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Perceptions and deceptions : perspectives on adoptions from South Korea to North America Bagga, Rupa 2012

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PERCEPTIONS AND DECEPTIONS: PERSPECTIVES ON ADOPTIONS FROM SOUTH KOREA TO NORTH AMERICA by Rupa Bagga M.A., New Mexico State University, 2000 M.Phil., Jawaharlal Nehru University, 1996 M.A., Jawaharlal Nehru University, 1994 B.A., Delhi University, 1992 A THESIS SUBMITTED IN PARTIAL FULFILLMENT OF THE REQUIREMENTS FOR THE DEGREE OF DOCTOR OF PHILOSOPHY in THE FACULTY OF GRADUATE STUDIES (Women’s and Gender Studies) THE UNIVERSITY OF BRITISH COLUMBIA (Vancouver) July 2012 © Rupa Bagga, 2012  Abstract This study provides a critical synthesis of existing research on adoptions from South Korea to the United States, and adds a comparison with adoptions from Korea to Canada. The focus is on the intersections of gender, race, class, and age, in Korea and the receiving countries. The first chapter provides an overview of debates on transnational, transracial adoption and justifies an interdisciplinary approach. The three central chapters look at adoptions from Korea to the US in three chronological stages. Each of these chapters begins with an examination of historical and sociological studies of adoptions from Korea, complemented by my own fieldwork there. This is followed by analyses of auto/bio/graphical texts in relation to the historical and socio-political background for that period. The focus in Chapter 2 is on the perspective of adopters, and analysis of the memoirs of Bertha Holt throws light on the origins of adoptions from Korea to the US. Chapter 3 conveys the perspective of Korean birthmothers, whose ‘letters’ to the relinquished child provide insight into the reasons for the continuation of adoptions from Korea. Chapter 4 moves to the perspective of adult adoptees who have returned to Korea and produced accounts representing a range of views on transnational, transracial adoption. The fifth chapter, dealing with Canada, adds the perspective of a Canadian adoption agency and would-be parents seeking to adopt from Korea, as adoptions from there are being phased out. Throughout the study terms borrowed from Foucault serve to highlight how collective and individual genealogies and power relations compete and intersect in the perceptions and interpretations of all those concerned. The central question is why and how perceptions of transnational adoptions from Korea have changed, in relation to institutional power (disciplines and biopower) and technologies of the self as means to enable adoptees and birthmothers to emerge from tutelage to care of/for the self. The Conclusion looks at the present situation in South Korea and an alternative heterotopic solution, the “children’s village.”  ii  Preface Approval of my fieldwork in South Korea was granted by The University of British Columbia Behavioural Research Ethics Board under a Certificate of Approval, Number HO6-03879 dated March 9, 2007, for a term of one year. I did not request a renewal or extension. This research was funded in part by the Korea Foundation.  iii  Table of Contents Abstract.................................................................................................................................... ii Preface..................................................................................................................................... iii Table of Contents ................................................................................................................... iv List of Tables ........................................................................................................................ viii List of Illustrations................................................................................................................. ix Glossary ................................................................................................................................... x Acknowledgements .............................................................................................................. xiii Dedication ............................................................................................................................. xvi Introduction: “Where Are You From?” ............................................................................... 1 An Outsider Perspective ................................................................................................... 1 Shifting Focus ................................................................................................................... 6 Framing the Study: Gendered Experiences....................................................................... 8 Questions and Dilemmas ................................................................................................ 11 The Shape of this Study .................................................................................................. 13 Chapter 1: An “Undisciplined” Approach: Cross-Disciplinary Perspectives on Adoptions from South Korea to North America .......................................................... 24 Adoption Debates............................................................................................................ 24 The History of Adoption in North America .................................................................... 26 Gendered Transactions: Transnational Adoption and “Real Mothers” .......................... 29 Race Matters in Transnational Adoption ........................................................................ 33 Documenting Identities: Collective and Individual Sources of Information .................. 37 The Value of Personal Testimonies ................................................................................ 41  iv  Web-Based Sources ........................................................................................................ 45 The Relevance of Foucault, in a Feminist Framework ................................................... 46 Fieldwork: Close Encounters in Korea ........................................................................... 51 An Evolving Project ........................................................................................................ 59 Chapter 2: Archeology and Genealogy: Post-War Adoptions from Korea to the United States ............................................................................................. 61 The Confucian Kinship Model and Adoption in Pre-War Korea ................................... 63 Historical Background to Transnational Adoptions from Korea .................................... 70 The Beginning of Transnational Adoptions to America from Korea ............................. 72 The Aftermath of the Korean War in the 1950s ............................................................. 75 One Family’s Perspective: The Holt Agency’s Genealogy ............................................ 80 Public Domesticity: Finding and Appropriating the Holt Children ................................ 87 Process and Pressure: Changing the Law ....................................................................... 90 Changes in the Adoption Process ................................................................................... 93 Missionary Zeal .............................................................................................................. 96 Technologies of Persuasion ............................................................................................ 99 Meeting Molly Holt ...................................................................................................... 101 The Institutionalization of Transnational Adoptions from Korea................................. 104 Chapter 3: Surveillance and Confinement: Mothers and Children in Need of Care in Korea after 1960............................................................................ 107 The 1960s: Abortive Attempts to Find Domestic Solutions ......................................... 109 The 1970s: the Persistence of Transnational Adoption ................................................ 117 The 1980s: Incentives to Give Up or Take In a Child in Korea ................................... 122 Changing Trends Since 1993 ........................................................................................ 128 Alternatives to Adoption ............................................................................................... 132  v  The Perspective of Korean Birthmothers ...................................................................... 139 Letters to an Imagined Child: a New Genre?................................................................ 139 How Did the Situation Arise? ....................................................................................... 144 The Effects of Christianity ............................................................................................ 150 The Current Situation .................................................................................................... 154 Visiting Ae Ran Won ..................................................................................................... 159 Imaginary Letters and Foucault’s Concepts of “Confession” and "Truth-telling" ....... 160 Chapter 4: From Being in Care to Caring for the Self: Adult Adoptees' Perspectives ................................................................................................................... 164 Recent Studies of Racial/Ethnic Identity Conflict for Korean Adoptees...................... 167 Inside-Out and In-Between: Negotiating Race and Ethnicity....................................... 169 Divided Loyalties and Polarized Reactions .................................................................. 174 Reclaiming the Adoptee’s Life Story: Alternative Outcomes ...................................... 179 Collective Stories .......................................................................................................... 192 Coming Together in Korea and Elsewhere ................................................................... 194 Media Exposure ............................................................................................................ 197 Adoptee-Run Organizations.......................................................................................... 200 Autonomous or Relational/Generational Selves? ......................................................... 204 Chapter 5: The Administration of Biopower: Families, States, and Intermediaries in Adoptions from South Korea to Canada...................................... 209 Race and Religion in Domestic Adoptions and Adoptions to the United States .......... 212 Children Arriving from Overseas ................................................................................. 216 Changes in Canadian Immigration Policy .................................................................... 218 Canada and Korea ......................................................................................................... 223 Transnational Adoption Statistics in Canada ................................................................ 229  vi  Impact of the Hague Convention on International Adoptions ...................................... 231 Changing Trends in Adoptions in Canada .................................................................... 236 Procedures and Criteria for Adopting a Child from Korea in Canada .......................... 241 Eligibility of Adopting Parents ..................................................................................... 248 Transnational Adoptions in a Multicultural Canada ..................................................... 