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The views and opinions expressed on this site and blog posts (excluding comments on blog posts left by others) are entirely my own and do not represent those of any employer or organization with whom I am currently or previously have been associated.

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Behind the Headlines: APA News Blog

Academic Version: Applying my personal experiences and academic research as a professor of Sociology and Asian American Studies to provide a more complete understanding of political, economic, and cultural issues and current events related to American race relations, and Asia/Asian America in particular.

Plain English: Trying to put my Ph.D. to good use.

February 5, 2006

Written by C.N.

Koreans Paying Americans to Adopt Their Children

A recent article from the Pacific News Service describes a practice that apparently is increasingly common in Korea: parents paying American (almost always White) couples to adopt their children so that their kids can enjoy a better educational opportunities and supposedly a better life in the U.S.:

One out of three Korean parents are willing to send their children abroad for the sake of a better education. . . .Putting a child up for adoption in the United States allows Korean parents to skirt around normal immigration procedures, a drawn-out process with no guarantee of approval. Parents generally seek retired American couples, whose own children often have left and have room to spare.

The American couples receive an agreed-upon sum of money in exchange for adopting the child and providing food and housing. Couples receive upwards of $30,000, with additional payments as necessary to cover room and board for each child they adopt. In return, the child gains legal status in the United States, as well as the privilege of attending American schools. The Korean birth parents relinquish all legal claims to their children, sending them instead to grow up in a house with people they have never met. . . .

Despite the benefits, some young Koreans adopted in this manner have shown signs of emotional distress, reflected in their schoolwork and behavior at home. . . . Peter Chang, who heads the Korean Family Center in Los Angeles, says kids like this “often grow up feeling betrayed by their parents.”

I’ve written before about the incessant, almost obsessive drive among many Asians and Asian Americans to be materially successful. Unfortunately, I see this emerging phenomenon as another example of that drive taken to extreme and dysfunctional ends.

Unlike the vast majority of young Korean parents who relinquish custody of their very young children to be adopted, the Korean parents who pay Americans to adopt their child obviously have money, otherwise they wouldn’t be able to complete this transaction. And I suspect that these Korean parents think that they’re doing their children a favor so that they can have a better life.

However, adoptions at a young age frequently involve significant emotional turmoil and feelings of abandonment on the part of the child. Think of how these emotional difficulties are intensified when the child is older and has already formed a bond with his/her natural parents. I can certainly see how emotional distress can be a common consequence among those adopted children.

In the end, it’s hard for me to see how this arrangement is beneficial. I suppose there is a chance that the adopted child may have a better life in the U.S., but at what emotional cost? As a developed industrial society, is life in Korea that bad for parents to resort to this extreme? I try to be as non-judgmental as possible but this phenomenon just strikes me as unhealthy and a recipe for disaster in so many ways.

As I’ve said before, the drive for material success has to have its limits and to me, the limit in this case is when you risk permanently damaging a child’s emotional security just so s/he may be able to earn a little more money over the course of their life.


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Copyright © 2001- by C.N. Le. Some rights reserved. Creative Commons License

Suggested reference: Le, C.N. . "Koreans Paying Americans to Adopt Their Children" Asian-Nation: The Landscape of Asian America. <http://www.asian-nation.org/headlines/2006/02/koreans-paying-americans-to-adopt-their-children/> ().

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