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Korean Adoptions


Situated on the Asian mainland, west of the islands of Japan, ancient Korea was a huge unified country that governed territories in Manchuria and Siberia and was renowned for having both the world's best silk and the world's best goldsmiths. The art of movable metal type was invented in Korea before 1232, long before Gutenberg printed his first bible in Europe. Koreans poetically refer to their homeland as "Choson" - "Land of the Morning Calm" - in homage to the beautifully peaceful scenery found in the mountains in the eastern part of the country.

Since the 1950s, when the Korean War occurred, the Korean peninsula has been divided into the communist country of North Korea and the capitalist country of South Korea. International adoption of children from South Korea began in 1955 when an Oregon farmer named Harry Holt was so moved by the plight of Korean War orphans that he and his wife, Bertha, adopted eight children from South Korea. The arrival of these children in Oregon received an enormous amount of attention from the press and prompted other people to adopt Korean children. Since then, about 200,000 South Korean children have been adopted internationally by families in America, Canada, Australia, Switzerland, Sweden, Norway, Denmark, France, Germany, and Luxembourg.

Today, South Korea remains a favorite choice for Americans pursuing international adoption. In 2002, 1,779 children from South Korea were adopted by American families. No dossier is required for international adoptions from South Korea, and travel is optional. The children available for adoption from South Korea are housed in foster homes, where they receive lots of warm, loving, one-on-one attention. Furthermore, South Korea's medical system is world class and on a par with the medical standards of the U.S.

What's Involved in Adopting a Child From South Korea?

The government office responsible for adoptions in South Korea is the Ministry of Health and Social Welfare. The South Korean authorities believe that the international adoption process in Korea should be child-oriented rather than parent-oriented - they keep the best interests of the child at the forefront throughout the international adoption process. (As it should be, don't you think?) Most Korean children adopted by U.S. citizens leave South Korea in the foster care of a U.S. adoption agency affiliated with one of the four South Korean government licensed adoption agencies. The adoptive parents in the United States then formally adopt the child in America.

After the child arrives in the U.S., the U.S. adoption agency follows up with the parents and child through a series of home visits at six-month intervals. The U.S. agency sends reports of the post-placement home visits to the South Korean adoption agency, which keeps the reports in the child's permanent file. The U.S. family does not officially adopt the child until the child has been in the U.S. for one year. It's important to note that the Korean adoption agencies' files on adopted Korean children are maintained indefinitely - very useful in the event that a child adopted from Korea wants to search for his/her birthmother.

In a Nut Shell: The Low-Down on Adopting From South Korea

  • Children Available: Healthy infants, both boys and girls, six months of age and older. Special needs and older children are also available for adoption.
  • Parent Requirements: Couples aged 25 to 44 years old who have been married at least three years may adopt. There must be no more than one divorce in each parent's past. Single parents may not adopt from South Korea.
  • Travel Requirements: Travel to South Korea is not required. However, it is always strongly recommended that adoptive parents travel to the country of their child's birth. Parents who do choose to travel to South Korea need stay only two or three days to complete the adoption.
  • Time Frame: From the time of your initial application through child placement averages twelve months.
  • Number of Children Adopted by Americans in 2002: 1,779
  • Additional Information: No dossier is required to adopt children from South Korea. To adopt from Korea, you should not have more than four children currently living at home. The children available for adoption from South Korea are in foster care. Children who have a low birth weight or who are born prematurely are classified as having minor special needs. Six months of post-placement reports and supervision are required.

Credits: Excerpted from "International Adoption Guidebook," by Mary Strickert

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