South Korea amended its adoption law to reduce the number of foreign adoptions and to keep children with their biological families. However, since the amendment took effect in August 2012, more babies have been abandoned. The amendment (hereinafter the “Special Adoption Act”) created three conditions on birthparents who wish to place their child up for adoption. First, birthparents must wait at least seven days after their child is born before they may consent to placing their child up for adoption. Second, birthparents must receive counseling on the various resources that would be available to them if they choose to raise the child themselves. Finally, birthparents must go through family court to place their child up for adoption, meaning that the adoption would be a part of government records. The legislative intent behind the Special Adoption Act was to keep children with their biological families, reduce the number of foreign adoptions, and encourage more domestic adoptions. The legislature intended to accomplish these goals by making the adoption process more transparent and by making available information deemed “necessary to promote domestic adoption.” However, after the Special Adoption Act took effect, an unexpected problem emerged: more infants are being abandoned, particularly those born to unwed mothers. This comment examines South Korea’s Special Adoption Act in the context of the Korean culture and history. It proposes that the biggest weakness of the Act is that it attempts to keep children with their biological families by making the adoption process more burdensome on the birthparents. This comment further suggests that the Act should instead resort to more effective and permanent means of encouraging birthparents to raise their children, such as fighting the social stigma surrounding adoptions, children born out of wedlock, and single mothers. In fact, even though South Korea overhauled its constitution to guarantee gender equality in the mid-1980s, a legacy remains of decades of discrimination against women, and women today still struggle to raise children born out of wedlock.
Sook K. Kim,
Abandoned Babies: The Backlash of South Korea's Special Adoption Act,
24 Wash. L. Rev.
Available at: https://digitalcommons.law.uw.edu/wilj/vol24/iss3/14