A two-year-old girl is standing in the park. No one knows who brought her and how long she has been standing here. The subsequent adoption documents only stated that on November 18, 1983, a 40-year-old pedestrian found her when she was passing by. After several rounds, she was sent to an orphanage that had direct contact with the adoption agency. Sent to the United States for adoption in the next month.
She is one of 170,000 children sent abroad by South Korea since the end of the Korean War in 1953. In the early part of the second half of the 20th century, no country sent so many children abroad like South Korea. During the Korean War, children born to Korean women and American soldiers or UN staff were not treated by Koreans and were often sent to orphanages. The South Korean government’s desire to maintain national unity has also contributed to the abandonment of such children in society.
In 1984, Abandoned Baby Boss
South Korea’s economic boom in the 1960s and 1970s rarely changed people’s attitudes towards illegitimate childbirth. Those pregnant women hardly get help from the state, and they are ridiculed by their families and neighbors. Many of them choose to adopt their children. At that time, the adoption agency built dozens of “birth buildings” to help them with medical treatment, childbirth, etc., and urged them to send them for adoption after the child was born. Although the country has the ability to build welfare institutions, it has hardly invested any funds for it. The demand for adoptions from abroad continues to grow. Adoption advertisements promise parents that their children will live a better life in distant places. The adoption fee at that time was equivalent to nearly a year’s salary of a Korean. The adoption industry that emerged in the 1970s and 1980s generated billions of dollars in revenue for the country. In this way, children became an export commodity of South Korea.
| Fight for the right to know |
Now, 36 years later, the adopted child has returned to South Korea. Now, her name is Carla Boss. Like many adopted children in South Korea, she is also asking herself who her biological parents are and why she abandons her. She didn’t want to get a perfunctory answer.
On June 12, 38-year-old Boss and his lawyer entered the Seoul Family Court. The judge looked at her and said: “According to a DNA test result, I pronounced that Carla Boss is the daughter of Mr. Ou.” Boss cried. As a child born out of wedlock, Boss took his biological father to court and asked him to admit that he was his daughter. This kind of conflict broke out between a child who was sent abroad for adoption and his biological parents. This is the first case in South Korea.
In South Korea, the status of the family is very high, and it is unreasonable to interfere in other people’s family affairs. According to Confucianism, the father is the highest authority in the family. For many people, raising children born out of wedlock is a shame. Bos’s father, 85-year-old Ou, is a director of a bank and has a high status in Korean society. Bos’s mother is still unknown.
Boss has been looking for parents for many years. This is also because the South Korean government will hardly provide assistance within its capacity to adopted children sent abroad, and the adoption agency has the right to control their data. Boss finally found his father, but he refused to talk to her, so she took him to court. After the sentence was pronounced, Boss was registered as a member of his biological father’s family and was entitled to inherit part of Mr. Ou’s estate.
Now, her story has caused an uproar in Korea. Some people say that her story tells us that the adoption industry has many ills. Others believe that Boss does not respect Korean culture. For adopted children, it will be more difficult to persuade their biological parents to meet them in the future.
A week after the sentence was pronounced, Carla Boss was interviewed in the Netherlands. She has been living in Amsterdam with her family for 11 years. She is very happy that she can bring some changes to Korean society. “My case tells those adopted children that they have the right to know the truth.” She appeared on Korean TV and radio shows. The New York Times and Reuters also reported her story. Many adopted children wrote to her. Activists hope to use her case to urge the South Korean government to change its course.
| The hard way to find relatives |
In 2017, Boss and his family flew to Seoul to start a family-hunting journey. The local GOAL organization dedicated to helping adoptees successfully reunited 20 adoptees and their relatives in 2019. Employees of the organization distributed Korean flyers to Boss. According to the records of the orphanage, she was quickly adopted by the Koreans at that time, and there is no other information.
In South Korea, the data of more than 230,000 adopted children are in the hands of private adoption agencies. Because these agencies only make money, the registered children’s information is often full of errors and omissions, documents are forged, and their identities are often confused. Many parents do not register their newborns, causing many babies to disappear from the legal level for no reason.
In 1984, Boss and the American family who adopted her
“Korea purposefully turned children into orphans,” said the pastor Kim Do-hyun (transliteration). KoRoot, a rescue point for adult adoptees he built in Seoul, also helped Boss on his family-hunting journey.
