Saturday, December 28, 2013

While the Government Closed Its Eyes, the Baby Box Accepted 300 Babies

This is an editorial that appeared on the Kukmin Daily on 12/27/13
In Korean: (

I translated it as shown below. The figure was obtained from another news article, and it shows the drmatic increase in the rise of the abandonment of children after the Special Adoption Law was enacted starting August 5, 2012.

The Editorial by Kukmin Daily

"While the Government Closed Its Eyes, the Baby Box Accepted 300 Babies."

Since the enactment of the Special Adoption Law on August of the last year, the number of babies being abandoned is continuing to soar.  For the past 16 months there have been only the arguments surrounding the law but no action to resolve the problems.
Since its inception of the Baby Box on December 2009 at the Jusarang Community Church located in Seoul Kwanak-gu district, there have been over 300 children abandoned.  It is chilling to think what might have happened to these babies if the Baby Box was not around.However, the government claimed that the existence of the Baby Box violates the intents of the Special Adoption Law, and pressured the church to shut down the operation.  When the church resisted the government cut off the existing financial support to the church. The Baby Box is now being supported by the offerings and the donations, as it struggles to meet its needs.  The question that I want to ask is how the government can administer its policy in this manner.
From the beginning the Special Adoption Law has been very controversial.  The law changed the adoption reporting system at the city, region, and district level to the adoption approval process through the court, and required the birth registration as a condition to process for adoptions, and the seven-days waiting period by birthmothers before they can relinquish their children for adoption.  The government thought that this law would be highly effective and result in the better records of birth parents, stop illegal adoptions, and reduce the number of abandonments of the babies.
But the results show too many unexpected fallouts.  The unwed mothers in their teens are afraid of being identified through the birth registration requirement, and the adoption process has become impractical and complex through the use of the court system. Already there is a movement to revise the law, and the Anti-Corruption & Civil Rights Commission continues to receive many complaints regarding the law. 
Fortunately the City of Seoul has announced on December 26th, that they will utilize the social service helps from the other regions starting new year to stave off the shortage of hands in taking care of the children that came through the Baby Box.  To do this the city has raised the budget to handle this from $2500 this year to $15,000 next year.  However, there is still a shortage of social workers and professional helps through weak management.  Therefore the babies under a month still may face the risk of safety if things are not handled properly.
Even if the intent of the law was good, if it results in so many negative consequences, it needs to be re-examined. The government must come up with a solution to remedy this.  Is it conscionable for us think that these children that have been brought into this world without blessings be handled so carelessly?

Tuesday, December 24, 2013

The First Christmas Memory

The First Christmas Memory

The two boys huddled to warm themselves before a small fire burning inside a makeshift tent-like hut. The hut was so small that a grown up man could not stand. The boys ages must have been around five and the younger one around 3 ½. The night was dark and cold with knee-deep snow outside.  The boys had barely eaten anything all day long and they were hungry. 

All day long they walked the streets looking for food and rummaged through the discarded trash, and they walked the streets in hopes of finding a coin or two to buy something to eat, but the snow made it hard for them.  So it was going to be another night of going to sleep with hunger.  Their bodies itched with lice, and they would take their clothes off and heat it on the flame without burning, and would watch the lice crawl out of the seams and the boys would kill them off one by one. In a shiver they would quickly put their clothes back on.

Then out of the darkness and into the hut came in their father, with a big smile on his face, and he was in a good mood.  The boys thought something was unusual with their father, who would usually come home drunk and often beat their mother and the boys.  A few months earlier the mother, who could not stand getting beaten every day, ran away from home.   So it was unusual for the boys to see their father come home happy that night.

He reached into his pocket and pulled out a couple of breads wrapped in a newspaper, and gave it to the boys.  Then he surprised the boys by singing “Silent Night, Holy Night”… that’s all he knew of the song.  So he repeated it again and again several more times but did not know the rest of the song beyond “Silent Night, Holy Night”.  The boys didn’t understand what the song was about and they had never heard of such song before.  However, they eagerly devoured the breads and were content that their father was in a merry mood and happy they had something to eat that day. The boys would long remember that there was something special about that night.

Each day the father left the hut in the morning, leaving it up to the boys to fend for themselves.  He left no food or drink, and each day the boys roamed the streets looking for food to eat.  A few months later the boys would learn that their father is captured by the police and is put in a jail.  The boys are without mother or father and they are on their own. 

But the boys are able to survive each day as they continue to roam the streets, and able to find something to eat.  There were some kind people who would pity the boys and give some foods. There was one particular woman who sold steamed crabs under a bridge where the boys’ hut was, and she took interest in them and would often give them free crabs.  She was kind to them, and the boys like her.

One day the woman decided to take the younger boy to her home to raise him, leaving the older one behind.  She bought new clothes and put them on the younger one and took him home.  The five years old boy is now all alone for the first time.  It was the last time he would see his brother.  He was envious of his brother who now didn’t have to roam the streets looking for food to eat or be cold.

A few days later the older boy would be found by a gentleman, and he is taken to an orphanage.  He stayed there a few months before being transferred to another orphanage to get a surgery on his crippled leg.  There he meets hundreds of other children in the orphanage.   There he meets Harry Holt and his family.  

