Monday, May 16, 2016

Life of Orphans Aging-Out in Korea

The original article is in the news, a major newspaper in Korea.

Kim (19, right) who is All-Alone, walks with Lee (17) who will age out next year.
He was abandoned by his birth parents when he was seven, and grew up in an orphanage in Ansan City in Kyung-gi province. When he turned 18 he had to be on his own (in Korea he is 19 in Korean custom). His entire asset was a meager $5,000. He didn’t even know how to rent a room, and didn’t even know how to pay the electric bill.  He felt abandoned again. 
Kim Min Jae (19), just faced the Adult Day (Morrison’s note: 성년의 , this day was established in 1973, went through some modification with the third Monday of each May being the Adult Day in Korea, applies to only those turning 19 to welcome them into adulthood of responsibility in the society). He stated, “I realized what it means to be all alone. Instead of being congratulated for turning into adulthood, the correct description is how I struggled and survived a year.”

Kim is one of those ‘All-Alone Youths”. They are also called ‘The Terminated Youths’.  The social welfare law requires them to be emancipated from an institution once a youth turns 18.  Each year, there are approximately 2000 youths that become ‘All-Alone Youths’.

The only support they get is the separation pay of $5,000 from the government. Kim was able to save up an additional $1,000 over the years, but he faced a stiff challenge to find a room of his own in the Ansan City where he lived for the past 12 years. He finally settled in the city of Kyung-san in the Kyung-buk province where he knew no one.
Finding a place to live was a daunting task.  He did not know that he had to work through a real estate agent and sign the necessary documents.  At first he spent a week at a sauna facility (Morrison note: Sauna or 찜질방 is a place that people often take bath or sauna and be able to stay for short term), but his water and power was cut off after three months.  He didn’t know the concept of paying the bills. He said, “I would often find some kinds of mail in my box but I put them back in the return box, and didn’t realize those were the bills.”  He said, “No one at the orphanage ever taught me these things. I remember sobbing in a dark room with no electricity.”

The entire asset he had was run dry only after a month.  The room deposit took $3,000, and he spent another $1,000 buying the necessary items to live.  He wanted to study to become a dog trainer and enrolled in a college, but after factoring in the government grant of $2,000 to pay for the $3,200 tuition fees, he was left to pay $1,200 to pay the remaining enrollment fee, and even his emergency fund went dry.
The difficulty of hard living came as quickly as the loneliness.  The basic cost of living of $550, which included $200, with telephone fees and foods were hard to meet each month.  He worked a part time at a coffee shop but quit after two months.  He couldn’t take his time away from studying, which was needed to qualify to maintain his government grant. Due to his part time job, his basic aid in the cost of living stopped as well.  He seriously thought about withdrawing from the school. Nowadays, to save for the cost of school, he has cut down on his food expenses. To hang around with his circle of friends is out of question.
Kim is not so bad as compared to others. Chun (23) was separated from his parents for 20 years, but could not apply for the basic cost of living due to his parents showing enough income (Morrison’s note: Many children in orphanages have parents living, but never visit or support their children). He applied for a basic cost of living to attend a college, but he was told “Your parents must first submit the ‘Termination of Parental Rights’ to qualify.”  He quit the school and got a job instead. Because of the financial difficulties faced by so many All-Alone Youths, most of them choose to work instead of education just so they can survive.  It is believed that 77% of the orphan children desire to go to college, but only 24.1% actually do.
It isn’t that there is no education provided for them.  The Ministry of Health and Welfare’s Age-Out Youth Service provides several educational programs through the orphanages, but the youths usually choose topics like ‘Expressing Myself’ or ‘Cleaning Our House’.  The education programs designed to help with self-sufficiency, such as ‘How to Apply for a Rent’ is chosen by only 1.5% of the youths, and ‘Managing Your Money’ is chosen by less than 10%. There are other small care centers (such as group homes) that are not obligated to teach the similar programs to their youths.  The Age-Out Youth Service worker stated, “We are still in the process of developing more effective pre-separation education programs for the aging-out youths”.
What is most needed is the financial helps for these youths.  A person working at ‘The Beautiful Store’ said that “I have been saving since 2011 to individually support these youths, but the overall attitude of the people in Korea is that ‘Why help the grown up adults?’, which is prevalent in the society and that’s not easy to deal with.”  He also said, “Even though they have turned into adulthood, we must not forget that they are the youths that still need our help and attention.” Park Sul-mi, the Self-Sufficiency Program Director of the Dong Myung Orphanage stated, “Not only the economic help is needed, but they also need post-separation counseling and care services as well.”

