Washington State Senator Paull Shin, French digital economy minister Fleur Pellerin and French Senator Jean-Vincent Place. They all have something in common.
All three are Korean adoptees who have become successes in their adopted countries.
Behind the success stories of those people, however, are others who suffer emotional distress after being adopted by foreign parents.
Adoptees' rights activists say many of the children sent for inter-racial adoption suffer racial and other social discrimination, constantly longing for their biological parents and homeland.
In the United States, a country where adoptees must undergo a separate procedure to obtain citizenship, more than a few adoptees never become naturalized, partly due to indifference from their adoptive parents.
According to South Korea's health and welfare ministry and an activist group devoted to Korean adoptees' human rights, there are 23,000 Korean adoptees in the U.S. whose citizenship status the groups do not know.
The figure represents about 20 percent of some 110,000 adoptees sent to America over the past 60 years since the 1950-53 Korean War.
A majority of those 23,000, in fact, appear to have obtained U.S. nationality but the true figure remains unknown due to local adoption agencies' poor management of post-adoption information.
"Most of the unconfirmed cases may be caused by the agencies' failure to inform the government of information on adoptees' acquisition of U.S. nationality," said Rev. Kim Do-hyun of the activist group KoRoot. "But several thousand of them are still believed to be living without any nationality."
In recent years, a sizable number of adoptees have been deported to Korea after being convicted of criminal charges while living overseas without becoming citizens of the country in which they live.
"As far as I know, there are more than 100,000 adoptees who voluntarily returned or were deported to South Korea while living without nationality," Kim said. "But the actual number may be larger than this when the number of people who live in South Korea without telling others they were deported, for fear of possible disadvantages, is counted."
The returnees are often unwelcome in Korean society, also.
Except for those with professional skills or fluency in the Korean language, most face language and cultural barriers.
Some return to locate their biological parents and find their true Korean identity only to discover that all the personal information they thought they knew about themselves was fabricated to facilitate their adoption.
2 months ago