On one cold Sunday, the orphans were all gathered up in a chapel, and there they sang the “Silent Night, Holy Night”.  As the boy followed along and learned the song, he thought he had heard the song somewhere.  Then he remembered…it was the same song that his father tried to sing a year earlier where the father didn’t know the rest of the song. The boy learned to sing the rest of the song and knew it was a special song. 

All is calm, all is bright.
Round yon Virgin Mother and child!
Holy Infant so tender and mild,
Sleep in heavenly peace.

Son of God, love's pure light,
Radiant beams from Thy holy face,
With the dawn of redeeming grace,
Jesus, Lord, at Thy birth.

Through the years as each Christmas rolled in, whenever he sang this song the boy’s memory would always drift back to the time when he first heard the “Silent Night, Holy Night” from his father. And each year the meaning of the song became more and clearer to him in a special way, but at the same time it was filled with sadness and a feeling of compassion for his lost father, who eventually died without ever knowing the rest of the song.

With all the pain and abuse the boy suffered under his father, that night a long ago in a small hut, the terror became peace as the first Christmas spirit was first experienced by the boy.  The father who could not sing beyond “Silent Night, Holy Night” at least made a special night to remember for this boy, who would later bear the name of Morrison.

Merry Christmas.   

Thursday, December 19, 2013

Capt. Tim Paolini, US Navy - An American Soldier as an Adoptee Santa

From the Chosun Daily in Korea
In Korean (
Here is the translated version:

An American Soldier as an Adoptee Santa

“I came to give back to what I have received as a child.”

Adoptee Captain Tim Paolini

Capt Timothy Paolini of the US Navy visited the children to deliver the presents at the Holt Children’s Center at Seoul’s Mapo-gu District on December 13th.

“Wow, it’s the Santa!”
The volunteers shouted as a young man with the red toy bag appeared.
The young man was Capt Tim Paolini (29), a Korean-American who visited the children at the Holt Children’s Services in the afternoon of the 13th.  He has been serving in Korea as a captain for the US Navy since February of this year. 
Born in 1984, he was abandoned at the Suwon train station when he was just three years old, and was subsequently adopted to the US through Holt. 
Capt. Paolini visited the children at Holt to present them with toys. As a part of the Toys for Tots program, Cap. Paolini prepared since November by coordinating the toy drives among his troops, and placing the posters throughout the base to get the words out. 
The eyes of the five children that were at the care opened wide as the Capt. Paolini entered.  As soon as he opened the red toy bags, the children clamored around him eagerly.  There were teddy bears, toy excavators, cars and many other toys that came out of the bag and the children could not take their eyes off. The Capt. Paolini was afraid that there might not be a good reaction by the children, but once he saw how children reacted he was very happy and smiled big.
“I feel like I have traveled past through a time machine” stated Capt. Paolini as he looked at the children, for as he saw in them the images of himself 20 years ago.  He said, “As I look at these children being loved and cared, I think that there must have been someone who also helped me. Thinking of that makes me grateful.” Paolini said with a heart full of contentment.
The toys that he and his troops collected came through the donation boxes set up inside the Yongsan Base.  Over 2000 toys were collected through this program. Because he could not attend the official toy give away ceremony on 19th, he brought over 40 toys to share with the children.
As he looked over the children, Capt. Paolini was very grateful that he was given the chance to be adopted.

Wednesday, December 4, 2013

Update from Korea on Adoption Progress

I have the latest number of adoptions as of 9/30/13.  There was no data available for October or November, yet.  But as of 9/30/13, there have been approximately 490 domestic adoptions, and 140 intercountry adoptions completed. 

As of 11/30/13, the total number of domestic adoption cases submitted to the family court is around 650.  Based on this number the EPs can be submitted to the Ministry of Health and Welfare (MOHW) for intercountry adoption.  Using the 2/3 rule, this would be around 430, the number submitted to MOHW for application for the EPs.  Of course the significant portion the 430 EPs have already been approved and many have been submitted to the family court for the finalization.

The big question is, how many more EPs can MOHW accept and process while their office is slated to move to the Sejong City on December 13th and will last at least a week or so.  I asked my source whether this means all the adoption process by MOHW is essentially over for the year.  I was told that it isn't over, as MOHW stated that they will still try to process as many as they can before the year is over.

The new director at MOHW (whom I have met in Korea) is being praised for taking the issue of the EP approval seriously and being much more agressive and prompt with the process, but he sticks to the rule and does not bend easily I am told.  But he is much more effective in getting the number of EPs approved. 

My source tells me that the domestic adoption application to the family court will exceed 700 this year, thus allowing a room for 465 or so intercountry EPs accepted by MOHW. However, one must be aware that it takes time for MOHW to clear all the EPs, and many of them won't be approved until early 2014.  But the thinking is that all the EPs accepted by MOHW in 2013 will count as the total number of intercountry adoptions from Korea this year.

I am hopeful that the application for domestic adoption will reach 750, thus giving 500 EPs for intercountry adoption this year.  While 500 is way short of the initial quota of 743 set for the year 2013, the speed has picked up quite a bit lately under the new director, and for the judges the process has now become more of a routine process for them.