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.


  1. Thank you for so quickly addressing these erroneous claims. I do hope that the damage will be minimal and contained.

  2. Good News! - Both the Chosun Ilbo and the Yonhap News have made an updates to their articles by using "Correction" and have put proper perspective into their article. I hope the other news media will follow through with their "Corrections".

  3. HI Steve! Great blog as always. I was wondering if you knew how close Korea is to signing the Hague Convention? Do you think that will take effect in 2012? What changes will that affect? Thanks for your feedback!

  4. I think Korea will adopt the Hague Convention in the near future, but not in 2012. I would imagine in two or three years time (being optimistic). The Hague Convention essentially allows intercountry adoption to continue in perpetuity, as long as efforts are made to return the children to birth families, and when that option is not available the second priority is domestic adoption, and then intercountry adoption if the first two options are not available.