252 Is There a Future for Transnational Adoptions in Canada? .......................................... 256 Conclusion: Rights and Wrongs: Practical Necessities and Ethical Dilemmas ............ 260 The Korean Perspective: Changing Focus .................................................................... 260 Birthmothers ................................................................................................................. 262 A New Adoption Law ................................................................................................... 265 Changing Concepts of “Family” in Korea .................................................................... 269 Heterotopias .................................................................................................................. 271 Changes at the Receiving End: Legitimacy, Morality, Expediency ............................. 273 Relational Selves and Self-Relation.............................................................................. 276 Future Research Directions ........................................................................................... 280 References ............................................................................................................................ 283 Appendices ........................................................................................................................... 310 Appendix A: Questionnaire/Interview Guides............................................................. 310 Appendix B: Statistics ................................................................................................. 314  vii  List of Tables Table 1. Number of Children Separated from Their Birthparents Requiring Different Types of Care in Korea ............................................................... 132 Table 2. International Adoption Statistics: Comparison Between the US and Canada ........................................................................................ 316 Table 3. Total Numbers of Adoptions to the United States 2004–2010 ............................... 317 Table 4. Total Numbers of Adoptions from the Top Ten Countries to Canada 2003–2010 ...................................................................................................... 318 Table 5. Annual Status of Adoptions from South Korea to Canada ..................................... 319 Table 6. Sunrise Korea Fee Schedule ................................................................................... 320  viii  List of Illustrations Illustration 1. The Social Welfare Services Building, Seoul .................................................. 55 Illustration 2. Holt Children's Services Inc. Main Office in Seoul ......................................... 56  ix  Glossary Glossary of terms borrowed from Foucault (Direct citations are from Clare O’Farrell’s “Key Concepts” list at; other sources are indicated below) Archeology: “archeology is about examining the discursive traces . . . left by the past in order to write a ‘history of the present.’” Archive: “designates the collection of all material traces left by a particular historical period and culture.” Author: designates “a category or way of organizing texts which has a history and needs to be challenged”; not the same as “the psychological entity of the author.” Confession: “the religious practice of confession was secularized in the 18th and 19th centuries. People were incited to confess their innermost desires and sexual practices. These confessions then became data for the social sciences which used the knowledge to construct mechanisms of social control.” Confession is a technique related to the exertion of pastoral power exercised first by the church and more recently by the ‘helping’ professions (see Derek Hook, Foucault, Psychology and the Analytics of Power (2007), “Confessional subjects,” 35–7). Foucault also related confession to the type of truth-telling (parresia) which “speaks truth to power” as well as being self-accusatory: see Davidson ed. Government of the Self and Others (2010), 41–2). Confinement: the establishment of institutions in Europe, beginning in the 17th century, to separate and contain those “deemed to be unreasonable,” including “not only mad people, but the unemployed, single mothers . . . prostitutes . . . anyone deemed to be socially unproductive or disruptive” (Discipline and Punish).  x  Culture: “a hierarchical organization of values, accessible to everybody, but at the same time the occasion of a mechanism of selection and exclusion.” Discipline: “a mechanism of power which regulates the behaviour of individuals in the social body. . . . By regulating space . . . time . . . and people’s activity . . . enforced with the aid of complex systems of surveillance.” Conformity is never totally achieved: disciplinary measures are exerted because people resist (see power, below). Ethics: “concerns the kind of relation one has to oneself. The essential condition for the practice of ethics is freedom, the ability to choose one action, not another.” The task of the ethical historian is to expose how certain “taken-for-granted exercises of power only remain tolerable by covering up its tracks.” Genealogy: an approach to history that builds on archeology but pays attention to gaps and inconsistencies that reveal how “the grounds of the true and the false come to be distinguished via mechanisms of power,” see: ”Nietzsche, Genealogy, History,” in Rabinow ed., The Foucault Reader (1984). Heterotopia: “a space which is outside everyday social and institutional space,” for example ‘in-between’ spaces or those designated for a special purpose, such as the simulation of another space (see Hook 2007, 178–205). Institutions: “a way of freezing particular relations of power so that certain people are advantaged.” Power: is relational and “not simply repressive but productive;” it is not “exclusively localized in government and the State” but “exercised throughout the social body.” Disciplinary power took over from sovereign power (obedience to a ruler) in the 18th and 19th centuries, but the latter still exists and they “remain in tension;” pastoral power, based on the model of a shepherd with his flock, is exerted by church and state through “politically organizing the day to day conduct of the population;” biopower is “a technology which  xi  appeared in the late eighteenth century for managing populations. It incorporates certain aspects of disciplinary power. If disciplinary power is about training the actions of bodies, biopower is about managing the births, deaths, reproduction and illnesses of a population.” Foucault claims that whereas sovereign power condemns some to death and allows others to live, biopower ensures that the select live while ‘others’ are allowed to die or be excluded/marginalized (The History of Sexuality. Volume 1 (1990), 139–141). Resistance: “as soon as there is a power relation, there is a possibility of resistance . . . no matter how oppressive the system.” Technologies of the self: “those reflective and voluntary practices by which men [sic] not only set themselves rules of conduct, but seek to transform themselves, to change themselves in their singular being, and to make their life into an oeuvre that carries certain aesthetic values and meets certain stylistic criteria.” Related to writing or verbally communicating one’s own ‘truth’ in resistance to the powers that deny it, and to the care of/for the self (“le souci de soi”) that accompanies care of/for others in an ethical life (Martin et al., eds. Technologies of the Self (1988); Rabinow, ed., Foucault, Ethics, Subjectivity, and Truth (1994)). Tutelage: the state of being considered a ‘minor’ in need of guardianship and protection or pastoral care, rather than a subject with the freedom to make decisions and speak for oneself, who “dares to know” (“What is Enlightenment?” in Technologies of the Self).  xii  Acknowledgements My three supervisory committee members all brought very different backgrounds and approaches to the topic of my dissertation, and I want to thank them all for making me think about it in different ways. Dr. Richard Sullivan made sure that I understood and took into account the perspective of social workers, and always responded promptly with suggestions, while Dr. Sunera Thobani pushed me to think more critically about the dimensions of gender, class, and race in the history of transnational adoptions. Dr. Thobani replaced Dr. Valerie Raoul when she retired as my official thesis director, but Dr. Raoul continued to work closely with me throughout the writing process. My heartfelt thanks are due to her for her unfailing support and mentorship, as well as her insight into auto/bio/graphical writing and encouragement to investigate the relevance of Foucault. Sincere thanks at the same time go to Professor R. Narayanan at Nehru University, for encouraging me to explore new avenues including my first steps in Korean studies. I was also fortunate to work as a Research Assistant for Dr. Veronica Strong-Boag, from whom I learned a great deal about the history of domestic and international adoptions in Canada. Special thanks also go to my friend and fellow student Almas Zakiuddin, who introduced me to Women’s Studies, and to Dr. Sneja Gunew, who accepted me into the program. Faculty members in that program have been a great source of support and encouragement, and the staff (Jane Charles and Wynn Archibald) have always been very helpful. I have greatly appreciated the friendship and solidarity of fellow students at UBC and from all over the world (Sirijit Sunanta, Kaori Yoshida, Xin Huang, Itrath Syed, Naomi Lloyd, Ami Ihatsu, Galia Petkova, Swati Banerjee, Neelu Kang Dhaliwal, Sanzida Habib, and Hui Ling Lin), as we made this journey together. I would also like to convey my sincere xiii  thanks to Leif Olsen, another fellow student at UBC, for helping me with Korean translations and proofreading Korean citations. The fieldwork was made possible by support from the Korea Foundation in 2007, which enabled me to meet academics and adoption workers whose assistance was much appreciated. I am particularly indebted to Professor Kim Hyun Mee, of Yonsei University’s Department of Sociology, for her support and provision of assistance from her RA, Yewon Lee. My thanks also go to the adoption workers at the Social Welfare Society (SWS) and Holt Adoption Services in Seoul, to Mrs. Han Sang-soon at Ae Ran Won, to the Rev. Kim Do Hyun of KoRoot, and to the Director of the Seoul SOS Children’s Village, who all helped me to better understand the intricacies of adoptions in and from Korea. Dae Won Wenger, who was Secretary General of G.O.A.’L, generously shared his reflections on adoptee reunions in Korea, and introduced me to Molly Holt, a meeting that provided not only insight but access to many other contacts. Discussions over coffee and meals with Jane Jeong Trenka, Tammy Chu, Whitney Taejin Hwang, Kim Stoker, Jeannie Hong, Jee Youn Heather Kim, Karin Roest, Jenny Na, Jae Jin Hyun, Hilary Hahn, Yungil Paik, Yoon Kyung Shin, Kwon Ji Hyun, Gordon Black, Kyung Hong, Eunkyung Choi, and all those whose names I have not mentioned, enriched my understanding of the many perspectives on this topic. I would also like to extend my thanks to Dr. Meenakshi Thapan, of Delhi University, for her invaluable friendship and introducing me to the SOS Village concept. In Canada, I would like to express my sincere thanks to the Sunrise Adoption Agency’s Asia Program Officer and staff for their assistance in answering my questions. Special thanks to Shelley Brownell, Melanie Ekman, and Cathy Loptson at Family Services of Greater Vancouver and Joan Ridsdel at Choices Adoption and Counselling Services in  xiv  Victoria, who helped me to understand the complicated process of transnational adoptions to Canada. Nina Sihota and Anne Clayton at the Ministry of Child and Family in Victoria were also very helpful, as were my meetings with Yvonne Devitt of the Adoptive Families Association of BC. I could not have completed this project without the financial and moral support of my aunt, Suman Bagga, and other family members. My mother, Uma Bagga, has been a constant source of strength and consolation in moments of distress through her love and prayers, and I am grateful for the support of my brothers, Sanjay and Ajay Bagga, and sisters, Suparna Sharma and Manu Sawhney, and their families. The blessings of my late father, Chander Prakash Bagga, and my grandmother, Soni Devi, have helped me to achieve my dreams, including completing this dissertation and having a family. Special thanks are also due to my lifelong friend Priti Singh for her moral support and friendship, and the love I received over the years from my extended family in Las Cruces. My apologies to my spouse, Benoît Raoulx, and our children, Félix Raghav and Anouk Tara, for having had to compete for my attention with this project, and thanks for putting up cheerfully with my frustrations. Thanks also to Sarah Traii and Lamia Elbahri in Algeria and Elena Manolachi in France, for caring for the children while I was preoccupied with writing, and to Jennifer and Cédric Potier and their family for making us welcome in Caen. Special thanks to Cameron Duder for his invaluable technical assistance in formatting this dissertation.  