 5 months wait period is in place by law).  He was then matched with a family overseas.  His adoption process was begun in July 2019.  According to the Special Adoption Law of 2012, the adoption must be approved by the adoption court.  It takes around 4~5 months for the court to finalize the adoption.  

SWS expected that the court would summon the couple to show up in March and that the adoption would be finalized in April.  However, the court date was set to April 10th due to the COVID-19 pandemic that slowed down the court process. Also, because of the COVID-19 travel restrictions (foreigners arriving in Korea must undergo 14 days of quarantine at the visitors' expense) imposed by Korea, the couple could not keep their appointed court date.  Now the court has reset the date to mid-June. If everything goes well, Minsoo will be able to leave by July. However, due to the uncertainty with COVID-19, additional delays may be possible.

Ms. Lee Keum Sun (50), the foster mother who cared for Minsoo stated, “I am concerned that he may turn two years old. He needs to quickly adjust to the new family and forget his situation here.  Typically, when a baby leaves at 15th month they cry a lot by clinging on to me.  If he goes after 20th month it would be a more painful experience for him.  The foster mother’s eyes teared up as she stated this. Ms. Lee has fostered eight such children during the last nine years.

Adoption Agencies Facing Hard Times

Ms. Kim Jin Sook, President of Eastern Social Welfare Society

Like Minsoo, SWS has around 30 cases of adoptions that have been delayed due to COVID-19.  And the situation was the same with the two other adoption agencies, Holt and Eastern.  The domestic adoption process was also halted briefly due to ‘social distancing’ exercised by the court.
 The adoption delays not only cause problems for children, but the agencies are struggling because of it.  The agencies are faced with extra costs of overheads and social service costs that eat into the adoption costs (domestic adoption fees are government provided; intercountry adoption fees are paid by the adopting parents). Ms. Kim Jin Sook, the president of the Eastern Social Welfare Society (ESWS) adoption agency stated, “Up to now, we were barely making ends meet. But now this has happened.  We are doing everything we can to survive, even considering unpaid furloughs for our staff. There seems to be no end in sight.” 
 The agencies reached out to the government for financial assistance, but it has fallen on deaf ears. The Ministry of Health and Welfare (MOHW) stated that “We are considering ways to loosen regulations so that the agencies can use their assets as business expenses.” MOHW also added, “Taking into account that it is a special situation, we would like the court to be flexible in the method and period of investigation and hearing, but the government administration cannot engage in the judicial affairs.”

“Given the Situation, the Adoption Law Must be Fixed”

Even before the COVID-19, the number of adoptions has already plummeted.  This impacted the agencies in unfavorable ways. In 2012 the number of adoptions was 1880 (Domestic 1125, Intercountry 755).  In 2018 it plummeted to 681 (Domestic 378, Intercountry 303), which is 1/3 of what it was.  The reduction was not due to the reduction in the number of unwed mothers giving up their children.  It was mainly due to the law and the polices.  The Special Adoption Law allowed adoptions only for the children that have been registered into the unwed mothers’ family registry. If a child is not registered, the agencies cannot intake the child for adoption. 

This has resulted in the sudden jump in the number of newborn babies being abandoned at the ‘Baby Box’.  The government set an upper limit on the number of overseas adoptions to the agencies with the intention of reducing intercountry adoption by promoting domestic adoption. But the domestic adoption did not increase. In fact, it decreased significantly. When the society at large is reluctant to have more children, thus resulting in the decreasing birth rate, it is difficult to expect that there will be more families that will adopt and raise the children. The process to adopt became much more difficult due to the court requirements and proceedings.

The newly elected representative Ms. Kim Mi Ae has adopted two children.  
She hopes to change the adoption law that will send children to families rather than institutions.
Mr. Oh Chang Hwa, the leader of the Korea Adoptive Families Alliance (KAFA) stated that “The law was responsible for putting so many children into institutions rather than giving them the opportunities to grow up in families. I cannot help but question whether this law and the policies are really in the best interest of children or not.”  
In response to this, Mr. Sung Chang Hyun of the Ministry stated, “We cannot turn back the policy of complex adoption process.  We must support the concept of single-parent family structure, support continued adoption educations to overcome the social stigma against adoption, and tackling other issues is the way to go.   
The newly elected representative Ms. Kim Mi Ae, an attorney who has dealt with the adoption law issues for many years stated, “It is because of the people that are so out of touch with the reality, and are skewed by the vague idealism, making the laws behind their desk have made the adoption so much more difficult.”  Attorney Kim has adopted two children.

The month of May is the Month of Family.  It celebrates the Children’s Day and the Parents’ Day, and the National Adoption Day on May 11th.   It is hoped that the citizens will become more aware of the tragedies brought on by the COVID-19 pandemic, and the impractical laws and policies that have so negatively impacted adoption.

