“Just who does Holt think they are? to act on behalf of my parents? My mind just went blank. My whole world fell apart. I realized I’d been living a lie for 38 years.”
Adopted to France at the age of 11, Kim believed that her parents abandoned her. It wasn’t until she stumbled upon her adoption papers earlier this year that she began to doubt what she had believed all her life.
She remembers her parents clearly, but the name on her adoption papers is none other than “Nameless.” As the only Asian in a small French village, Kim grew up sexually abused by both her parents, and she began to track down the adoption agency that placed her, and we joined on her lonely, long journey. All copyrights to this video belong to KBS. KBS is a public broadcasting service in South Korea.
Kim, Yoo-ree (age 49), Adopted to France in 1984.
After that, Yoo-ree was able to track down her parents, whom she had resented her whole life. And she uncovered another surprising fact. Her parents never consented to the adoption.
“That’s the most infuriating part for me, that it happened without my parents’ consent or permission.”
Another adoptee trying to find the truth.
Louise Kwang, Age 47, was adopted to Denmark in 1976.
My name is Louise Kwang, and I was adopted into Denmark when I was one year old. I am aware that my Korean name is Kim Gwang-wu. I am staying in Korea for a while to find out the truth behind my adoption and to find my mother. Louise only started looking for her mother in 2017 at the age of 40. All her life, she had thoughts she was an orphan with an unknown identity.
“I asked for my Korean adoption file (from KSS), and then they wrote to me, First of all, I would like to apologize for the mistake in your adoption file written in English. In fact, it was made up just for the adoption procedure, and now I would like to share your adoption procedure written in the original paper.”
When a lost or abandoned child is found, they are placed in a temporary shelter. Then at least two weeks are spent to track down a legal guardian. Only if a guardian can’t be found can the child be considered for adoption.
But back then, this intermediate step was omitted. Children were often sent directly for adoption.
“Adoption agencies at the time claimed the faster it was done, the less expenses were incurred. The need to send children away quickly was something that all staff at adoption agencies were aware of. And they were under constant pressure to ensure that the process was not delayed.” Shin Phil-sik, Ph.D. in Women’s Studies Secretary General of Adoption Solidarity Confederation.
“Calling a child an orphan makes the adoptive parents feel more comfortable. If a child still has parents, it gets questionable whether that child can be eligible for adoption abroad. This condition for eligibility of adoption gets questionable. Simple making a new family register and sending the child for adoption was very convenient.” Noh He-len, Professor of Social Welfare, Soongsil University
1978 Ministry of Health and Social Affairs Research Report on IA,
Adoptive parents are more interested in and understanding of Korea, which is helpful for public diplomacy.
1982 Health and Social Committee Meeting Minutes, “Lost and abandoned children cannot receive a normal family upbringing. They are destined to become problems to society.” -Chun Myeong-ki, Minister for Health and Social Affairs
The government promoted IA .Under the policy of “Public Diplomacy and Expansion of Immigration. Trends in the number of Korean children adopted overseas peaked in the 1980s. Source Ministry of Health and Welfare
Ministry of Health and Social Affairs Adoption Business Guidelines (1978-1988)
Adoption agencies also competed to secure children. They gave financial support to welfare facilities in exchange for children.
Childbirth subsidies: $30 – $50, per delivery
Why did they do all this just to adopt children abroad?
“Overseas adoption resulted in earning a huge amount of money. It brought in a lot of foreign currency. In the 80’s, from January 1981, I worked at Holt Children’s Services for about a year and five months. At the time, sending a child brought in about $3,000. But my monthly salary was only around $200, maybe $230? So sending just one child overseas for adoption brought in more money than the annual salary of one social worker.” Noh He-len, Professor of Social Welfare, Soongsil University.