Adoption Ad Stirs Controversy, The Wall Street Journal, May 11, 2011

Adoption Ad Stirs Controversy, The Wall Street Journal, May 22, 2011
By Jaeyoon Woo

One of the hot topics online in South Korea today, the sixth Adoption Day, was a soon-to-be-aired baby commercial by the Ministry of Health and Welfare.

Screen capture of the commercial

The issue surfaced late last month when the ministry said it planned to air the commercial, the first of its kind, featuring babies who are waiting to be adopted. The ad is part of its campaign to “find homes to those on the waiting list for adoption,”1,800 in total, and to “accelerate the adoption process.” The one-minute-long clip shows the potential adoptee and basic information including physical characteristics and contact number.

Though it may be well-intentioned, the commercial triggered concerns about privacy and whether it will effectively promote domestic adoption.

In an apparent effort to dispel privacy worries, the ministry said it reviewed potential legal issues and it emphasized that the strategy has been used in the U.S. and U.K. and proved effective in encouraging adoption.

But many remain doubtful.

“In Korean society where open adoption is not common, we remain very skeptical how [the commercial] can have a positive effect in promoting domestic adoption,” an opposition Progressive Party said in a statement.

The statement also noted the urgent need to improve “welfare policies for single parents who shoulder the burden of child-rearing in a challenging situation,” and emphasized “reducing the number of adoptees takes priority over adoption promotion.”

Adoption has been always a sensitive issue in Korea, one of the world’s biggest sources of overseas adoption. According to the data from the ministry, a total of 19,345 children were sent overseas for adoption from 2000 to 2010. The issue is a web of complicated, hard problems—longstanding social emphasis on blood-related family, social welfare system which some say inadequate, and a deep-rooted bias toward unwed mothers and their children.

One positive trend has been seen: The number of overall adoptees has nearly halved over the past decade, to 2,475 in 2010 from 4,206 in 2001. Another notable trend is that domestic adoption slightly increased, to 1,462 in 2010 from 1,314 in 2009.

Today, the ministry said it will help overseas adoptees find their biological families and introduce legislation to ease the financial burden on adopting families and to protect the rights of adoptees.


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