Tuesday, July 2, 2019

Parents Show Up Suddenly, and Snatch Away the Orphanage Separation Funds from Aging-Out Orphans

Graphics: Orphans leave orphanages when they turn 18. For the last four years around 1000 orphans aged out each year. Of the 242 orphanages with 11,665 children.  The pie chart shows where the orphans turn to for help at the time of separation. Deciding alone is 60.3%, orphanage and support center 20.3%, families/relatives 11.3%, friends 5.2%. miscellaneous 2.9%.

Parents Show Up Suddenly, and Snatch Away the Orphanage Separation Funds from Aging-Out Orphans 

갑자기 나타난 부모.. 보육원 퇴소 아이들의 자립정착금 가로채

Original Article at published on 7/1/19:

  • Orphanages give out $3,000 - $5,000…Parents with no news for 10 years show up
  • Parents entice “If you give me the money you can live with me” …then disappear with the money.
  • Even the orphanage directors ask for the Money

Choi XX (20) is just barely getting by with hard labor these days. Some days he has no money and he begs those around to buy him some meals. But when Choi left an orphanage two years ago he had over $10,000 in his possession. $5,000 from the orphanage, and the other $5,000 was what he saved.

But his birth mother took all $10,000. Choi was admitted to an orphanage when he was an 8th grade student. But when he was about to leave the orphanage his mother came calling. The mother never once visited her son during the five years he grew up in the orphanage. But she asked Choi for the money to help out with his new step father in a hospital. She also promised Choi that she will have him live with her if he gave the money over. Choi gave the entire $10,000 to his mother. But once the mother got the money, she cut off all contact with him. Choi stated, “I regret so much for giving my mother the money.”

According to the regulations outlined by the Ministry of Health and Welfare, the orphanages are required to pay out the orphanage separation fund ranging $3,000 - $5,000 to the aging-out orphans. They are usually given 18 years old when they leave the orphanages. There are some exceptions for those that go to college or have special needs the separation may occur after 20 years old.

Choi is not an exception as there are other cases of parents that suddenly show up to take the money and run. KimXX (24) has suffered a similar situation as her mother showed up at the time of her separation from an orphanage. The mother never once contacted Kim during her 11 years at the orphanage. The mother said to Kim to live together in the future. Kim followed her mother to Kwang-ju City. The mother took away the $5,000 fund Kim had. And the mother disappeared soon after. She even changed her cell phone number.

Mr. Kim Sung Min (34) is the founder of an organization called ‘Brothers Keepers’ that helps out the aged-out orphans, and he labels these types of parents as ‘Separation Fund Hunters’. He also said that the biological parents are the worst offenders of snatching the separation funds. Because there are many similar cases, some orphanages are now informing the parents that no funds were issued to the aging-out orphans to protect them. At one orphanage, one biological father kept asking about the status of his about-to-be aged out child’s funds availability, and a worker simply circumvented the situation by saying no such funds have been issued. So the father complained to the city hall and the orphanage worker had to go to the city hall to explain the situation.

There are cases where orphanage directors have even asked for the money from the orphans aging out of the facilities. KangXX (26) was asked by his orphanage director to ‘leave the funds for your younger friends remaining in the facility’. The orphanage director explained that this was the least Kang could do since he was cared by the orphanage for many years. Kang therefore left his funds of $3,000 in the orphanage.

According to the Ministry of Health and Welfare, during the last four years (2015-2018), there were around 1000 orphans that leave orphanages due to reaching the separation age. The ministry said that they are conducting surveys based on these youths. The survey deals with the use of the separation funds, job situation, their income level, and other questions related to their lives after leaving orphanages. However, the survey is not successful. Those who take the surveys are the ones that have successfully integrated into the society. But those that have hard time getting by in the society, they do not respond to such surveys. Mr. Choi Sang Kyu of the ‘Good Neighbor’ organization that supports the aging-out orphans, stated that ‘there is hardly any reports on the orphans that are struggling gets noticed by the authorities. So in truth, there is really no viable survey for those orphans that have aged-out of the institutions.

Tuesday, August 28, 2018

A Shocking Interview by a Grown Orphan - Orphan on Orphan Abuses

This is from the <Weekly IMPeter> blog site in Korea.
Special Interview: Mr. Jun Yoon Hwan of Orphans Rights Alliance.

IMPeter is a blog name, and he is very widely followed by over 600,000 readers in Korea.
For those who understand Korean, please visit the link at:

The title of the video is "Sexual Abuse and Physical Abuse is a Part of Everyday Culture in an Orphanage".

