Understanding Transnational Korean Adoption
In May 2006, coinciding with South Korea’s second annual
‘‘Adoption Day,’’ the National Assembly member Ko Kyung Hwa
unveiled a proposal for the reform of adoption legislation. Her
proposal’s main item was a plan to discontinue the nation’s over-
seas adoption program, a fifty-three-year-old social welfare pol-
icy that spanned nearly the entire history of the Republic of
Korea. A few months later the government announced major
expenditures for a range of adoption-related projects, all of
which were directed toward promoting domestic adoption, such
as monthly subsidies for parents who adopted children, state
coverage of adoption fees, a loosening of eligibility requirements
so as to include older parents and single individuals, and the
implementation of ‘‘adoption leave’’ (ibyang hyuga)—the adop-
tion equivalent of maternity leave. In addition, to encourage ‘‘do-
mestic adoption first’’ and provide an opportunity for domestic
adopters to be located, children would be deemed ineligible for
overseas adoption for a period of five months (with exceptions
made for children with congenital disabilities) (C. Park 2006).
This announcement received plenty of media coverage in the
South Korean press, but its repercussions were felt well beyond
the nation’s borders. In the United States and Europe, expectant
parents who were waiting for their referrals—assignments of a
child by a Korean adoption agency—were informed by their lo-
cal adoption agencies that they might experience further delays
in placements, and, in anticipation of the imminent end to the
program, some Western agencies refused to accept any more
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