Even if they know the identities of the adoptee’s parents, the agency generally does not disclose half of it. The Korean law, which values the protection of personal privacy, stipulates that the adoptee can contact them only after obtaining the permission of the parents. Boss said that if the adopted person applies to view the documents, the agency will black out the names of their biological parents.
During the 1988 Seoul Olympics, South Korea received international public attention, and for the first time critics surrounding its baby export issue became louder. Subsequently, the South Korean government has been working hard to increase the number of domestic adoptions. In 2019, only 317 children were sent for adoption abroad. The 1993 Hague Convention on Intercountry Adoption is an attempt by the international community to regulate this kind of adoption, protect children from exploitation, and at the same time prevent them from losing their cultural foundation. South Korea, which signed the convention in 2013, must ensure that the adoption is for the sake of the child since then, and must keep the child’s biological parent information.
In addition, in 2012, the South Korean government revised the “Adoption Law.” Before sending a child for adoption, parents must stand in family court. Children’s rights are better protected, but intercountry adoption has become more difficult, which has also led to more and more children entering orphanages. In the eyes of Koreans, adoption is still a shameful shame, and most of them are carried out quietly.
Adoptees like Boss who were sent abroad before the introduction of these new regulations have almost no control over their own destiny. The adoption agency did not expect that these adopted children would one day return to South Korea.
In 2016, Booz uploaded his DNA samples to the MyHeritage platform. In 2019, her DNA was successfully matched: a 22-year-old Korean student from Oxford University and her DNA partially overlapped. “That was the first clue about my family.” It was later confirmed that the man was her nephew. She met him in England and learned that she has three half-siblings and her father is still alive. Boss confirmed that the family lives in South Korea. But the father quickly responded that he did not know Boss, and later the 22-year-old man also severed contact with her.
In 2019, Boss came to Seoul again and learned his father’s name from a niece. Now, she only needs to know his address. When she knocked on the door of one of the half-brothers and sisters, they called the police. “They are hostile to me.” Boss felt that the family didn’t want to have anything to do with her.
In 2019, Boss took a photo with her husband and children
Soon, she followed the advice of a lawyer and initiated a lawsuit, hoping to become the first Korean adoptee to fight for the right to know his life experience in the court. She received a message from Mr. Ou’s family, to the effect that: Stop accepting interviews, otherwise, don’t even want to see her father. Boss still remembered his anger at the time. In their eyes, family privacy is more important than her right to know. Boss does not want to always let others decide what and how much the adoptee should know.
After the trial, Boss appeared in front of the reporter, looking tired and relaxed. “For us adoptees, this is a memorable day because we finally have the right to know the truth.” She said, “I hope my case will prompt the Korean government to rewrite South Korea as the world’s largest baby exporter. The history of the country recognizes the rights of adopted children.” After that, she faced the camera and said to her mother in stumbling Korean: “Come on, I won’t blame you, come find me!” But her mother never showed up. .
| No answer |
Boss’ father finally expressed his willingness to meet her, but requested that the media should not be present. On June 15, Mr. Ou appeared in his lawyer’s office with two bodyguards wearing a hat, mask, and gloves. The two sat facing each other in silence, and Boss pushed him a letter that once again clarified her identity and explained that appeal is the only way to get his address.
“I can’t read it,” said Mr. Ou, who refused to take off his sunglasses. “I don’t know what’s going on.”
Boss said that after the meeting, Mr. Ou’s family blamed the elderly’s crippling physical condition on her. Boss didn’t know how this search would end, and what she would do next. Now, she just wants to live well with her husband and children. In the process of finding relatives, she has spent 15,000 euros. She also stopped celebrating her birthday, because it would make her miserable.
Boss has never cherished romantic expectations. He believes that this family search will make her a complete person. What is more important for her is the right to know, which is the most basic human need-knowing where she came from. . But now, Boss’ search may end in nothing – unless she can find her biological mother, a team of Korean reporters is still working on it. These TV producers know that if mother and daughter meet again, this will be a perfect story. Boss no longer believed that as long as she waited for a long time, her biological parents would contact her, because if it were not for pressure from the media, no one would be willing to disclose the secret to the public. As long as South Korea does not issue laws that can give adoptees stronger support, TV shows are the only possibility to “change this story.”