Thursday, January 7, 2016

The Reality of the Illegal Adoption Market in Korea

The Reality of the Illegal Adoption Market in Korea

This report was translated from the article that was published in the January 7, 2016 issue of The Chosun Daily, a New York Times equivalent newspaper in Korea.  A reporter went undercover to reveal the reality of the illegal adoption market in Korea. 
As I have stated several times before, the special adoption law took away the rights of those adoptive parents in Korea that still wish to keep their adoptions secret.  This was one of the biggest reasons for such a significant decline in the number of domestic adoption.  What used to be over 1400 domestic adoptions per year dropped down to less than 700 domestic adoptions.  And I also did mention that illegal internet adoption is quiet sizable and would probably make up the difference not seen in the recent years after the passage of the special adoption laws in Aug 2012.  This article by the Chosun Daily seems to validate my earlier claims on the real reasons why the domestic adoption was halved by the special adoption law. Many parents in Korea still wish to keep their adoptions secret, and the current law does not allow it, thus making many to choose illegal adoptions.

The original link of the story in Korean can be found in:

Reporters note:
“When a message “I want to adopt” was sent, the cost of introduction was $1000, an unwed mother signed a statement of “no contact”, the adopting mom acted as a birthmother in an OB/GYN clinic…and registered the baby under her name.”

This illegal adoption happens several tens of times a day…
The parents that want to adopt secretly, and the unwed mothers that want to erase their pasts

Ever since the news of a woman in her early 20s took in six children by paying money and even registering the babies under her family registry, the truth is now coming out on the existence of illegal adoption market.
On January 6th The Chosun Ilbo (Newspaper) discovered a posting on a portal site by a high school girl with a message ‘I am 8 months pregnant and is there a way to adopt away my child without my parents finding out?’.  There was a response message that said, ‘I will help you. You may call me’ and left a phone number to call.

An undercover reporter responded to the posted phone number with a message ‘I want to adopt a child without going through an agency. Is this possible?’
Within a few minutes there was a phone call from a woman in her 50s. She said,
“I work in the new born baby section of an OB/GYN clinic as a nurse, and I want to introduce you to an unwed mother who may abandon her baby and I feel bad for this child.”

The reporter told her that ‘I would prefer a girl’, and the woman called the reporter back in an hour saying, “I want to introduce you to an unwed mother who lives in Seoul Kangsuh District.”  She asked the reporter to set the date and place where the baby can be transferred. 
When asked how much she charges for the introduction, the woman broker said, “I usually charge around $1000.  Because the unwed mothers want to erase any memory of giving birth, you do not need to pay the unwed mother.”

The current special adoption law requires the adopting parents to adopt through an agency, and receive the adoption approval ruling from the family court.  To do this it is necessary to have a birth registration by the birth parents.  But the method the broker uses does not involve the court system.
When an unwed mother is pregnant, the adopting mother registers her own name as the birthmother at an OB/GYN clinic.  When a baby is born, the baby is registered under the woman who is adopting. This is so that when the new mother reports the baby at a local government office, she needs the birth registry as a proof.  Since the adopting mother was acting like a birthmother before the baby was born, there was no need for her to follow the legal method of adoption process. 

The broker stated, “This is how I introduced two or three other unwed mothers’ babies before.  You never need to worry about anything as I make an unwed mother sign the paper that says, ‘I will never see the baby nor the person adopting the child’. So all the backdrop work is done by me so you don’t need to worry.”
This type of adoption is practiced by the adoptive parents that do not want their children to learn of their adoptions later in life. But if one follows the legal form of adoption, his social ID card documentation will have a record of ‘adoption’, which might reveal to the child that he/she was adopted.   

Not only the transfer of a child between the two persons is involved, but they can adopt by choosing a gender or the blood type, and this is another reason for many choosing illegal adoption.  And the unwed mothers that do not wish to be identified and remain anonymous on their birth giving, the advantages of the illegal adoption market are very attractive.
The experts all agree that this type of adoption is being carried out rampantly.  In the internet portal site, they call this type of adoption as ‘personal adoption’, and each day there are multiple tens of postings by people that want to practice the ‘personal adoption’.

The broker I spoke with said, “If you let me know the gender and the blood type preference I can find a baby for you.”  At first the broker said to the reporter “I may have an unwed mother who is 30 weeks into her pregnancy living in Daegu”, but when the reporter said that she wanted a girl, the broker then introduced an unwed mother that had the similar months of pregnancy that lived Seoul Kangsuh District. 

In 2014 there were 637 children adopted legally in domestic Korea.  A person in an adoption agency stated that she saw some adoptive parents that came to them because they couldn’t find ways to illegally adopt children.