xv  Dedication  To Korean Adoptees and Birthmothers  xvi  Introduction: “Where Are You From?”  The final trait of effective history is its affirmation of knowledge as perspective. –Michel Foucault, in Rabinow, Foucault, Ethics, Subjectivity and Truth (1984, 90).  An Outsider Perspective The adoption of children from Korea in North America has been studied a good deal over the last decade. Most researchers in this area are adopters, adoptees, social workers in the adoption field, or Korean Americans. The first perspective I wish to introduce here is my own, as an outsider. Like many Korean adoptees living in the West I am often asked, “Where are you from?” Unlike them I do not hesitate before answering, since I was both born and raised in India. My home country has a history that blends into legend, as did my own family’s story. I came of age in surroundings where my parents, themselves “displaced persons” as Hindus from the part of the Punjab which ended up in Pakistan, were nursing the wounds of the partition of the Indian sub-continent. I know what it is to have a real but imagined and inaccessible homeland. The desire to understand my family’s roots and the impact of colonialism on our lives gave me the urge to devote myself to the study of history—ancient and modern. It was during my graduate studies in Delhi that I developed an interest in Asian affairs beyond India, and especially in South Korea (the Republic of Korea), which I will refer to simply as Korea from now on. That “Korea” currently represents only South Korea for those of us living in the West is significant, as it is the direct result of a Western perception of the division of that country and displacement of its people. Some similarities to the trauma inflicted on India by partition aroused my curiosity and I seized the opportunity to further my studies with a focus on Korea, including taking language courses in Seoul. Korea’s transformation from a pastoral and impoverished third1  world country in the past into a modernizing economic power in the present has parallels with India, as does its resilience in adopting or adapting Western values and customs without diluting its Asian identity and traditions. As part of an M. Phil. program in East Asian Studies at Jawaharlal Nehru University in Delhi (1994–6) I completed a dissertation on “The Globalization of the South Korean Economy and its Impact on Korea-India Economic Relations.” While in Korea for language training I noticed many students in the courses at Yonsei University’s Korean Language Institute (1996–7 and 2002–3) who were Korean in appearance, although they did not speak the language. Some were second-generation Korean Americans, whose parents had emigrated to the US. These often understood Korean although they could not speak it fluently or read and write well. Others, not only from the States but also from Canada and Scandinavia, appeared to have no language skills at all, and relatively little familiarity with Korean culture. These, I learned, were individuals who had been adopted abroad as infants or young children. This was my first exposure to the issues surrounding transnational adoption. On learning more about their personal backgrounds, I realized that many of them had come to Korea in the hope of finding out about their birth family. They were not simply learning Korean, they were trying to discover and understand in what sense they themselves were Korean, although they had grown up in white, Western families, and in some cases had had little or no contact previously with other people who looked like them. In hearing about their origins, I learned more about the long-term effects of the Korean War and the socio-economic conditions in Korea that had led their birthmothers to give them up for adoption. Many were embarking on an intense and emotional quest to find  2  the answer to the question, “Why did she not keep me?” While some considered their Western childhood to have been relatively happy, and realized that their education had led them to identify with Western values and culture, those I came to know better had all been traumatized by the loss of a sense of belonging to their birth family and country. Most of them struggled to deal with racial, ethnic, and identity conflicts both in Korea and in their country of adoption. Even the Korean-looking students with Korean names who were not adopted and had never been abandoned, whose families had voluntarily migrated to the West, discussed experiences of racism and discrimination in both Korean and Western contexts. Although they had had more exposure to Korean food and customs at home than the returning adoptees or myself, my situation in Korea was easier in many ways since I was obviously not Korean. My desire to study Korean came as a surprise to Koreans and was seen as a compliment. Having grown up in the West, it was more difficult for the adoptees than for me to adjust to traditional Korean customs based on hierarchy and obedience. They also had to deal with the expectation from others that they would be able to understand the language and traditional rituals, and their own embarrassment on admitting to ignorance. When I subsequently moved to the US to undertake further graduate study, I was able to identify more closely with their experiences of alienation when surrounded by white people in what was, for the adoptees, their homeland. While enrolled in a Master’s program in History at the New Mexico State University (1998–2000) I made friends with others who were adoptees from Korea (as well as some of their adoptive parents) and shared my interest in that country and culture. I realized just how many Korean children had been adopted in North America, and began to delve more deeply into the causes and effects of that phenomenon.  3  As part of that program I completed a thesis on “Tradition and Modernity in the Republic of Korea” and undertook some initial research for one course into the complex history of international adoptions from South Korea. I began exploring websites providing information from government sources and adoption agencies, seeking to find out more about why, how, and in what circumstances “war orphans” and other Korean children were removed from their family and country of origin and transplanted into strange families in a strange land. At that time some of the children adopted by American families in the 1960s and 1970s, now young adults like those I had met in Korea, began telling and publishing their own stories. Researchers from various disciplines were also beginning to look more closely at the motivations, implications, and long-term effects of large-scale transnational and transracial adoptions in a rapidly globalizing context. Rather than remaining in the US, I chose to move to Canada to pursue doctoral studies at the University of British Columbia in Vancouver. My interest shifted from a purely historical and sociological curiosity about this topic to a desire to address the complex issues raised when one examines more closely the intersecting gender, class, race, and age dimensions of this exchange of children between what was a relatively poor country and a very rich one. Living in Vancouver, a city with a fairly large immigrant and secondgeneration Korean population, I realized that, while adoptions from China became common in Canada over the last two decades and have been much debated, there have been few adoptions from Korea compared with the US. There is very little documentation of those that did and still do occur. I began to investigate the different contexts and motivations involved. A closer look at the evolution of policies and attitudes related to international adoptions in Canada and the US relates to broader issues about how state policies, including militarization  4  and population control, have intersected with personal or familial relations between Asia and both countries in North America. Having enrolled in a doctoral program in Women’s and Gender Studies at UBC I was able to benefit from courses that enabled me to better understand the global and local political and social conditions behind the adoptions. Gender, class, race, and age intersect in attempts to explain why so many Korean women did, and still do, relinquish their children. Global power relations enter into the equation when their situation is compared with that of the women in North America who are eager to adopt them. The absence of well developed, universally available social services and the continuing prevalence of extreme poverty, class distinctions, and overt gender discrimination in Korea, in spite of economic development and legal changes achieved through the efforts of women’s organizations, appear to present a sharp contrast with Canada, which is known internationally as a supposedly model Welfare State. Yet Canada has many children “in care,” many of them from an indigenous population suffering from poverty. Korea’s little noticed continuing export of apparently unwanted children also contrasts with China, which replaced Korea as the main source of adoptable children until recently. Efforts there to control the size of the population by the “single-child” policy are often deemed excessive in the West, but they serve to justify the availability of “superfluous” children. Korea, in contrast, is now concerned because the population is aging and the birthrate is exceptionally low. The long history of international adoptions from Korea provides a useful example of what other countries exporting children may expect in the future, and raises political, economic, and ethical issues that continue to dominate debates over more recent waves of international adoptions from Latin America and Africa.  