Monday, November 28, 2011

MPAK National Conference to Promote Domestic Adoption in Korea

I have been back to the States two weeks ago, and hadn't had a time to post my trip to Korea until now.
MPAK had its 11th Annual National Conference to Promote Domestic Adoption in Korea.  It is 11th year instead of 12th year since we skipped one year due to SARs influenza that spread through Korea two years ago, and the government advised against people congregating.

This year's conference was at Jeonju, a city three hours southwest of Seoul.
The conference drew approximately 600 people from all over Korea. 
Mainly the MPAK adoptive families came by bus loads from Busan, Kwangju, Seoul, etc.
The conference was held at the Jeonju University, which had a beautiful campus on a hillside.

The group photo of the people that remained to take the picture after the conference.

The city of Jeonju is very beautiful, as the city prides in the traditionally famous Korean dish called, "Jeonju Bibimbap", which is a mixture of lots of vegetables with rice with sesame seed oil and hot bean paste in a hot stone pot. The city also prides in establishing a section of the city with many traditional style houses or buildings to use as hotels or restaurants, and our group stayed one night in such a place.  The road to Jeonju was also a pleasant one except for a few spots of traffic jams.

The Road to Jeonju

As we entered the Jeonju University campus, several banners hung on the side of the streets to announce our MPAK events, and they hung there as if to welcome us.  The banner states, "An Event of Love and Happiness, Adoption! A Field of Celebration "  This was held on November 12, 2011.

Fun activities like crafts were offered to children as they got ready for the conference.

Moonbounces, a stilt walker with balloons, many happy kids enjoyed various activities.
Face paintings for kids

Stage was decorated with fancy ballooons

A senior citizen harmonica band started the event.  They kept wanting to play more music, but we kindly had step in to stop them hogging up the time - only lmited time for other programs.
Adopted children from MPAK-Jeonju put on a traditional dance performance that delighted all those in the audience.
Brian Shin, who is from Aliso Vijeo, CA, delivered a moving story of his adoption experience that was a highlight of the event.  He and his wife Kathy have adopted three children from Korea.  Although Brian lives in the US, the story of adoption is a common bond that unites adoptive parents, and they were blessed through his story.

The audience listens to Brian Shin's adoption story

MPAK Adoptee Children's Choir consists of all adopted children, and they practice weekly.  I believe this is one of a kind of choir group, all consisting of adopted children that I have not seen elsewhere in the world. There is a potential that this choir may visit the US to perform next year, but financing their trip is the biggest challenge.

All in all, the amount of efforts and details put into such conference was an enormous undertaking.  The event will most likely result in helping more children find homes.  I would like to thank MPAK staff in Korea for their hard works and all the volunteers that helped.  But most of all I would like sincerely thank all the adoptive families that drove long distance to come together to celebrate adoption from all over Korea.

In the fall of 2000, when I organized the 1st conference to promote domestic in Korea, a special pastor couple attended the conference out of curiosity after seeing a banner in the street announcing our event.  They were so moved by our event and immediately adopted a baby girl within weeks of time.  That baby is standing at the far right in the picture above (tallest girl).  Her name is Suha Kim, whose story was featured earlier at:

Adoption is Love. 
Adoption is Born of Hearts.

Tuesday, November 22, 2011

Adoptee Deportation Issue

Adoptees that don't have the US citizenships are being deported by the USCIS.

This is the letter I wrote to the US Senator Mary Landrieu of Louisiana, who sits on a committee for the US Department of Homeland Security that oversees the US Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS).

Dear Hon. Landrieu,

My name is Steve Morrison and I remember meeting you at the Adoptee Gathering in DC in 1999.  Susan Cox organized the event and she is like my older sister and very close.

Two weeks ago I visited Korea and had a chance to have a meeting with the officials in the Ministry of Health and Welfare (MOHW).  I have a real good relationship with MOHW as I have been promoting domestic adoption and also by Korean-Americans to reach out and adopt homeless children for over ten years.  I am also an adoptee and the founder of Mission to Promote Adoption in Korea (MPAK),

During my visit with MOHW, I was told by the officials a couple of adoptees that had the issue of not getting the US citizenship and were living in Korea.  They asked me if I could do something for them when I return back to the States. 

One adoptee was living in Korea voluntarily (Matthew Scherer), and the other one was deported.  His Korean name is Mr. Mo, Jungbo (MOHW didn't know his American name).  Mr. Mo was deported after his criminal activities in the US with drugs, and he quickly ran out of money in Korea and became a homeless man in Itaewon. 

His story was brought to light and the Korean media featured his story and many people in Korea have expressed outrage at the US.  Also the people were outraged at the MOHW for sending him to the US to be adopted, and the officials took a lot of heat from the public.

Korea is at a juncture where its intercountry adoption (ICA) program is continually being criticized and scrutinized with many questions on when it should continue or not.  Some anti-adoption groups have used this incident to speak against ICA, and criticized the Korean government (mainly MOHW) for allowing this to happen.

My reaction to the deportation issue was of disbelief.  I wondered how a person that was legally adopted into the US as a child could be deported back to Korea just because his parents did not apply for a US citizenship. This despite whether an adoptee has a criminal history or not.

Especially for an adoptee who doesn't speak the language or know of the culture, I could not believe that USCIS would deport him without due consideration as to how he legally entered the country, and that it wasn't his fault for not being registered as a citizen. I felt that USCIS was very callous and inhumane for the way they handled Mr. Mo's case. 

