South Korean Adoptions

There are a lot of Korean adoptees in the United States. Today’s blog is courtesy of a story in The Guardian about the LINK>Truth Commission investigating foreign adoptions. Some adoptees sent to Europe and the US say they were wrongly removed from their families as the government in Seoul actively promoted adoption. These adoptees suspect their origins were falsified or obscured during a child export frenzy in the mid-to late 20th century.

The adopted South Koreans are believed to be the world’s largest diaspora of adoptees. In the past six decades about 200,000 South Koreans – mostly girls – were adopted overseas. Most were placed with white parents in the US and Europe during the 1970s and 80s.

The Truth and Reconciliation Commission has decided to investigate 34 adoptees who were sent to Denmark, Norway, the Netherlands, Germany, Belgium and the US from the 1960s to the early 1990s. The adoptees say they were wrongfully removed from their families through falsified documents and corrupt practices. The adoptions to be investigated are among the 51 adoptees who first submitted their applications to the commission in August through the Danish Korean Rights Group led by adoptee attorney Peter Møller. There are now more than 300 applications filed.

The applications cite a broad range of grievances that allege carelessness and a lack of due diligence in the removal of scores of children from their families amid loose government monitoring. During much of the period in question, the country was ruled by a succession of military leaders who saw adoptions as a way to deepen ties with the democratic west, while reducing the number of mouths to feed and removing the socially undesirable including children of unwed mothers and orphans.

Most of the South Korean adoptees sent abroad were registered by agencies as legal orphans found abandoned on the streets, a designation that made the adoption process quicker and easier. But many of the so-called orphans had relatives who could be easily identified and found. Some of the adoptees say they discovered that the agencies had switched their identities to replace other children who died or got too sick to travel, which often made it impossible to trace their roots. The adoptees call for the commission to broadly investigate agencies for records falsification and manipulation and for allegedly proceeding with adoptions without the proper consent of birth parents. They want the commission to establish whether the government was responsible for the corrupt practices and whether adoptions were fueled by increasingly larger payments and donations from adoptive parents, which apparently motivated agencies to create their own supply.

I Want To Annul My Adoption

The title of today’s blog comes directly from an adult adoptee. When questioned about why she would want this now, she replies –  I’m tired of being forced to live under false pretenses.

Parties who can reverse an adoption usually include the birth parents, adoptive parents and the child being adopted. In order for an adoption to be reversed, a petition must usually be filed by one of these parties and the court must be convinced of a compelling reason to reverse or annul the adoption. This is usually weighed under the legal standard of the best interests of the child.

An adopted child may wish to have his or her adoption vacated. They may wish to change this status when they are natural adults due to poor relationships with the adoptive parents or because they wish to reestablish contact with their birth parents.

Once the adoption has been reversed, the child’s birth certificate is changed to reflect its original state before the adoption.

Certainly a person who was an infant or minor child at the time of the adoption was obviously not able to consent to it and so an adult adoptee should be able to accomplish this, if that is their wish.

To annul an adoption requires legal representation and it’s expensive. A simpler and easier step in that direction is to request a legal name change. And just doing that is empowering.

And many adoptees do want their original birth certificate.  This is becoming more possible in about half of these United States. That in itself does not erase the validity of the birth certificate changes as part of a legal adoption.

One woman who has actually been looking closely at this writes – You’d have to be re-adopted again by your birth parents. You don’t have the option of annulling and reinstating your original birth certificate and identity, which seems wrong. You aren’t allowed a birth certificate without parent names.

She goes on to express her personal opinion – Adoptees should have the option of annulling an adoption considering most of the time we didn’t even consent to it in the first place. Why should I have to honor a contract, that alters who I am, made on my behalf without my consent for the rest of my life?

This is potentially a civil rights and human rights issue. Many adoptees object to the childish way they are treated like less than full citizens, with different rules applying to them to make them less than other people.

Taken At Birth

We do not have commercial TV or streaming service in my home, so I have not seen this series, though I know this is what happens.  Today, I read a rational question about adoptions – I don’t know why after this, birth certificates don’t have a place for natural parents and adoptive parents on them? Doesn’t make sense why we haven’t evolved our legal system to preserve people’s identities.

At least that.  Better yet – no false identities.  No falsified birth certificates.  No loss of genetic connection, which is what I think this person’s comment indicates.  Can there not be a “new” kind of birth registration that acknowledges the reality ?

