Welcome. This is a site put together by Korean adoptees for Korean Adoptees. Here you will find a history overview of Korean Adoption, and resources that can help you learn more about why so many babies and children have been adopted from South Korea to Western countries.
We would like to acknowledge and thank HyunJu Chappell, Molly Cho, Deann Borshay Liem, and Yong Chan Miller, who created a seminar about titled “Radical Korean History for Adopted Koreans” that led to the inspiration for this project. You can find their curriculum here and on the Resources and References page.
Transnational adoptions began in South Korea after the Korean War, and continue to this day, despite South Korea’s transformation from one of the world’s poorest nations after the Korean War into one of the world’s wealthiest today.
Our motivations for providing a high-level overview of the history of South Korea and Korean International Adoption are many. First, this history is something not typically shared with us by our adoptive families, who themselves often don’t know much, if anything, about why so many children have been adopted from South Korea.
Additionally, this history is also not something we were taught in school. Growing up, we probably didn’t think about the larger political and social reasons that contributed to our being adopted from Korea. Or maybe we were given limited information or misinformation that resulted in us having a one-dimensional story of how and why we were adopted from Korea.
And finally, many of us grew up in isolation, feeling singular and alone. Perhaps we felt being adopted from Korea was limited to being something personal to us, or something that happened to us as an individual, and nothing more.
Learning about the history of Korean adoption can help re-write this too common individualistic narrative and, we hope, help more of us connect our personal experiences to the larger collective experience that all 200,000+ Korean Adoptees share.
We also see understanding our collective history as an opportunity to build a bridge between the false binary of “angry adoptees” vs. “happy adoptees”. We don’t have to take one emotional side or the other. We can feel and hold multiple emotions and truths about being adopted. We can hold feelings of anger, grief, gratitude, happiness, and everything in-between.
It is our hope that, in learning about the complex causes and conditions, and understanding the incredible obstacles and challenges Korea has dealt with, more Korean Adoptees gain a more nuanced and complex understanding of why we grew up in adoptive families instead of in Korea, and that this understanding provides a sense of compassion for Korea and all it has endured and overcome.
We also would like to say that, though history is framed as something that happened in the distant past, the history of adoption from South Korea is relatively new – only about 70 years in the making. In light of this, we invite you to think of yourself, along with your fellow Korean Adoptees, as living out and creating our continued history right now. As more of us, now adults, explore our history, what we do next as individuals and as a collective, shapes and will shape our shared story.
Learning about Korean history and culture, and asking critical questions about the role international adoption has played in that history, is important not just for ourselves, but for the future or international adoption.
Finally, we hope others will be interested in studying this history in their own cities, and can find a way to connect as a community. We strongly encourage you to form your own study groups if you can, or at least engage in learning more on your own. And please feel free to reach out to us for ideas or support at firstname.lastname@example.org.
For those of us interested in doing birth family searches, or otherwise starting this “Korean heritage” chapter of our lives, we hope that learning about our history is ultimately healing and empowering.
Periodically we will update the sit with new information so please come back and visit from time to time!
Leslie, Dina, Eun, Jasmine, and Mary