I have just learned that the final EPs (Emigration Permit) approved by the Ministry for the year 2014 is 395, the number of children that are allowed to leave Korea to overseas.
This number was based on the strict guideline set by the Ministry, which applies the 2/3 rule. This rule is used to determine the number of intercountry adoption permitted based on the number of domestic placements taken by the three agencies (Holt, SWS, and Eastern). This means that the domestic adoption in Korea (just by the three agencies) is just under 600 for the year 2014.
One note of caution is that not all 395 children have left Korea, as there are many that are still under the court proceedings at the Family Court for the finalization of adoptions. The Ministry uses the number of EPs approved in a particular year to measure the number of intercountry adoption that took place in that year.
In the year 2013, the EPs approved for intercountry adoption was at 236 children. Since the final EP for the year 2014 is 395, one may mistakenly assume that Korea is increasing its intercountry adoption. On the contrary, Korea's goal is to continue to decrease the number of intercountry adoption that takes place.
The reason for such low number in the year 2013 was that it was the first full-year where the special adoption law was implemented, and under the new law, all three entities involved in adoption - the adoption agencies, the Ministry, and the Family Court had some learning curve on how to implement the new requirements of the law into their daily business rhythm, thus far fewer children were adopted during the process. Also the Hyunsu O'Callahan's death at the hand of his adoptive father delayed the process as well.
But it is true that the special adoption law has created havoc in the lives of children as much fewer children are being placed into homes. What used to be over 1400 per year adoption before the new law (just domestic only) is now less than half of what it used to be, and this is a sad reality.
The proponents of the law would like you to think that because of significant increase in unwed mother keeping their babies has resulted in a dramatic decrease in the number of adoptions, but the reality is that very few are keeping their children, and far too many other children are put into the institutions.
They also like to point out that the law screens out undesirable parents that may be involved in drugs or alcohol, or other social or psychological ills, but in reality there have been very few who have been denied adoption because of these problems.
Perhaps the biggest reason for the decline is due to the removal of secrecy in adoption through the special adoption law. For cultural reasons, a significant number of Koreans still want to keep their adoptions secret and the new law removed this possibility.
The special adoption law removed the rights of unwed mothers from giving up their children anonymously that has caused so many abandonments in Korea. In order for them to give their children up for adoption, they are required to register their children into family registries first before being able to give up for adoption.
The issue is not the registration. The issue is making this a requirement in order to place a child for adoption. No unwed mother wants to register her baby she does want to keep. Giving up children anonymously is practiced in many OECD countries. Especially in the US, the Baby Safe Haven Law, practiced in all 50 states allows unwed mothers to give up their babies anonymously. Why can't Korea do the same?
Korea needs to change its policy before it can expect to see the reduction in the number of children being abandoned in places like the Baby Box.