After hearing from the MOHW officials on the plight of Mr. Mo, I remember saying to them, "This is not right, and this is not the America I know."

After I came back to the States, I found to my delight, there was a petition drive already on the way.  The drive was put out by the Korean Focus through '' website that is underway.

I urge you to support this peitition and be a voice for adoptees that are not US citizens for no fault of their own, and be a force in stopping the unfair deportations of adoptees.  Thank you very much for your time and I believe you can make a difference in this issue.  Thank you.

Steve Morrison

Link to sign petition:

Monday, November 21, 2011

Recent Misinformation in Korean Media in Adoption

Recently there have been flood of articles in the Korean media with big headlines that claimed, "The Number of Korean Children Adopted to the US, Embarrassingly No. 1 After 17 Years - Why?" (美입양 한국아동 수, 17년만에 다시 부끄   러운 세계 1위… 왜?). 

This article was first published by the Chosun Ilbo (Chosun Daily) and the article in Korean can be found at the following link:
The article said that Korea has retaken the lead as the number one exporter of Korean children to the US after 17 years.  And this article spread among the Korean media like a fire.  I read the same contents over and over on other media outlets. 

The article erroneously stated that China, which is the biggest sender of children to the US with around 2589 children (Oct 2010 to Sep 2011 Data) had 48 children adopted by the US citizens and the rest (2541) were adopted through the US to other countries.  By the same token, the adoptions of the Korean children to the US families during the same period was 734 children.  The article went on to say that in the similar fashion, the 2nd place was Philippines (216), Uganda (196), India (168), and Ethiopia (126)...etc.  So Korea with 734 children placed in the US was far above the other countries, and the reporter falsely misinterpreted data and published the erroneous article.

When I first read this article, I knew immediately that the contents did not make sense.  Why would the US have the Chinese children to come to the US and re-send them overseas for adoption?  All 2541 children?  Something did not make sense as I knew the entire 2589 Chinese children were adopted by the US families.  So I went digging and went into the US Departement of Homeland Security and found out the following facts in:

In the table with the title "IMMIGRANT ORPHANS ADOPTED BY U.S. CITIZENS BY GENDER, AGE, AND REGION AND COUNTRY OF BIRTH: FISCAL YEAR 2010", I list a few countries with the number of children adopted by the US citizens (Note: this is entire 2010 data, not the same period used by the Chosun Ilbo using Oct 2010 - Sep 2011), so the numbers will be different.

1.  China     3,361
2.  Ethiopia  2,548
3.  Russia     1,079
4.  Korea     875
5.  Ukraine   445
6.  Taiwan    277
7.  India       249

Note the title of the table says, "...ADOPTED BY THE U.S. CITIZENS..." meaning that these children did not go through the US to be placed in other countries like the Chosun Ilbo claims, but they were adopted by the US citizens.

Upon checking this fact I contacted the Ministry of the Health and Welfare (MOHW) and the adoption agencies in Korea to let them know that the article was in gross error, and expressed my concern that this article may cause anouther uproar to end the intercountry adoption in Korea.  They said that they were busy all day long in answering various questions by media and others.  Essentially, they had to spend all day long to put out the fire so to speak. 

MOHW talked with the reporter of the Chosun Ilbo and found that the initial error was due to the wrong translation by the reporter who wrote the story.  It turned out that he got confused with the terminology of  "finalized in overseas" and "finalized in the US".  He misunderstood that "finalized in overseas' meant that the children were actually sent abroad instead of the adoption being finalized in overseas so that children could come to the US.  Apparently there is different finalization process depending on the countries that children come from.

The reporter admitted his mistake.  But the damage has already been done.  Thankfully the MOHW and the agencies in Korea have been doing good job in trying to control the misinformation that was caused by the reporter who was too eager to jump into a false conclusion without fully checking the facts.  I supposed this sort of things happen all the time in the media world.

My only hope is that this wave of misinformation will pass away quickly, and pray that no children will be suffered from not having family of their own due to this article.  And you know that media rarely apologizes for their mistakes.

Tuesday, November 15, 2011

For Those in Southern California - An Invitation

For those of you who live in Southern California area, you are welcome to attend the following event hosted by the Golobal Cultural Club in LA that wish to provide "Korean Culture Day" for adoptees and their families.  This is open to all (whether you are Korean heritage or not) who have adopted Korean children from 10:30AM - 1:00PM.  There will be lots of food, traditional dance, song, and they will also provide gifts to all adoptees.  I plan to be there and have been asked to speak a few words to the people.  This should not conflict with the 12th Annual MPAK Christmas Gathering scheduled for 5PM on the same day in Cerritos, CA.

Global Cultural Club Presents...

Wonderful Korean Culture Day

    Invitee: Adoptee (No age restrictions) and their Families
       First 25 Families Registered Only
(Registration must be met by Nov. 20th for preparing)
    Saturday, December 3, 2011   10:30 am – 1:00 pm
    Korean Education Center, LA
       680 Wilshire Place 2FL, LA, CA 90005
       Korean Traditional Dance, Song, etc. Presentation
              Korean Cultural Experience (Traditional Bow, Games, Songs, etc.)
              Korean Food, Korean Dresses, Gifts, & Magic Show
    Talent Show! There will be awards to participants.
           Register (Names of Attendees, telephone, address, email)
Telephone: 213) 388-9191, 213) 448-7646

Hosted By:        Global Cultural Club