TLC shares this about their series – In 1997 a shocking story made headlines. Thomas Hicks, a small town Georgia doctor, illegally sold more than 200 babies from the back door of his clinic. Jane Blasio has been trying to uncover the mysteries of the Hicks clinic for over 30 years. She is joined by Lisa Joyner and Chris Jacobs as they try to bring closure to those stolen babies desperately searching for their true identities and birth families.

In fact, the ’90s were a time for shocking revelations about adoption as Georgia Tann’s scandal from the 1920s to 1950s re-emerged in the national consciousness.  And by late in that decade, sealed adoption records became accessible in some cases such as in Tennessee for Tann’s victims.  In 2017, that allowed me to obtain my mother’s adoption file, though it had been denied her in the early 1990s, she never learned that she could have gotten this file while she was yet alive.  It is a sadness because she would have seen a photo of her mother and learned alot about the true circumstances of her adoption.

The comment I shared above had some more thoughts.  “I was shocked at the empathy and benefit of the doubt given to the Adoptive Parents. I think I would consider them kidnappers if I was coming in from the outside to help track down the truth. It definitely showed me more of what Hopeful Adoptive Parents will do when they are desperate for a child.  I also am just heartbroken for these families and the adoptees. Felt like in episode 2, you finally get to hear a testimony of just how devastating this is for them.”

The only good thing I can say about this increasing awareness is that it is a good thing.  Reforms and changes are likely to be encouraged as more people learn the truth about the impacts of separating babies from their natural mothers.


I came across a perception recently that adoptive parents are always hungry for stories coming from adoptees.  That what they are really seeking is approval that they are doing the right thing.

As adoptees are speaking up more in these modern times about how adoption has impacted their lives and affected their choices, the people who always had the privileged position in the adoption triad are now questioning their motives (or should be, if they aren’t).

What’s been done cannot be undone and the results are a fact of life.  That is the case for all of the adoptees in my own inner family circle.

But caring people should be paying attention because prospective parents could still seek to help a life be more stable by looking to the foster care system and offering a permanent solution for the older youth incarcerated within it.

Society could find it in it’s compassionate heart to be supportive of young women who find themselves pregnant with inadequate resources to parent their child.  We could find ways to help them rather than leave them at the mercy of a profit focused business model seeking to effectively sell their babies away from them.

Every person and every action affects the whole collective.  It is said that the flutter of a butterfly’s wing can cause a tsunami of good around the world.  Adoptees are fluttering their wings these days.



Secrecy in adoption was always meant to protect the adoptive parents from the original parents after a child was taken in adoption.

These concepts were not true –

Actions once thought natural, such as attempts by adoptees to learn information about their birth families, came to be socially disfavored and considered abnormal.

They were the psychologically unhealthful product of unsuccessful adoptions that had failed to create perfect substitutes for natural families created by childbirth, and they indicated adoptees’ rejection of and ingratitude toward adoptive parents.

Secrecy was viewed as an essential feature of adoptions in which birth and adoptive parents did not know one another.

Here is how hiding an adoptee became the law of the land –

Edna Gladney who was an illegitimate child but later went into the adoption profession and Georgia Tann whose name became associated with a scandal of stealing and selling babies were the prime movers for concealing an adoptees identity by falsifying their birth certificates and allowing adoptive parents to change the name the child was born with.  Then, the original records were sealed.

In the 1990s, a renewed media attention on the Memphis Tennessee Children’s Home Society scandal resulted in activists finally breaking open the secrecy contained in Tann’s adoption files for those persons affected (including descendants).

There are still many states who continue to maintain sealed records.  In my own efforts to discover who my own original grandparents were, I bumped up against the solid walls in Arizona, California and Virginia.

Motherhood Erased

There is a dirty little secret about the concept of “Open Adoption” and that is it is often not what it was purported to be.  The wall was so thick the adoptive parents never knew the original mother would have wanted to know her child.

I think about how Lizzie Lou must have been hurt by never hearing from my mom, from my mom’s total absence from her life. The parties to adoption have often NOT been given the whole story about the situation, so that they could make informed choices.

The “story” about the original mother wanting to move on with her life in most cases was never true. Some original parents may have thought they had an open
adoption. They may have expected their children to reach out to them “someday”. I know that my youngest sister signed up for an adoption registry for just that purpose because she put my name on it as a contact that might help her son find her someday. She also told the adoptive mother how to locate us through our business.  She wasn’t taking any chances he would be entirely cut off unless that was his own desire.

The adoptive parents may have been told that they could have no contact with the original family and that the original family didn’t want that. Some adoptive parents renege on their promise to stay in contact with the original parents.