For the first time ever, an organization to voice the orphans' rights and human rights has been formed in Korea.  A former orphan himself, Mr. Jun Yoon Hwan, founded the 'Orphans Rights Alliance' to wipe away the tears of orphans that are abandoned by their biological parents.

Mr. Jun shares the horror of living through the abuses and sufferings in his orphanage while the adult care takers turned their faces, and the abuses were what he considers as 'something normal' in their daily lives.  For example, he witnessed a sexual abuse by some older boys against a first grade girl at the orphanage, and he even saw an older boy sexually molesting a younger boy as well. Tragedies such as these are pretty common place in an orphanage.

Mr. Jun of the Orphans Rights Alliance states that the abuses like these have become a daily culture in the orphanages, and it still continues to this day.

The Ministry of Health and Welfare claimed that these types of abuses may have happened in the past, but they don't exist anymore.  But contrary to what the Ministry says, the sexual and physical abuses by the stronger orphans against the weaker orphans continue to be an issue in many orphanages.

Monday, January 22, 2018

PETITION - PLEASE SIGN: Let the Children Grow Up in Homes, Not in Institutions


Rep. Nam Insoon, a Democrat in the Korean Government, and a contingent of people and organizations that are anti-adoption, have recently held a Forum on January 16, 2018 to propose an amendments to the current Special Adoption Laws that will result in significant reduction in adoption (both domestic and intercountry) and would force more children to grow up in institutions.

The proposed law takes away the adoption services provided by the agencies such as Holt, Eastern, and SWS, and 20 other domestic adoption agencies and forcing them to turn over their adoption service duties to be managed and controlled by the Ministry of Health Welfare (a branch under the Korean government), or a designated government agency. The last thing we want is more bureaucratic process that will be so inefficient, slow and worst of all, run by the people that have no love or care for such children.  It will just be day-to-day duties for the government workers, that will not best serve the children's needs.

In order to discourage and to reduce adoption, the law also mandates that birth parents have the rights to demand information on their children from the adoptive parents, and this has caused a lot confusion and anxiety among the good adoptive parents. Imagine an adopted child, being approached later by a stranger that claims that he/she is the child's parent. This would be especially hard if the child was adopted secretly and he/she doesn't know about the adoption (as this is still the most case with the adoptive families in Korea).

All this is leading to one thing...more children growing up in institutions. This all stems from the anti-adoption individuals or organizations that accuse the presence of adoption as the cause of separation of children from their birth parents. We have always advocated that adoption is simply a response to already separated children.
The law amendment language has been drafted, and is undergoing a few public hearings before it gets elevated to discuss in the Assembly and voted.
I urge all who share in the value of protecting the orphans, and all the adoptees and adoptive parents that really care for the children's rights will not stand by as this amendments only threatens the lives of homeless children, and their rights to chances at life and opportunities, and their rights to loving families.

Therefore, we call on Rep. Nam Insoon to DROP the proposed amendments immediately and completely, and STOP threatening the lives of thousands of homeless children.  Also know that the proposed amendments to the adoption law is not in the best interest of children.

We demand the following from Rep. Nam Insoon and the Government of Korea:

1. We demand that in the future when an amendment is recommended for the adoption law, please include adoptees (both domestic and intercountry adoption), adoptive parents, adoption agencies.  Do not exclude them from an early discussion as you have at this forum.  You have only included those individuals and organizations that are opposed to adoption.

2. We demand that no effort should be made to deliberately stop the intercountry adoption.  We support all efforts to reunite a child with his/her biological family. We also support that domestic adoption should be given a priority over the intercountry adoption program.  However, if the previous options are not available to a child, he/she should be given a chance to be adopted overseas.  In fact, this is the priorities set by the Hague Convention on Intercountry Adoption. There should be no consideration made to slow or block the intercountry adoption simply because of the national shame.
To a child, the best option is a loving home, whether it be in Korea or abroad.

3. We demand the rights to privacy that a birth/adoption information can only be provided when the adoptive parents agree if a child is under 18.  If an adoptee is 18 or older, the decision can be made by the adoptee without the parental approval.

4. We demand that the adoption services provided by the agencies such as Holt, Eastern, and SWS not be taken away by the government.  These agencies have 60 years of serving the homeless children, and they serve the children with their hearts. If the government takes away the adoption services, more problems will arise due to lack of expertise and individual care needed. There is no insurance against greater abuse or neglect experienced if the government performs the adoption services. According to the Hague Convention, one of the functions of the government is to accredit and audit the adoption agencies periodically. But allows leaving the adoption services to the accredited agencies. Let them do what they do best and don't take away their duties.
To all the readers, please sign this petition.  Share this widely and Let the Children Grow Up in Loving Homes, not in Institutions!