Yesterday I attended a really interesting seminar by Dr. David Smolin, professor of law at the Cumberland School of Law. The title was:

 Child Trafficking, the Hague Convention on Inter-country Adoption, and the Korean Adoption System

Smolin discussed at length Korea’s (perpetual) intention to scale back its international adoption program. He said the first priority should be family preservation. In order for that to happen, Korea has to change its view of the unwed mother; that she is indeed a mother, and that a mother and child do constitute a family. Second, if family preservation is not a viable option, then domestic adoption, and then international adoption as a last resort. (Note: as it is, Korean children cannot be sent for international adoption unless the agencies have first looked for a domestic placement for 5 months.)

HOWEVER. He made the really important observation that domestic adoption may not be a simple replacement for scaling back the international adoption program. In the United States, between the 1950s and 1970s, unwed mothers were “sent away” to unwed mothers homes to give birth to their children (The Girls Who Went Away: The Hidden History of Women Who Surrendered Children for Adoption in the Decades Before Roe V. Wade, Fessler 2006). The babies were then given up for adoption, and the mothers “went back” to their lives. The adoptive families pretended “as-if” their adopted children were their biological children, and the birth mothers pretended “as-if” they hadn’t given birth. Currently in Korea, the majority of domestic adoptees are written into the family registry as biological children, meaning it’s “as-if” they are the biological children of their adoptive parents. If Korea goes down this track, it has great implications in terms of secrecy and truth, the integrity of the documents, and the identity formation of the adopted person. As well, it reveals a great deal about where Korea currently stands on its views of a family formed by adoption. Apparently, it’s standing where the US was in the 1950s.

I was really intrigued by Smolin’s talk and am interested in learning more from him. Obviously, adoption from and in Korea is very complex, and a solution to these issues will not be easy. As I said in my previous post, we’ll see how things go.