5  Shifting Focus When I began this project I intended to compare adoptions in Canada from Korea and India. Both have been little studied, and I thought my familiarity with the language and culture of India would be valuable in undertaking research on adoption there. I suspected that there would be significant similarities as well as differences. Although no war was involved in India, the partition of the Indian subcontinent along religious lines, on August 15, 1947, left a deep impact on children born of mixed parentage (between Hindus and Muslims), and on women from both sides who were abducted and raped, some of whom bore children. Many children were also orphaned by the murder of their parents, or abandoned after the recovery project initiated by the two nations (Butalia 2000, 213). With this comparative project in mind, I conducted fieldwork research with adoption agencies and orphanages in both India and Korea, as well as with adoption agencies in Canada.1 As I began to attempt to bring my research findings together, I realized that the points of comparison between the situations that led to children needing homes in Korea and India are extremely complex. While Christian missionaries played a significant role in both countries, Indians did not convert to Christianity in large numbers, as occurred in Korea. The role of British colonialism in India is comparable in some ways to American influence and occupation in Korea, but in terms of transnational adoption the effects were very different. It is impossible to analyze the current situation of Korean adoptees in either the United States or Canada without re-engaging with the after-effects of the Korean War and the US and UN military occupation that followed. Ultimately, I had to admit that I needed to examine the US situation more closely in order to understand adoptions from Korea to Canada, and that I had enough material for a dissertation 1  I gratefully acknowledge the support of the Shastri Foundation and the Korea Foundation for this research. 6  dealing with adoptions to North America (the US and Canada) from Korea alone. Consequently, this study is only part of a larger comparative project including India that I intend to continue in the future. As I now have close family connections to France, where Korean children have also been adopted, my future research will extend to look at the situation in Europe as well. This dissertation represents the first stage in an on-going process of discovery and re-thinking of assumptions. I have conducted interviews, researched adoption websites, and contacted and visited adoption agencies and social welfare departments in the United States, Canada, Korea, and India, as well as talking to many adoptees. This background certainly colours my discussion of the past and present conditions of adoptions from Korea to the US and Canada. It has enriched my understanding of the socio-economic and cultural dimensions that have facilitated, regulated, complicated, promoted, and condemned international adoptions from Asia to North America, and the ethical dilemmas these adoptions represent. As will be explained in more detail in my first chapter, the shift in focus for my research and the length of time it has taken to complete this dissertation have also influenced my methodology and theoretical framework. The qualitative fieldwork research completed with adoption agency workers that was a central part of my original project now occupies a relatively small proportion of the overall result, while larger issues regarding the political and ethical issues raised by transnational and transracial adoption have gained more attention. Recent changes in Korean policies regarding transnational adoption mean that it is probably about to be phased out completely. Tracing the history and background of adoptions from Korea to North America may now be of interest primarily as a preview of what may be expected to occur in other countries that are currently exporting children, as well as a point of  7  comparison that brings out the specificities of the relations between South Korea and the US or Canada. Since beginning this project I have become a mother myself, to a son and a daughter who have a mixed racial and cultural inheritance as their father is from France.2 Our son was born in Algeria, where we were living temporarily for employment reasons, at a time when I was in the process of becoming a Canadian citizen. This personal situation brought home to me the relevance of family ties to immigration law, and to individual feelings of belonging. Currently I am living in France, where our daughter was born, and immigrants from India or Korea are less common than those from the Maghreb and other parts of Africa. I am faced daily with evidence of the intersecting influences of genetics and culture on my own family members’ identities. These elements make me in some ways an insider-outsider, where “adoption” as displacement and transformation of identity is concerned. My own experiences as a mother have also made me more aware of the centrality of gender in issues related to reproduction, of both bodies and culture. It is clear to me that this topic is extremely relevant to a program in Women’s and Gender Studies.  Framing the Study: Gendered Experiences Transnational, transracial adoption is of interest to women, whether they be childless and relatively affluent would-be adopters, desperate birthmothers, or homeless Asian children, the majority of whom have been female. As the chapters to come will show, many of the latter now grow up in North America, with innumerable unanswered questions. Accounts by 2  While many researchers working on transnational adoption take care to situate themselves in relation to the “adoption triangle,” the only one I came across who situates herself in relation to becoming a biological mother during her research is Nora Rose Moosnick, author of Adopting Maternity: White Women Who Adopt Transracially and Transnationally (2004). 8  female adult adoptees reveal that they often begin their search for their origins when they reach the age to consider having children of their own. As they re-cross national, racial, and cultural borders on a journey of return that is also one of discovery, they become aware of complex relationships between race/ethnicity, gender, class, and age, in terms of both individual entitlement and resources and collective, national ones. My meetings with adoption workers in several countries, as well as the stories of birthmothers who relinquish their child, confirmed that the adoption process is feminized. Both birth and adoptive fathers usually remain in the wings, whether they are supportive or not. While the majority of social workers and counsellors are women (even more so in the past than now3), the government bodies that pronounce laws and policies controlling the movement of people, on both sides of these international transactions, are often perceived by various stakeholders as masculine and distanced from women’s painful realities of single motherhood or the inability to bear a child. The reason why a child is available for adoption in Asia is frequently related to the child’s gender, as well as to poverty and the stigma attached to being an unmarried mother. In Korea, adoption is usually associated with relinquishment or abandonment of the child by the birth family or parent, rather than with being orphaned. It is rarely due to the “protective removal” of vulnerable minors on the part of the State, as often occurs in Canada. Such differing norms stem from the way in which gender difference and family genealogy are constructed and perceived in many Asian contexts, where girl children are still often seen as a burden whereas sons are a resource. This view has been as prevalent in India as in Korea, 3  Karen Balcom (2011), in her study of cross-border adoptions between Canada and the United States, traces the role of women’s networks in the development of social work as a profession in the period she covers (1930–72). See also Ellen Herman, Kinship by Design (2008). 9  where, as in China, the patriarchal male lineage has been culturally constructed as especially important because of the significance of rites of respect for the ancestors being carried out by male heirs. The surprising shift behind an increase in domestic adoptions of girls and international adoptions of boys in recent times in Korea will be one issue raised towards the end of this study. On the other hand, gender also plays a large role in motivating the demand for children from abroad to adopt in North America. Western women who are unable to bear children themselves may experience a sense of being devalued, or frustration at not being able to experience raising children, having prioritized career goals. Some have sons and would like a daughter. As will be discussed later, stereotypes related to racialization in the West intersect with gender issues, when Asian girl children are assumed to be more easily integrated into a white North American family (and the society in general) than, for example, Afro-American boys. The reasons why few healthy white babies are available for adoption in the US or Canada include relatively easy access to contraception and abortion, as well as social and financial support for single mothers—all changes hard-won by feminist activism. But the assumption that children are not available for adoption in North America camouflages the presence of many children needing homes who are considered “unsuitable” for reasons involving race, class, health, and age.4 The fact that non-white children, or older children, siblings, or those with disabilities, have difficulty finding homes in their own countries in North America is indicative of broader issues within the Western context  4  Laura Briggs (2005) challenges the assumption that international adoption is due to the lack of available children in the US, in an article discussing the existence of a “bio-underclass” whose children are not considered suitable to become members of the respectable middle class. 10  concerning entitlement, privilege, and economic oppression, as well as disparities between North America and the Global South where most international adoptees are born. Issues related to patriarchal social structures and rigid or changing attitudes to women’s sexuality are also central to understanding why so many Korean women have reluctantly relinquished their children. Economic class-based conditions resulting from a combination of tradition and globalization, as well as media images of the West, are central factors in the reasons why so many have chosen to allow their child to be adopted abroad. A feminist approach, including a closer look at the evolving situation of women in Korea and in North America, provides insight into a phenomenon that remains in many ways perplexing.  