Tuesday, December 11, 2007

Korean Orphans

Recently a Dutch diplomat and his wife made headlines when they returned their adoptive Korean daughter:

HONG KONG ― A high-ranking Dutch diplomat and his wife, who adopted a 4-month-old Korean girl in 2000 when he was posted in Korea, gave up the child last year, officials here said.

Now, officials here are looking for someone to take care of the school-age child.

The girl, Jade, is still a Korean citizen because the adoptive parents, whose names were not released, never applied to give her Dutch citizenship, according to an official at the Hong Kong Social Welfare Department.

She doesn’t speak any Korean. She speaks only English and Cantonese, according to people close to her.

And she doesn’t have Hong Kong residency status, either.

The Hong Kong Social Welfare Department, where the Dutch diplomat left Jade in September last year, has had responsibility for her ever since, the official said.

Jade has been in Hong Kong’s foster care system, according to Hong Kong’s South China Morning Post.

The paper also reported that the diplomat, who has a senior management role at a European consulate in the city, said “the adoption had gone wrong,” without any further explanation.

“It’s just a very terrible trauma that everyone’s experiencing,” he told the paper. “I don’t have anything to say to the public. It is something we have to live with.”

The diplomat’s wife thought she was infertile when the couple adopted the Korean girl in 2000, the official said. After they moved to Hong Kong, the wife got pregnant. They now have two children of their own.

The story has fueled anger among the Korean immigrant community in Hong Kong, which criticized the diplomat couple for “irre-sponsibly renouncing their custody of a child who’d been with them more than six years after delaying the naturalization process in Netherlands for years.”

A couple of potential families in Hong Kong showed interest in the adoption, but are struggling to complete the adoption process because of the strict legal qualifications here, Koreans familiar with the incident said.

The Korean Consulate in Hong Kong said it is aware of the situation.

“We could send her back to a Korean orphanage, but she’s been away from Korea for so long, and it would be very difficult for her to re-adapt in Korea,” said Jeong Byeong-bae, a consul of the South Korean consulate in Hong Kong. “So it is for the best under the circumstances to find a Korean family in Hong Kong.”
I understand the anger coming from everybody, but since the various takes are giving me flashbacks of another child in limbo I'm more curious about the parent's decision rather than simplynjoining the bandwagon of eople calling for their heads. After some researching on why people return their adoptive chilren I found this story where the adoptive child turned out to be harmful to the younger children:
The agency didn't tell us about his mental health issues, and they knew he had them. It took us 4 years to figure out that he had Reactive Attachment Disorder, Post Traumatic Stress Disorder, Depression, Fetal Alcohol Effects, and Mood Disorders. By the time we educated ourselves and recognized what was going on, it was too late. Our son was raging in our home everyday and had tried to kill his little sister twice in front of me. This started many trips to the ER and to psyche hospitals. Two in one month.
I found some other takes on the Dutch story but the additional information is minimal. One give the girl's age as 8, the outpouring of support from the Hong Kong Korean community and even this bit of trivia:
In Korea, parents cannot return adopted children, but no such law exists in Hong Kong.
At first read it seems like a laughable sentences. I mean, it poses the questions: Is this incident so crazy that the Hong Kong courts haven't had any history to create a precedent or did Korea experience a time where Korean children were being returned to the orphanages. The outpouring of support from the Korean community should be a good sign about how Koreans feel about adoption but then I find this in a post by the happy couple in Kimchi and Cornbread:
The wrong is this: single mothers in Korea are forced by societal norms to either give up their baby for adoption or have an abortion (Korea has one of the highest abortions in the world). This equates to 6 children per day being put up for adoption, despite the country's low birth rate (the 4th lowest in the world.)

But Koreans do not and will not (for the most part) adopt other Koreans. Bloodlines are important in Korea. So important that they would never adopt another child not related to their family. Especially if it were a boy, who would one day receive his parents' inheritance.
It doesn't shed light on the discrepency in law, ut it's interesting that the attitude of Korea Koreans kind of contradicts the offers of help from the Hong Kong Koreans. Then again, the cynical side of me see the Hong Kong incident as something more to do with uniting against the white devil motif rather than show of support for a girl who has been tainted in the eyes of Koreans.

In the same Google search I also I find that it is possibly illegal to volunteer at an orphanage thanks to an interpreation highlighted by last year's Babopalooza Incident. In fact volunteering for anything isn't as easy for a foreigner:
Han Heek-young, who works at the information desk at the Seoul Help Center for Foreigners, had also never heard of non-Koreans getting in trouble for volunteering.

"I’ve never even before thought that it could be illegal," she said.

When she called the Immigration Bureau on Friday, officials would not provide her information if she would not tell the nationality of the inquirer. She said officials said the question was important because foreigners for these purposes are divided into two groups: Chinese and everybody else.

Officials said foreigners were less likely to have problems if their volunteer work was unrelated to their paid work, Han said. For example, English teachers volunteering in kindergartens are likely to be suspected of taking money under the table for English instruction.

When Han spoke to immigration officials on Monday, they told her that foreigners should have no trouble volunteering, as long as no money is exchanged, even to recoup costs.
It's somewhat related (if only by the fact that it matches the key words of 'foreigner adoption korea') but it's good to know for the Mokpo foreigners who do help out at the local orphanages.

Update: The story has evolved the past week; Monsters & Critics has this account from the maid:

The woman, who has requested not to be named, worked for the Dutch vice-consul Raymond Poeteray and his wife Meta in Hong Kong and when the family was based in Jakarta in 2002.

She said she thought it strange that the girl, now eight, was so quiet.

'They did not treat her the same way as the son. There was not the love there,' the maid told The Post.

And this analysis:
However, the couple issued a declaration which was published in the Dutch daily newspaper De Telegraaf Thursday that rejected the accusations published in the Hong Kong media.

The Poeterays said their eight-year-old daughter Jade, adopted in 2000 as a four-month-old, was suffering from what they called 'commitment anxiety' and that they were advised by the Chinese Social Services to 'place her in foster care temporarily.'

They wrote that 'contrary to what has been written in the media, we do not want to get rid of our daughter. We never even considered giving her up.'


Anonymous said...

I came across your blog while researching Korean adoptions. I am 38 years old and just found out I was adopted. I am half Korean and American. Do you know of a site that might help me get more information. Thanks.

Anonymous said...

I found this post after searching about orphanages in Korea. I actually found my half brother 6 months ago. My mother gave him up for adoption when he was 4 years old, because he was biracial (like me) and life was becoming difficult for both of them. She couldn't afford to support him and felt tremendous guilt. If this anonymous person is still reading... please email me at sakura.gyaru@gmail.com

I found my brother by posting details of his adoption of various internet forums. He found my posts 4 years after I posted them. I always knew about him and wondered about him (he's 11 years older than me) and I was afraid he'd be looking for my mom in Korea instead of in the U.S. where she lives now. Prior to posting about my brother I looked for any posts he might have written to me. I hope that you have some success in your search. Take care.

Anonymous said...

This is unconscionable! This couple should be criminally prosecuted by the Dutch Government for child abandonment. They made a commitment to to this child and now the child is left on her own in a orphanage? It is likely she has no Hangul and had had her Korean identify torn from her. The fact that this person is a "Senior Diplomat" makes it even more aggravating.