New law to restrict adoption by foreigners, The Korea Times, 06-30-2011 17:54
By Lee Tae-hoon
From July next year, foreigners will be restricted from adopting a Korean child, unless the government fails to find his or her foster family here.
Under the Special Law on Adoption and its Procedures passed the National Assembly Wednesday, the government will be responsible for reducing the number of babies and children adopted by parents abroad.
It will also be required to draw up measures necessary to make them remain in the care of a Korean family.
The law will take effect one year after promulgation, which is expected to take place within two weeks.
“It puts the top priority on the welfare of adopted children,” said Rep. Choi Young-hee, a lawmaker of the main opposition Democratic Party who proposed the bill.
She argued that those adopted abroad are more vulnerable to identity crisis and abuses by foster parents.
Critics, however, say that more children will be sent to orphanages or temporary shelters as a result of the measure.
Government statistics show that of 8,590 abandoned babies and children in need of care last year, only 1,462 were adopted domestically while 1,013 were taken home by foreigners.
The number of adopted children by foreigners has seen a decrease in the past few years since the government reduced the quota for overseas adoptions since 2007.
The number of children adopted abroad was 1,888 in 2006, but it nose dived to 1,264 in 2007, 1,250 in 2008 and 1,125 in 2009, according to the Korea Institute for Health and Social Affairs.
The new legislation will also mandate parents get court approval before adopting abandoned children and adoption agencies to declassify information of their birth parents.
If the birth parents refuse to be identified, all information except for their personal details will be offered to those seeking to find out more about their origin and birthparents.
Government data show that 56.7 percent of birth parents gave permission to disclose their information when their children grow up, while the remainder demanded complete or partial confidentiality in 2009.
Thus far, those who have been adopted overseas have been restricted from accessing such information if their birth parents asked to remain anonymous.
The increase in the number of children adopted by parents in Korea has yet to offset the reduction, marking 1,332 in 2006, 1,388 in 2007, 1,306 in 2008 and 1,314 in 2009.
A recent ministry survey shows that of the 1,314 adoptive families in 2009, 40 percent of them had incomes below the national average.
The new legislation was enacted as part of government’s efforts to shed its notorious reputation as an “orphan exporter” and give more rights to adoptive children.