The original article, [미혼모기획 ⑥] “스타와 함께 한 영아들, ‘부모없는’ 천사 아니다.", was published in OhmyNews in Dec. 22, 2010. It was translated by KUMSN and proofread by Breda Lund, a volunteer of KUMSN. If you have any question, please contact KUMSN at email@example.com.
[Oh My News] Dec. 22, 2010
Adopted Infants, Not Angels Without “Parents”
[Focus on Unwed Mother ⑥ Interview] Interview with Representative Jane Jung Trenka of the Truth and Reconciliation for Adoption Community of Korea (TRACK)
▲ On Dec. 17, we discussed adoption and unwed mothers with Jane Jung Trenka, representative of TRACK.
"My Dear Baby"
Mom and I lay on the floor. My mother was petting my head. I imagine that my mother, who was suffering from a mental disorder thought that the time was 1972. My mother was 40 years old and I was a new born baby. My mother gave birth a few days ago.
In the novel “The Language of Blood,” written by Jane Jung Trenka, Kyunga visited Korea to look after her biological mother who got cancer. Kyunga was the third daughter in her mother’s second marriage, and she was sent to the U.S. with her elder sister Mija. When her mother married again, there were already two daughters from the former wife, so when Kyunga was born, the family had five daughters. The family was very poor and her alcoholic step father forced her mother to send two daughters to the US for adoption.
We had an interview with Jane Jung Trenka, representative of TRACK on Dec. 17 at the Korea Unwed Mother Support Network office in Kwanghwamoon.
Special legislation on adoption is promoting adoption and simplifying procedures.
- Nice to see you. I have wanted to see you after reading your book. I know that TRACK was established in 2008. What are the major activities of the group?
"The most important activity of TRACK is to support the revised special legislation on adoption, which was proposed last May, and make an effort to pass the legislation based on cooperation with many groups including mismammamia(Korea Unwed Mothers Family Association), KoRoots, Kongam which is a group of public interest lawyers, and ASK (Adoptee Solidarity Korea).
What is the revised special legislation on adoption?
The legislation was presented by 12 congresspersons including Ms. Young-hee, Choi on May 11, 2010.
The gist of the legislation is as below.
▲ Not only children subject to projection under the child welfare law, but also children whose parents have financial difficulties or cannot raise children, should be subject to adoption. ▲ All domestic and overseas adoption should be done with the approval of a court. ▲ More support for biological mothers by providing sufficient counseling and childcare information. ▲ The adoption process should be started 30 days after the baby is born. ▲ Adopted children should have access to their own adoption information. ▲ Domestic adoption should be a priority and the overseas adoption will be forbidden in the near future.
The legislation is pending in the National Assembly and aims to be passed in Feb. 2011.
She said that most facilities looking after unwed mothers are adoption agencies and more than half of all adoption agencies are private. In addition, she pointed out that most facilities start the procedure for overseas or domestic adoption without giving enough time for consideration by the biological parents (most of whom are unwed mothers).
In fact the full name of the current law on adoption is “Special law on adoption promotion and its procedure,” and the law itself promotes adoption and simplifies adoption procedure. For example, in many cases adopted children don’t have access to their adoption information even though they want to find their biological parents. In addition, there is a concern that the current law makes it possible to adopt without qualification review by the court on the appropriateness of the adoption, so if a baby is adopted to unqualified parents, the adopted children can face difficulties in the future.
"In fact there was an issue over an adoption of a baby, Martha Ellen, who was adopted only for sexual exploitation.”
TRACK held an exhibition in the lobby of the National Assembly in last June. There was a huge sculpture that looks like big tunnel and is made of white tickets.
The ticket is a kind of a tag given to a baby when the baby is adopted to other countries. On the front page, personal information, including baby’s age, weight, and height is written, and the back page is a demonstration of travel. The accumulated number of babies adopted to other countries is 200,000. Therefore, the number of tickets was enough to make a huge tunnel that people can pass under.
Adopted children have a suicide rate that is five times higher than average people, and they are more likely not to adapt themselves to society.
