Korea Still Ranks 3rd for Adoptions to U.S.

      May 09, 2016 12:41

      Korea's economy has grown to the 11th-largest in the world, but the country is still the world's third-biggest destination for the adoption of orphans after China and Ethiopia.

      The Korea Adoption Services last week said of the 5,648 children from other countries adopted by families in the U.S. last year, 2,354 came from China, 335 from Ethiopia and 318 from Korea. Only one orphan was from Indonesia, which remains a developing country, while 59 came from Taiwan, whose economy is of a similar size to Korea's.

      Korea was the No. 4 or 5 exporter of orphans for adoption to the U.S. for some time, but dropped to 15th place in 2013. The dip was due to a policy shift that required a Korean birth certificate and court approval for foreign adoption, which exposed the identities of the mothers who gave up their child. But Korea returned to the No. 5 spot the following year and is now back in third place.

      The number of orphans being sent to the U.S. for adoption has been declining steadily since 2000, but the country remains among the world's top five exporters of orphans to America.

      Russia, which was once the most popular source of orphans for adoption in the U.S., banned adoption to the U.S. in 2013, while Congo, Haiti and Uganda made it more difficult for orphans to be adopted abroad. But 7.5 out of every 10 Korean children adopted by foreign parents end up in the U.S.

      The number of babies born in Korea is declining due to the low birthrate, but many are still adopted by foreign parents because of the stigma that still attaches to birth out of wedlock.

      According to the KAS, 95 percent of orphans sent abroad for adoption were born out of wedlock. In 2014, 8,459 children were born out of wedlock or 1.9 percent of all children born, and two to three percent of those were sent overseas for adoption. Including those adopted in Korea, some 10 percent of babies out of wedlock were adopted.

      A KAS staffer said, "We need to overcome the stigma against unmarried mothers and provide support so they can raise their children on their own."

      Single parents receive W100,000 a month in child support, but the funding stops once the parent starts earning more than W1.44 million a month (US$1=W1,158). Critics also point out that support payments to families that adopt orphans are much smaller than the money given to grandmothers or other relatives of children born out of wedlock who raise them.

      Adoption agencies send orphans for adoption overseas after looking for a family in Korea for only five months to a year, and experts say that period should be extended to two or three years.

      In 2007, the number of orphans adopted in Korea (1,388) surpassed the number of orphans sent abroad for adoption (1,264) for the first time. But adoption here remains low and dropped back to around 600 in 2012 after the government made the birth certificates mandatory and tightened screening criteria for prospective parents.

      Korean families also prefer healthy baby girls for adoption. Baby girls accounted for 65 percent of the total number of orphans adopted in Korea in 2014, while 82 percent of orphans sent overseas for adoption were baby boys.

      "Korean families tend to shun baby boys due to potential complications when it comes to inheritance in the future," a KAS staffer said.

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