Questions and Dilemmas Many existing studies deal with the problems surrounding adoption in general and transracial adoption in particular, in various contexts. In comparing policies on adoption across space and time, and general accounts with individual experiences, this study will adopt an interdisciplinary perspective within a feminist framework. Archival research on the past and web-based research on the present situation will be juxtaposed with personal accounts, from the different perspectives of various participants in what is often referred to as the adoption triangle (birthmother/parents, child, adoptive mother/parents) or circle (including extended family on both sides, as well as social workers from adoption agencies and other government officials). Questions addressed include the reasons for both “supply” and “demand” in international adoption. Why have these children not been able to remain in Korea? What role do national policies related to (im)migration and population control play on both sides of the transactions? What kinds of experiences, positive or negative, have the adoptees and their  11  adoptive families had? How have attitudes changed over time, in both Korea and in North America? The most striking and controversial paradox, in reviewing past and present accounts of international adoption, is the general shift from its favourable perception as a heroic act of rescue and generosity on the part of receiving families, to suspicion or accusations of commodification and even theft of children, exploitation of the reproductive labour of poor Majority World women, and perpetuation of imperialist practices of expropriation of resources. Apparently contradictory and irreconcilable perspectives co-exist, and are multiplied when variations in individual experiences are taken into account. What is told, how, to what audience, and with what effects, determines the impression left by both supposedly objective research results and emotional personal stories. Perceptions, in this area, are often based on deliberate or unintended deceptions or wishful thinking, on the part of any or all of the participants. The disciplines represented in terms of the theoretical framework and methodologies brought together here include history (archival research), qualitative sociological research (participant observation, interviews, questionnaires), textual analysis (of various written records, including personal autobiographical texts and websites), and critical attention to the intersectionality of gender, race, class, (dis)ability, and age. The chapter headings reflect a series of shifts in perspective and focus: from researchers to adopters, from adopters to birthmothers, from birthmothers to adoptees, and from adoptees as children to accounts by some of them as adults. The last chapter, which focuses on Canada, moves to the perspective of agencies currently catering to the demand for children from Korea, as they become less available. The chapter titles and epigraphs reflect the relevance of some concepts borrowed  12  from Michel Foucault, as will be explained in Chapter 1. As I sought to clarify the connections and tensions between the various perspectives on adoptions from Korea to North America, I discovered that these terms, though inserted late in the research process and used out of their Foucauldian context, helped me to pinpoint some of the central themes and issues involved. I use them in relation specifically to the field of adoption, which evokes the concepts of “genealogy” or “biopower” in particular ways, even as it may bring them into question. The terms “confinement,” “tutelage,” “pastoral supervision,” “care” of the self or others, and “heterotopias” resonate with this topic in sometimes surprising ways.5 They serve to provide a conceptual framework to bring a range of perspectives together and allow a critical view of the result, as outlined below.  The Shape of this Study Having explained in this Introduction my own perspective and some of the central issues to be addressed, in the first chapter I will continue the discussion broached here by justifying what I term an “undisciplined” approach. Academic “disciplines” exemplify the type of regulation of thought and action through discourse that Foucault described as typical of organizational structures. His own work was criticized for not conforming to the expectations of any one academic discipline.6 In my view, attempts to be cross-or inter-disciplinary illustrate the resistance to discipline that is, according to Foucault, to be expected. Women’s and Gender Studies are areas of counter-disciplinary inquiry, characterized by critical thinking rather than strict adherence to disciplinary expectations. In this case, my approach  5  See the glossary of terms from Foucault on pp. xi–xii. See Clare O’Farrell, Foucault (1989, 20 ff.) for a comparison of the “disciplinary” reception of Foucault’s work in France and in the anglophone world. 6  13  crosses boundaries between historical research and qualitative methods associated with the social sciences, between humanistic studies of self-construction through auto/bio/graphy and polemical or therapeutic personal writings with less literary merit, between academic studies of adoption and informal exchanges among the individuals concerned. By bringing these together I hope to elucidate the ways in which the aspects emphasized reflect the assumptions and priorities of that perspective. Looked at in juxtaposition, the reasons for contradictions and controversy become clearer. In Chapter 1 I will situate this study in relation to relevant scholarship from different disciplines, and justify my combination of various methodologies. In each of the following chapters I will focus first on the role of archival and factual research by myself and by others, as I attempt to synthesize and assess the wealth of often biased information available from multiple sources. This “archeological excavation” (in Foucault’s sense) dealing with war, diplomacy, and bio-politics, is complemented by my own personal observations in various settings and qualitative research interviews with a range of stakeholders. In the second part of each chapter, with the exception of the one on Canada, analysis of published memoirs and letters reveals the relevance of what Foucault calls “technologies of the self.” These personal writings are juxtaposed with the historical and sociological material, as evidence of the resistance inherent in power relations. They illustrate what Foucault terms “le souci de soi” the care of (or concern for) the self that becomes evident when identities are manipulated, threatened, and reconfirmed or transformed in conscious ways. Anxiety about who the adoptee or the birthmother “really is” may be experienced from many points in the adoption circle, and solved only when the individuals in question decide to take control of their own life story. However, the concept of the individual subject as exerting agency, even while  14  subjected to various types of governmentality and external discipline, has to be reassessed in contexts where collective identities based on gender roles in relation to race/nationality and age come into play. Chapter 2 focuses on early adoptions from Korea to the US in the aftermath of the Korean War. Media coverage played an important part, as did one American family, the Holts, whose “agency” still occupies a prominent role in current adoptions and assisted me in my research. “Relations” are central from two perspectives: between the two nations, in economic, military, and diplomatic terms during the Cold War, and at the level of one family, representing the many American families who adopted mixed-race or Korean “waifs and orphans” in the 1950s and 1960s. History overlaps with genealogy, as family trees and national heritages mingle and are redistributed. Foucault’s “genealogical” method of inquiry is particularly relevant to this specific situation, with its focus on both origins and subsequent developments (which he refers to as “upbringing” or “growing up/out”). Bertha Holt’s memoirs The Seed from the East (1956/1979) and Bring My Sons from Afar (1986/1992), and an extensive interview I conducted in 2007 with her daughter, Molly Holt, contribute personal gendered perspectives on a situation that was unique yet illustrates dominant paradigms of race and gender relations. The “rescue” meta-narrative prevails, with its Christian overtones, as American GIs were perceived in the media as “saving” children, who ironically may well have been their own abandoned offspring. The Holts themselves adopted eight Korean-born children assumed to be of mixed race, and Bertha Holt’s writings reveal a great deal about the construction of femininity and maternity in North America at that time, as well as the colonizing camouflaged by efforts to “save” children from Communism as well as dire material circumstances. “Grandma Holt”  15  became a venerated figure in Korea, which she considered her adopted land. The agency now known as Holt Children’s Services (HCS) runs one of the numerous homes for unwed mothers in Korea, similar to Ae Ran Won, another non-profit home providing shelter and security for young unwed mothers where I was able to conduct fieldwork in 2007. Both are still functioning as places for young mothers to give birth and decide whether to keep or “give up” their child for domestic or transnational adoption. Chapter 3 focuses on the birthmothers, looking at changes in the origins of children adopted from Korea, from the post-war period up to the present. Adoption law and attitudes to adoption (and to transracial adoption in particular) changed in the US, with the expansion of social work as a profession and the Black Civil Rights Movement. Whereas in the first phase Korean children were seen as desperately needing homes, and Westerners as generous, the desire of Americans to adopt became acknowledged as an important motivation and the exchange was re-coded as a “winwin” situation of benefit to both sides (Berebitsky 2000). Both official records and personal accounts indicate that poverty, social stigma, gender-based domestic violence, and the lack of social services, rather than war, have for many years been the main reasons why Korean children have still been available. The existence of foreign adoption agencies and the perception of continuing adoption as a means to maintain good relations with the West are seen by some of the sources that will be cited as in fact contributing to the continuing transfer of children. In Korea, domestic adoptions and support for unmarried mothers have not increased as much as was hoped, nor has the number of children whose mothers are not able to raise them decreased dramatically, in spite of a high abortion rate. As many adoptees have returned to Korea in search of information about their original family, previously secret records have become more open, and the  16  birthmothers’ perspective has become more accessible. Many unwed or abandoned young mothers give birth in maternity homes like those I visited, where some of their “letters” to their unknown child have been collected in three anthologies that will be discussed in Chapter 3. These accounts convey not only the desperation that drove them to relinquish their child, but also pressure from the agencies running the homes to have faith in a Christian God to ensure that their child will have “a beautiful life.” Guilt, remorse, and resentment at the conditions that have led to their plight mingle in these letters, where fathers play only minor roles. While the maternity homes serve as a refuge and hiding place for many young women with unwelcome pregnancies, from a Foucauldian perspective the birthmothers are literally “confined” for their “confinement”: they give birth in seclusion and are marginalized and mostly ultimately dispossessed of their child. They are subjected to “biopower,” in Foucault’s terms, as state efforts to regulate population by exporting or importing infants overlap with medical inspections of children, who are classified according to assumed desirability by gender, age, and physical health. The birthmothers’ letters will be discussed as also illustrating Foucault’s concept of “confession,” in relation to the Korean concept of han, as well as constituting a new variation on “testimonial” auto/bio/graphy representing a collective and relational rather than individualized self. The situation of birthmothers has changed considerably over the years, as factory work resulting from industrialization and the IMF crisis both affected gender roles in Korean families. Attitudes to sexuality have changed rapidly in the younger generation as a result of modernization and globalization, while access to contraception and legal abortion has lagged behind. Although some improvements have been made in support for single mothers in  17  Korea and in promoting domestic adoptions, international adoption may, paradoxically, now be seen as a better option, even as it is supposed to be phased out. Birthmothers may accept their loss, not because of dire poverty or social stigma, but because the child may acquire the Western education and English language skills coveted by Korea’s upwardly mobile middle class. They presume that the child will be less stigmatized in the west than in