Tuesday, August 3, 2010

Research Symposium of the International Korean Adoptees Associations - IKAA

Today we spent the whole day at IKAA'a research symposium. This was the first day of IKAA's gathering in Seoul. Of particular interest was the first panel that addressed the situation and concerns of unwed moms. Research was presented about the history of discrimination against women in Korea and the changes over the years to recognize women’s equality in Korean law. However it was pointed out that while laws can change, it is much harder to change social practices and there remains a big gap in the salaries between men and women, and in their roles in society.

Han Boon Young and Yang Min-Ok presented their research on the counseling received by pregnant unwed moms in facilities. For the moms who stayed in facilities run by adoption agencies, the research found that these moms received counseling that urged them to relinquish their children, for their own sakes and for the baby to have a better life. They also reported stories of agencies adopting out babies without proper consent or within a shorter time frame then was promised. These moms had to fight to get their children back. Overall it was a sobering look at current practices and certainly highlights the conflict of interest between the adoption side of an agency and the side that serves pregnant women.

Given our interest in unwed moms, the highlight for us of the afternoon sessions was a presentation by Professor Smolin, whom we had met earlier in the week. He gave a good overview of the current situation in international adoptions world -wide. His focus is on unethical adoptions, for the purpose of improving the systems so that all international adoptions, and really ALL adoptions are conducted within the parameters of international conventions and laws. He discussed the ways that children are ‘laundered” after being acquired by force, financially or via fraud. In some cases children are kidnapped, in some cases families are offered what seems to them like large sums of money at a time when they are very poor and struggling to feed themselves, and sometimes families are told their children will be in school or it will be just a temporary separation to help them out. These children are then given papers with some other story which presents them as orphans, and adopted to other countries. He discussed what he is beginning to understand about the Korean system, in terms of the tremendous pressure put on women to either have an abortion or relinquish their children, and the closed system of domestic adoption. He ended with a call for Korean adoptees to work to expose the unethical and possibly illegal practices of Korean adoption agencies, both in Korea and in their home countries, in particular with the adoption agencies in their home countries.

Overall, we learned a great deal about not only the areas of concern to us, but also about issues related to language, the struggle of adoptees who now live in Korea after growing up elsewhere, and aspects of artistic expressions that reflect the challenged identities and emerging reflections of adoptees who grew up in other countries, in primarily white families and cultures.

No comments: