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The South Korean Government has been carefully implementing long-term plans to eventually close international adoption for over 20 years. Starting in 1987, the Korean government established strict quotas limiting the number of children who could be placed internationally, and they have carefully reduced this quota by 3% to 5% each year with the intention of eventually placing zero international adoptions. In 1987 over 8,000 Korean children were placed with adoptive families overseas. By 1997, only 2,057 Korean children were adopted by families overseas. And in 2007, only 939 Korean children were placed for international adoption. At the same time that the Korean government has been gradually reducing the number of foreign adoptions, they have been working hard to increase the acceptance and number of non-relative adoptions domestically. Attitudes are gradually starting to change toward adoption within the country, as more and more Korean families choose to grow their families by adopting children domestically within Korea.

When South Korea eventually closes to international adoption, which will take place around the year 2012, it will have been the longest-running international adoption program in the world. To date, approximately 160,000 Korean adoptees have been placed in 14 Western countries since the first official proxy adoptions took place in 1953 during the hardships present at the end of the Korean War. The largest number of Korean children placed internationally (just over 100,000) have been adopted by families residing in the United States. 

At the beginning, the majority of children placed overseas were mixed race, Amerasian children (their fathers were U.S. servicemen and their mothers were Korean nationals.) The children from these relationships were left in very difficult circumstances, unaccepted by either culture. By 1959, the number of mixed race children being placed overseas for adoption was already starting to decline and the majority of adoptees placed overseas were ethnically Korean. The first official proxy adoptions took place in 1953 at the end of the Korean War. The passage of the Immigration and Nationality Act in 1961 created a formal mechanism for non-relative adoptions to take place internationally. The very first adoptees to come to the USA from Korea are now in their 50s and 60s. These adoptees paved the road for other programs to work with the USA in placing vulnerable children into adoptive homes.

If you are a Korean adoptee or an adoptive family who has chosen to adopt from Korea, there is a long and rich history of which you are a part, and there are other families out there who have experienced some of the joys and challenges that you and your family may have faced.  There are all kinds of organizations and people out there that can offer support for your family.  

Some resources to get your started:

  • Korean Online - a terrific compilation site of Korean culture, history, and much more - with an online Korean-English, English-Korean dictionary!

  • Teen Korea - excellent site on culture and language for teens and others!

  • Korean Information Gate - wonderful portal site for all things Korean

  • Life in Korea : Well organized site depicts a full range of Korean life and activities.

  • Korea Insights : A beautiful site depicting the full range of Korean culture and art.

  • Friends of Korea : Composed of first and second generation Korean Americans, adult Korean born adoptees, and adoptive parents, this organization promotes greater awareness and appreciation of Korean heritage in the US.

  • The Korea Society: Elegantly designed site about Korea. Definitely worth a look.

  • Coalition for Asian-American Children & Families -- NYC-based, definitely worth your time.

  • a.k.a.(also known as) : Begun by adult adopted Koreans, this organization provides an important sense of community for intercountry adoptees and people of mixed-racial and cultural heritage.

In addition, many hertiage tours and culture camps exist for children and adults adopted from Korea.

Contributed by Pearl S. Buck International.