Korea for being adopted (and therefore assumed to be “illegitimate”), and many believe that racism in North America is a thing of the past. They may also still prefer to relinquish their child for international rather than domestic adoption because it is now, ironically, more likely that contact may be reestablished in the future if the child is sent abroad. In Chapter 4 the perspective shifts to that of adult adoptees, raised in the West, who have returned to Korea and provided accounts of their experience. It includes my own investigation of various Korean adoptee networks, associations, websites, and events, some of which I witnessed first-hand in Korea, along with references to Eleana Kim’s (2010) extensive in-depth analysis in Adopted Territories. Some of the returning adoptees, reversing the Holts’ struggle to obtain American citizenship for Korean adoptees in the 1950s, are fighting to reclaim Korean citizenship. While the published accounts do not claim to be representative of all adoptees’ lives, they do put into question the results of many earlier studies on how well the children adopted from Korea “adjusted” to life in America. They provide more detailed accounts that add to the results of recent qualitative research studies on adult Korean-born adoptees undertaken by Mia Tuan and Jiannbin Lee Shiao (2011) and John Palmer (2011). Memoirs by two adoptees, Katy Robinson (2002) and Jane Jeong Trenka (2003; 2009), will be analyzed to bring out the disjuncture between the Korean child that took the  18  plane to the US and the adult returning imbued with Western culture and attitudes. The facts that Trenka’s sister, who was adopted by the same family, disassociates herself from this account, and that Robinson discovered her birthfather rather than birthmother, remind us that every case is unique. As in the case of Bertha Holt’s memoirs and the birthmothers’ solicited letters, the way the stories are framed and directed at an implied audience must be taken into consideration. Foucault used the term “tutelage” to show how individuals are constrained in dependent child-like roles. This is relevant to the fact that many adoptees resent the way in which accounts of their lives turn them into eternal children. In producing their own versions of their lives, these and other adoptees are engaging in a form of resistance, by constructing their own identity through narratives that illustrate what Foucault calls “technologies of the self” (Foucault, in Martin 1988). Trenka’s writings, in particular, belong to another category of “testimony” representing an attempt to recover from personal and collective trauma through collective action. Kim (2010) points out, however, that the new adoptee community that provides a refuge and a sense of belonging to many also excludes those who do not conform to a narrative of self-recovery and empowerment through membership in a “counterpublic” with a shared counterdiscourse. Gender issues intersect once more with issues related to age and racialization in these accounts, as the female narrators are often considering maternity themselves and rethinking the nature/nurture debate. Several had good relationships with their adoptive mother, less good ones with the adoptive father. They fear appearing disloyal and ungrateful if they also wish to know their birthmother, or point out the underlying imperialism inherent in the conditions that produce transracial international adoptions. Some adoptive mothers have shared their own fears of finding themselves childless, after having spent so much effort on  19  acquiring a child.7 As adoptions become more open, there will be more exchanges between birthmothers and adoptive mothers, like the one included in one of the anthologies, To My Beloved Baby, published by Holt Children’s Services (2004). The dynamics of the adoption triangle change, when all three poles are represented in dialogue with each other, rather than spoken about by “experts.” Exchanges between adoptees, birthmothers, and American adoptive mothers also raise questions about what is specifically American, or North American, about their experience. Comparison with Canada serves to highlight some particular aspects of adoptions from Korea in these two nations with different historical relationships to that country. Chapter 5 concentrates on Canada. State apparatus, in the form of rigorously applied immigration and adoption laws, represents a significant aspect of biopower in the Canadian context. The history of transracial adoption in Canada is different from that in the US, as the focus of controversy regarding domestic adoptions has been on First Nations children, rather than on Afro-Americans. The scandalous history of their treatment in residential schools and the identity crises experienced by many of those adopted by white families pinpoint the frequent failure of both governments and families to know or do what is “in the best interests of the child” (Strong-Boag 2006, 173). Many were also sent for adoption in other countries, before the First Nations expressed objections similar to those of Black social workers in the US in the 1970s. Canadian adoption records are a provincial concern, and documentation varies across the country. The illegal export of many white Roman Catholic babies from Quebec, born to unmarried mothers before the “Quiet Revolution” of the 1960s, to Jewish families in New York (Balcom 2011) provides a reversed foreshadowing of the import of 7  See Cheri Register, “Are Those Kids Yours?” American Families with Children Adopted from Other Countries (1991). 20  foreign children to that province over the last twenty years. Quebec has had the most international adoptions from Korea (British Columbia and Ontario having begun such adoptions only in the late 1990s) and from elsewhere, and one of the highest per capita rates of international adoptions in the world (Ouellette in Marre and Briggs 2009). Since the adoptive parents are mostly francophone, the encouragement of such adoptions may be related to a particular aspect of bio-politics in Canada, Quebec’s desire to raise more francophone children now that the birthrate there is very low. One of the obvious reasons for fewer adoptions from Korea to Canada than to the US was Canada’s relatively minor role in the Korean War, which I will look at more closely. Immigration policy, however, had just as much influence. Like the US, until the 1960s Canada banned or limited immigration from Asia as part of racist policies aimed at keeping the majority of the population “European” (Thobani 2007). Even now, with large Asian populations in the main cities, Asian children joining white families present an anomaly that challenges both “colour-blindness” and the prevailing discourse of “multiculturalism.” Archival research in this chapter is juxtaposed with an account of field research at an adoption agency in BC, as well as relevant interviews conducted with agencies in Korea. Websites for prospective adopters in Canada reveal the extent to which they, as well as the children involved, are subject to scrutiny. Family structure, age, and physical fitness are assessed, as well as educational level, financial security, and community affiliations. Adopting families have to submit to invasive in-home inspections and make promises regarding the child’s future, including exposure to the culture of origin. Same-sex couples and single women are directed away from Korea, although this discrimination is contrary to the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms. As Canada’s cities reflect an increasing  21  number of Westernized second-generation Asian-Canadians and mixed-race families are not unusual, adopting children of a different race may appear to be open-minded and cosmopolitan; the adoptive parents may sincerely believe they are fighting racism. Yet the rules governing the institution of international adoption tend to re-confirm classism and heterosexism, as well as white economic entitlement and a belief in cultural superiority, simply by assuming that a child from elsewhere in the Majority world will be better-off raised in North America by middle-class, probably white, heterosexual parents. The experience of children adopted in European countries may be different in some ways, as several studies point out,8 but the underlying dilemmas are the same. In the Conclusion, as well as up-dating the situation in Korea I will attempt to pinpoint the many paradoxes and ironies of international adoption. As studies by a number of researchers dealing with international adoption from other countries9 also show, this is an area where unusual generosity and openness on the part of individuals and families may be combined with ignorance of the causes and after-effects of adoption; where selfish or religious motives may be camouflaged by apparent altruism; where governments use children, who cannot provide informed consent, for their own ends; where colour-blindness is not sufficient to erase racism; where women and girls engage in complex relationships among themselves, and men are conveniently or inconveniently excluded or marginalized; where what is at first resistance to authority or discipline may develop into a new apparatus of control. The 8  See, for example, Signe Howell, The Kinning of Foreigners: Transnational Adoption in a Global Perspective (2006) on the experience of Korean adoptees in Norway. 9 These include Sara Dorow’s Transnational Adoption: A Cultural Economy of Race, Gender, and Kinship (2006a), focused on adoption from China; Barbara Yngvesson’s Belonging in an Adopted World (2010), which includes India as well as Latin-American countries; Karen Dubinsky’s Babies Without Borders. Adoption and Migration across the Americas (2010); and most recently Laura Briggs’ Somebody’s Children. The Politics of Transracial and Transnational Adoption (2012). 22  evolution of discourses about international adoption clearly illustrates what Foucault saw as the aim of his “genealogical” approach to history: the analysis of the way an unproblematic field of experience or set of practices which were accepted without question . . . becomes a problem, raises discussion and debate, incites new relations, and induces a crisis in the previously silent behaviour, habits, practices, and institutions.10 International adoption “incites new relations” at the level of the individual family, as well as that of nation-states and academic disciplines. It serves to illustrate the fact that what is assumed to be “knowledge” depends on perspective, as Foucault claimed in the epigraph to this Introduction. It is also inseparable, as Foucault demonstrated, from power relations. Debates over international adoption always end up asking what the better alternatives may be “in the child’s best interests,” as will this study. Because of its age, the child is the one participant who has no say in the decision. The solutions proposed vary according to the power/knowledge perspective and context of the adult speakers. What constitutes the “beautiful life” wished for their baby by birthmothers who send their child to America, a place whose name in Korean means, as Trenka (2009, 101) points out, “beautiful country”? How does the American life imagined relate to the “beautiful” (aesthetic and ethical) life-asstory discussed by Foucault in his work on self-construction through writing? Is such a life assumed to be available (or desirable) only to Western-educated individuals? The questions are not simple to formulate, and any answers even harder to suggest, but the topic is certainly worthy of close attention. It has been approached from many different angles, and in undertaking this project I have benefited from the research and stories of many individuals, whose contribution will be more adequately acknowledged in the next chapter.  