This may have been how my mom felt – I didn’t know your name. Your name was hidden away in my adoption files, so was the name you gave me at the time of my birth. My birth certificate has my adoptive parents’ names on it as though they gave birth to me, your motherhood of me was erased by the system that has been adoption.

My mom could not find her mother because her records were amended and
sealed, so were my dad’s – he was also adopted. This falsifying of their identity is what many adoptees must overcome if they want to find their original parents.

It is wrong for a mother considering adoption not to be told about what will happen to her child’s original birth information.  She should have this clearly explained to her before she consents to the adoption.

The original mother may not have anticipated that her motherhood was about to be erased as soon as she signed the consent papers.

Who Am I ?

“Whose tummy did I grow in ?”

Consider this.  Most of us take for granted that we grew inside our mother’s womb.  A child that has always been told they were adopted will eventually reach a point where this question will arise in their own mind.  In closed adoptions, the child will never be given an answer.  In fact, great care has been taken to erase every fact related to their beginning in life.

Georgia Tann often falsified birth certificates and original parental data so that even after records were allowed to be opened for “qualified” persons (the adoptee or their direct descendants) one had to view the information skeptically.  I am fortunate that for the most part, the information in my mom’s adoption file seems to have been accurate.

But there was fudging about the nature of her parents who were presented to my adoptive grandmother (who thought very highly of advanced education) as two unfortunate college students who were caught by pregnancy.  That was hardly the truth.  My grandmother never went to college and my grandfather was a widower 20 years older than her who had already fathered 5 children.

Adoptees in a closed adoption will have their birth certificates falsified (as both of my parents did) to appear that their adoptive parents gave birth to them when they did not.  They will have their original name changed to something the adoptive parents want.  In my dad’s case, it happened twice, because my Granny divorced the husband she was married to when she adopted my dad.  The second husband objected to my dad carrying the vanquished man’s name and so at an age of already 8 years, my dad was given a new name.

Is it any wonder that adoptees often struggle with an identity crisis ?  Many adult adoptees believe that adoption should be ended.  The children should be given guardians and keep all of their original identity information.  Much like in the case of slavery, a child is not something one owns but a human being we are privileged to protect and provide for.


Late last night I waded into a lengthy thread in a private group here at Facebook related to adoption.  More specifically, they are on a mission to mostly, if not completely, end adoption.  The most compelling and highlighted “voices” are those of adoptees with the mothers who lost a child to adoption given the next highest priority.  Adoptive Parents (or those who hope to) can find themselves under heavy fire and not all of them can cope with that.

I do believe the voices in this group speak honestly a perspective that really needs to be seriously considered.

Other than financial inheritance questions which primarily affect wealthy adoptive parents and the children they adopt (I am familiar with that from my own family’s dynamics), there really is NO good argument for ever adopting a child.

There are alternatives – taking in a foster care child who really needs a home and providing for it (not adopting it and accordingly to my understanding, foster care is generally considered temporary and reunification with the natural family is the goal).  Another alternative is guardianship and NOT changing the child’s identity at all (no name change, falsified identity, birth certificate tampering).  When the child (who generally has no say in the adoption process) becomes an adult, then they can decide what kind of formal or informal relationships they want going forward.

One other suggestion would be for a couple who believes they want to adopt to basically become a kind of loving aunt and uncle to a mother and her child.  Provide the support that the mother’s own family and society may not be willing to give to her.

Though not all adoptees admit to being harmed by having been adopted, the majority have wounds, may be in therapy or commit suicide at a higher rate than the general population.

ALL adoptions require the separation of a child from its natural mother and all children would chose the natural mother if financial support and mental health requirements could be met to allow them to stay together.

Why Anonymous Isn’t Anymore

There’s been a bit of controversy recently about assisted reproduction and the use of anonymous donors and previously created embryos.  I’m quite familiar with the issues as it became a part of my own life.

I know of others who have gone down this path who I believe made foolish choices not to be truthful about what they did.  There is a difference between not sharing private details publicly and not telling one’s own family members an important truth.

I have also been blessed by inexpensive DNA testing and the matching sites – Ancestry and 23 and Me – for revealing the truth that my parents were prevented from knowing due to closed adoptions and sealed records.  It is hard to imagine being forced to live a false identity so that strangers can claim you as their own (changing birth names and certificates to fit a manufactured reality).

I am grateful we followed a path of our own making and have been honest about the details with our sons.  We’ve not lied to them – ever.  We’ve also not made a big deal about how their conception was different than the more common method.  We are pioneers in a brave new world.