South Korea is on the verge of changing its reputation as the world’s leading baby exporter to a world leader in grassroots adoption reform. The first-ever birth mother, unwed mother, and adoptee co-authored bill is moving toward a National Assembly vote with government sponsorship.
Under current South Korean law, prospective adoptive parents don’t need to undergo criminal background checks. Moreover, agencies counsel unwed mothers, whose children comprise almost 90 percent of adoption placements, to sign illegal paperwork consenting to adoption even though their children are still in their wombs. The new bill proposes urgent revisions to change these realities and stipulates a court process for adoption, a cooling off period for child surrender without duress, and the documentation of identities, among other provisions.
"What makes this reform effort distinctive is that [it] is neither the result of a top-down process nor a powerful adoptive parent lobby,” says tammy ko Robinson, coalition member and professor at Hangyang University. “This bill is co-authored and informed by those of us who have been directly affected by this law.” The bill is a coalition effort that includes Adoptee Solidarity Korea (ASK), Korean Unwed Mothers and Families Association (KUMFA), and several other groups.
"[The revision of the special adoption law] is an opportunity for South Korea to fully enter the 21st century as not just an economically developed nation, but as a socially developed one," says ASK representative Kim Stoker. “It's time for the government to end its outdated attitude toward international adoption and make concrete steps toward protecting the rights of its children and the mothers who give birth to them.”
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