So how many adopted children miss their biological parents and are angry over the current adoption system? When asked, Jane said that it was hard to answer with numbers because it was hard to track adopted children in the U.S. So she look at the example of Sweden.
"When I look at the data on the lifetime medical record of adopted children in Sweden, I found that the suicide rate of adopted children is five times higher than average people and the adopted children are more likely to be involved in crime and to be less educated. In addition they are less likely to be married and have children. We can conclude that those indicators mean the adopted children are more mentally unstable and less adaptable to the society than ordinary people.”
Ms. Trenka continued by telling the sad story of two Korean men who were adopted to the U.S.
”There is a man who wants to find his Korean parents. He was sentenced to life imprisonment and has served in prison for 20 years. He contacted my husband’s friend a year and a half ago to ask for help finding his mother. I try to help him by sending a letter to many groups but I have gotten no feedback from them”
"Six weeks ago, a death-row inmate who was convicted of killing two women, sent a lawyer from the U.S. to find his parents. He was sent for adoption to the U.S. trough the same agency like me and he lived eight miles north of where I lived in Minnesota.”
Only 2.7% of adopted children meet their biological parents.
She said that the reunion rate of biological parents and Korean adopted children is very low even after the children are growing. According to the data from 2007 by the National Statistics Office, only 2.7% of people who want to find their biological mother succeed. Given the fact that not all adopted children try to find their biological mother, the reunion rate is extremely low.
Why is the reunion of family difficult even after time passed? Jane pointed out two factors.
The first factor is that the policy of both the U.S. and Korea does not allow the disclosure of records before and after adoption and second factor is that unwed mothers who gave birth in the past and are now married with their own family have to hide the fact that they had children out of wed-lock.”
▲ Jane Jung Trenka , Representative of TRACK
“My mother has a son from her first marriage, but married again to my father after her husband died in the Korean War. My father didn’t know about the son. When the son became a high school student, he visited his mom. After that, my father became more aggressive and my mother’s nose was broken after being beat by my father. I understand the feeling of a mother who has to hide the existence of a baby or avoid contact of her adopted children.”
Representative Trenka stressed that the avoiding one’s baby’s existence is not intentional but due to pressure from society and the family.
Similarly, most unwed mothers tend to agree with the adoption by the recommendation of adoption agencies due to prejudice and atmosphere of our society.
Infants took photos with celebrities; ‘They are not ‘angels without parents’
At the end of an interview, Executive Director Hee-jung Kwon of the Korea Unwed Mothers Support Network, who helped with the interpretation, turned on her computer to show something. On the screen, there was a picture showing actor Byung-Hun Lee holding a new-born baby.
"Recently photographer Sehyun, Cho opened the “Photo Exhibition of Love” with the support of the Social Welfare Society. The theme of the picture was new-born infants. Behind these babies, there were mothers who gave birth to them. 90% of babies who are being adopted come from unwed mothers who had to give up raising their own children painfully. We should not call them ‘“orphans”, because they all have parents. Do you think that audiences of the exhibition know that the infants already have parent? My concern is that people may have simplified image of adoption, only thinking they are so cute or they are so poor.”
I did so, too. When I visited the photo exhibition last year, I just felt sorry for the fact that infants were very cute but there is no family to raise them. I didn’t know that there were mothers who were just like any other mothers experiencing “biological mother syndrome” behind those babies in our society that encourages adoption.
In fact, I expected a positive response to the question “Was there a case where adoption was necessary?” But the position of the representative Trenka was very firm. She said that we need to review the current situation where adoption is regarded is the best way, and it is wrong to think that it is good for adopted infants just to fill their material needs.
I want to conclude this article with paragraph from her novel “The Language of Blood.”.
"I want to say to mom that her words ‘My dear baby’” changed the rest of my life. I have never felt that someone desperately wanted or loved me before. Your words ‘My dear baby’” will be the source of my mental strength from the moment when I am together with my mother.”
Reporter, Young-Sook Kim
We appreciate Breda Lund, a volunteer of KUMSN, for proof reading this article.