10  Michel Foucault, “Fearless Speech,” in Semiotext(e) (2001), cited by Clare O’Farrell on her website Accessed November 14, 2010. 23  Chapter 1 An “Undisciplined” Approach: Cross-Disciplinary Perspectives on Adoptions from South Korea to North America To adopt: to take into one’s family and treat as one’s own child, esp. legally; to take to oneself by choice or approval, as policies, principles, opinions, a course of conduct etc. Adoption: the act of adopting, or the state of being adopted. Adoptive: constituted by adoption; adopting or being adopted; assumed. –The Living Webster: Encyclopedic Dictionary of the English Language, 1972.  Adoption Debates The above definitions of terms related to “adoption” indicate several of the contentious issues entailed in any discussion of this topic. What is “one’s family”? Who is the “one” who owns it or belongs to it? How is a “family” to be understood as constituted? Is it nuclear or extended, or necessarily more than one person? Is it assumed to be heterosexual and monogamous? What does it mean to treat someone as (or as if?) “one’s own (biological?) child”? What age limit is imposed on being a “child,” if any? Or on being a parent? Why is this process associated with “legality” rather than custom or circumstances? Does “to take to oneself” (as a possession or relative?) apply to children as well as “policies, principles” etc.? What kinds of “policies, principles, and courses of conduct” are “adopted” or espoused in the adoption of children? Adoption can be either active (from the adopter’s perspective) or passive (from that of the adoptee). A child is constituted as adoptee by being adopted, usually with little or no choice in the matter, although the adopter exerts agency (through an “agency,” involving policies, conduct etc.) and some degree of choice. What kind of choice is in fact available to the adopters? Is this their first choice, or only the second or third best option? Is the child taken unconditionally or “on approval”? Is the adoptee’s new identity (or that of the would-be parent) necessarily “assumed,” in both senses of that 24  word? Is it freely given and taken, or imposed? To what extent is it fake or a fiction, involving a mask covering up something shameful, entailing secrecy or deceit? Is this new identity a “gift” and privilege, making the adoptee’s life easier, or does it constitute a constant reminder of an initial rejection that might be repeated? Does adoptive love have to be earned, by both parents and children? The transfer of children across national borders raises all these questions, and has been approached from a range of disciplinary and personal perspectives that mostly ultimately either defend it as representing a positive aspect of humanitarian globalization, or condemn it as implicitly exploitative and imperialistic. In this chapter, I aim to situate this study in relation to the growing mass of relevant research in a range of disciplines. I will begin with an overview of some general studies of adoption in North America, and transnational and/or transracial adoption in particular, as they relate to the three nation states concerned here: (South) Korea, the US, and Canada. Specific issues and events and recent studies of international adoptions from Korea will be taken up in the individual chapters to come, but I will attempt here to map some of the main approaches in relation to each other. I will go on to justify my juxtaposition of archival, historical material with textual analysis of auto/bio/graphical texts of various types and observations based on fieldwork using qualitative research methods. This combination is connected to my introduction of concepts from Foucault to frame this study, and I will elaborate on feminist critiques of Foucault that are relevant to international adoptions from Korea to North America. This first chapter attempts to combine elements that are often separate in social science studies: the literature review of existing work in the field, the theoretical framework, and the methodology. In this particular study all three overlap.  25  The History of Adoption in North America There had been until recently surprisingly little attention paid to adoption issues by feminist scholars, as Sally Haslanger and Charlotte Witt pointed out in 2005 in their introduction to an important cross-disciplinary collection of “philosophical and feminist essays” entitled Adoption Matters. They claimed that “interdisciplinary thinking about adoption can provide new perspectives on the institution of adoption itself,” revealing the “unstated assumptions concerning race, identity, and the natural form of family life” that shape “the tacit norms and explicit rules governing adoption and adoption practices” (Haslanger and Witt 2005, 15). The disciplines represented in their volume include Philosophy, Law, Political Science, Women’s Studies, History, and Social Policy. The essays cover definitions of “family” and of “motherhood” in relation to changing laws and procedures regarding adoption in the US, including gay and lesbian adoption, policies related to adoption law involving privacy and disclosure, and “matching” families by racial characteristics, in comparison with transracial adoptions. Several of the authors present historical accounts of the reasons for the availability of children for adoption in different contexts. Janet Farrell Smith, in analyzing the legal treatment of children as property, which may be abandoned and exchanged or retrieved, looks at the role of poverty in causing children to be homeless in the US in the nineteenth century (Smith 2005, 115. See also Brysk 2004). While poverty is acknowledged as the main cause, its relation to gender or race is not central to her discussion. It becomes so in “Feminism, Race, and Adoption Policy” by Dorothy Roberts (Haslanger and Witt 2005, 234–  26  246).1 Roberts is one of only three out of fourteen writers in Adoption Matters who do not reveal in the biographical notes that they are either adoptive mothers or adoptees. Adoption is strongly defended by Harvard law professor and adoptive mother of two Peruvian children Elizabeth Bartholet, in “Abuse and Neglect, Foster Drift, and the Adoption Alternative” (Bartholet 2005, 223–233). Bartholet upholds a positive view of transracial adoptions in the US that has been contested by Roberts and others expressing the more critical perspective of the Black community.2 The often hostile debate over the history of the adoption of Afro-American children by white families in the US has been paralleled in Canada by controversy surrounding the apprehending of First Nations children, as discussed by Veronica Strong-Boag (2006) in Finding Families, Finding Ourselves: English Canada Encounters Adoption. “Native Indian” children were placed at first in residential schools, where many suffered abuse, then widely adopted out to white families, often with negative outcomes. Some were adopted abroad, including in the United States, as documented by Karen Balcom in The Traffic in Babies (2011). More recently, many are assigned to long-term foster care in conditions that leave much to be desired, as demonstrated in Strong-Boag’s latest book, Fostering Nation? Canada Confronts its History of Childhood Disadvantage (2011). The campaign by Black  1  Roberts is also the author of Shattered Bonds. The Color of Child Welfare (2002) and Killing the Black Body. Race, Reproduction, and the Meaning of Liberty (1997). 2 See Bartholet’s Family Bonds: Adoption and the Politics of Parenting (1994) and Abuse and Neglect, Foster Drift, and the Adoption Alternative (2005). Briggs (2006a, 610) points out Bartholet’s connections to the neo-conservative American Enterprise Institute and successful lobbying for subsidies to white parents in the US who raise children of colour. The title of Briggs’ recent book, Somebody’s Children (2012) might be seen as a response to Bartholet’s downplaying of the birthmothers’ perspective. Somebody’s Child is also the title of a recent collection of twenty-five personal stories by people adopted in British Columbia (Gillespie and Van Luwen 2012). This volume is a sequel to two collections of accounts of childlessness entitled Nobody’s Mother and Nobody’s Father. 27  social workers in the US in the 1970s to have Black children placed with Black families has parallels with Canadian First Nations’ successful attempts to have the supposedly protective removal of their children re-interpreted as a form of ongoing genocide. The situation of “children of colour” who remain in care in both North American countries, rather than being adopted, provides an important point of comparison with those from overseas, especially Asia, who are welcomed with open arms. Social workers and adoption agencies, as well as immigration departments, play a central role in both North American contexts in facilitating this influx from abroad. Histories of adoption in the US cover the evolution of social welfare agencies, as well as the origin and type of children available for adoption, and who is allowed to adopt. In Adoption in America: Historical Perspectives (Carp 2002), Brian Gill analyzes the role of “Adoption Agencies and the Search for the Ideal Family, 1918–1965.” The model family has varied a great deal across continents and cultures, and within North America over the last two hundred years. Another study by Ellen Herman, Kinship by Design: A History of Adoption in the Modern United States (2008), looks at religious as well as racial “matching,” and the “technologies” of modern child adoption, as does Strong-Boag (2006) in the case of Canada. Procedures and practices are also the focus of two works by Judith Modell entitled Kinship with Strangers: Adoption and Interpretations of Kinship in American Culture (1994) and A Sealed and Secret Kinship: The Culture of Politics and Practices in American Adoption (2002). The role of women in the evolution of social work as a profession with its own rules and disciplinary apparatus (Balcom 2011) will be important in later discussions of adoptions from Korea in the chapters to come, as will the absence of a history of non-familial adoption in Korean culture. The Korean version of the “model family” has led to the ejection from the nation of  28  many children whose mothers would have raised them if that model were less pervasive, while changes in the North American model have had the reverse effect.  Gendered Transactions: Transnational Adoption and “Real Mothers” References to “kinship,”3 and especially “mothering,” in all these studies distinguish and shift between biological or genetic assumptions about blood ties and physical resemblance and the nurturing role that governs the acquisition of language and culture.4 The latter is especially significant where cross-cultural communication and two or more “mothertongues” are concerned. “Nature” and “nurture” may be considered equally important or not, and tend to be competing in adoption discourse. When racial and cultural “matching” was the norm, adoption could remain a secret, as it often was historically (and may still be preferred) in Korea and other Asian countries. In cases of transracial domestic or transnational adoption, physical difference is built into the relationship, and curiosity about origins is bound to occur, on the part of the child and others. This curiosity has motivated the trend towards “opening up” adoption files (Wegar 1997), shedding new light on the role of birthmothers, as well as agencies with sometimes dubious record keeping. In her social history of adoption in North America from the mid-nineteenth to the mid-twentieth century, Julie Berebitsky (2000) claims that adoption was less rigid and adoptive parents more varied before social workers and psychologists became involved in the adoption process (although their interventions certainly prevented some flagrant abuses). According to her, until the second half of the twentieth century adoption was viewed as “a 3  For a discussion of kinship see also Janet Carsten, Cultures of Relatedness: New Approaches to the Study of Kinship (2000). 4 Dorow (2006) introduces a nuanced analysis of what she terms “kinwork,” as adoptive mothers perform the process of bonding with an initially foreign and strange child. 29  positive way to create a family that closely mirrored the biological ideal” (Berebitsky 2000, 1–2). The 1950s and 1960s saw a new trend, with fewer families able to adopt from a dwindling supply of the healthy white infants deemed most desirable. Long waits and increasing bureaucracy led many frustrated couples to reject the intervention of professionals and look for sources outside the public welfare services. Private transnational adoptions became increasingly common, and the expert practice of “matching” was ignored in the first adoptions to the US from Korea. As will be seen in my next chapter, interracial adoptions of this transnational nature were dramatized and romanticized to appeal to white families in ways that domestic adoption did not. Berebitsky also notes that in the 1950s American women were being called on to provide homes and families for abandoned children at a time when domesticity was being glorified. Childless women were expected to acknowledge that “they needed the children as much as the children needed them” (Berebitsky 2000, 55). A large family of adopted children, as illustrated by the Holts (see Chapter 2), reinforced pre-second-wave-feminist ideas about motherhood as essential to a woman’s “fulfillment,” while at the same time confirming neo-colonial stereotypes of white women as saviors and contributing to negative images of the culture of the source countries. This is particularly apparent in the case of some Asian countries, where gender prejudice seemed to be confirmed since most available children until recently were female, and birthmothers were often assumed to have been sexually exploited or irresponsibly promiscuous. In her historical overview of inter-country adoptions in Canada, the US, and New Zealand, Kirsten Lovelock (2000) distinguishes two distinct phases: the first, from World War II to the mid-1970s, emphasized “finding families for children,” especially those  30  orphaned or displaced as a result of war or other disasters. Transnational adoption was perceived as a form of humanitarian emergency aid. The second, from the mid-1970s to the present, is marked, according to Lovelock, by a shift in emphasis to “finding children for families” (Lovelock 2000, 908), with transnational adoption becoming a market-driven enterprise. In the case of Canada, bringing in children from Europe after World War II did not go against the “preferred race” (i.e. white) criteria in Canadian immigration law.5 Crossing racial divides did not become a feature of inter-country adoption to Canada until a change in immigration policy in the 1960s (Lovelock 2000, 916). Lovelock argues that the discourse of earlier international “rescue” operations camouflages current efforts to remove children from the world’s troubled and impoverished regions to satisfy the demand from Western families who can afford to pay for them and raise them (May 1995; Zelizer 2007). In transnational adoption, money changes hands. The children may appear to become commodified, even if no actual trafficking or kidnapping is involved (as has occurred in some cases).6 According to Karen Dubinsky (2007), transnational adoption produces its own kind of kidnap narrative with particular resonance in both the United States and Canada, where Native American children were taken away from their parents without their consent (Dubinsky 2007, 147). As with transnational adoptees, the children who later returned to meet their birth families were unable to speak the same language and had been culturally as  5  See Strong-Boag (2006) and Sunera Thobani, Exalted Subjects: Studies in the Making of Race and Nation in Canada (2007). This will be discussed further in Chapter 5. 6 In November 2007 the media drew attention to the case of African children abducted without the consent of their parents to be taken to France by an adoption agency which has since been prosecuted. For more details see “Europeans Try to Kidnap Chadian Children from their Families,” International Herald Tribune, November 2, 2007. Accessed April 20, 2011. 31  well as physically cut off from their origins. First Nations children who would have been treasured by their own families were raised to see themselves as objects of charity and pity, needing to be saved or rescued and re-formed in order to acquire value in a white, Christian world. As in the case of Korea, the “humanitarian” discourse at the heart of the history of transracial and transnational adoption is inseparable from religious and colonizing motivations. Christian missions were central in promoting a “saving grace” interpretation of their interventions into local culture and customs, as well as in providing refuge for vulnerable children who were then made available for overseas adoption. Laura Briggs credits a visual iconography of the “Madonna and Child” motif in Christian settings for the success of some agencies’ publicity for intercountry adoption (Briggs 2003, 184). Images of motherless children with an empty rice bowl or bloated bellies, or a barely surviving mother holding a skeletal child, provoke pity for Third World “poverty” in TV commercials for charities. Adoption (or sponsoring/fostering by making monthly donations) is presented as a viable solution, implying that there is an ethical “responsibility” for North Americans to assist children in need in poor countries. The supposedly generous outpouring of Christian charity camouflages the role of Western states in maintaining the exploitative conditions that produce the dire material circumstances that lead poor parents to abandon or relinquish their children. As Kenneth Herrmann and Barbara Kasper have argued, “the mere acceptance of international adoption overlooks the negative impact on children, birthmothers, adoptive parents, and the Third World countries from which the children are removed” (1992, 46). According to their study (conducted twenty years ago), the practice of treating transnational  32  adoption as a business was already resulting in violations of standards and laws in both the countries of origin and the receiving states. This trend has only grown since then.  Race Matters in Transnational Adoption In 2002 Peter Selman compiled an estimate of the number of “intercountry adoptions” (ICA) worldwide through data collected from eighteen receiving states over thirty years, up until the 1990s. The results suggested that “the scale of ICA is greater than is usually acknowledged and could potentially grow in the first decades of this century, making international controls even more important” (Selman 2002, 206). His prediction was realized, as shown in his up-dated report covering 1999–2004 (in Marre and Briggs 2009, 32–51). Selman emphasized that demographic analysis of intercountry adoption should not focus simply on the movement of children across national frontiers as an aspect of international migration, as it is of relatively minor significance in comparison with legal migration, refugee claims, temporary migrant labour, and illegal infiltration of borders. Adoption raises different types of issues in relation to “biopower”: the control of fertility and the domestic treatment of children in care. Selman relates intercountry adoptions to the number of births in both sending and receiving countries, and to the child welfare systems in different contexts. Like Briggs (2006b), Selman (2002, 223) disagreed with the conclusion expressed by Lovelock and others that international adoptions have increased simply because there is an increasing “demand” for children in the West and an “oversupply” in poor countries. The “supply” side did decrease in North America, because of changes in social attitudes to “illegitimacy” and single motherhood as well as access to contraception and abortion: yet many older and “special needs” children remain in care, as do racialized children. On the  33  other hand, many career-oriented Western women put off having children until it is too late, even with the help of modern reproductive technologies. The fact that many adoptive parents would still prefer children that might look like them was reflected in the rush to obtain children from Romania and Russia when they became available. The shift to Asian children will be discussed in detail in the chapters to come, but in the case of Korea and China there is also a false assumption on the “supply” side, since for the last twenty years both countries have had very low birth rates. In the case of Korea, as will be seen, the reasons for these children’s availability may be similar to the reasons for the availability of children in North America: yet adoptive parents who would not consider a “special needs” child born in their own country may be willing to take one from Asia7. The intersections of class, gender, and racialization have produced complex and sometimes unexpected effects in the realm of transnational adoption. Taking a child from overseas may appear less risky than domestic adoption because foreign and distant birthparents were, until recently, expected to be less likely to want contact or to intervene in any way (Allen 2005). Hiromi Ishizawa et al. (2006), in a study based on the 2000 US census, pointed to the fact that white families may adopt children of other racial backgrounds from abroad, whereas minority families are restricted to children of the same race. While this may reflect a justifiable preference for racial matching where possible in the interests of the child in domestic adoptions, it nevertheless confirms that where foreign children are concerned, middle-class white families are generally deemed competent to raise children of another race, whereas the reverse is not the case. They may even be considered by  7  On the reasons for this, see Sharon Elizabeth Rush, “Domestic and International Adoptions: Heroes? Villains? Or Loving Parents?” in Hernandez-Truyol (2002), 116–131. 34  some Korean birthmothers as preferable to adoptive families in the child’s homeland, for reasons that will be discussed in Chapter 3. The media played a significant role in publicizing transnational adoption and leading many would-be parents to see it as a way to fulfill their desire for healthy young children, without necessarily meeting all the stringent requirements for domestic adoption. Beginning with the extensive media coverage of “Korean war orphans” which will be discussed in Chapter 2, there have been a series of “disaster” scenarios to which the North American public is asked to respond by “opening their arms” to suffering children. Churches frequently remind Christians of Christ’s words: “Suffer the little children to come unto me.” It is tempting to be able to act as an exemplary believer while obtaining a greatly valued object of desire, a child who will be expected to be grateful for this chance at a better life (Sullivan 2008). Lisa Cartwright (2005) has drawn attention to the proliferation of media images of a transnational response network addressing the needs of children in multiple sites across the world that were newly opening their borders to global trade in the 1990s (especially Romania, the former Soviet Republics, and China). Cartwright interprets the dissemination of spectacular portraits of desperate children as a moment in the formation of a transnational “politics of pity” articulated to make America look “good.” She argues that the “intimate encounters” that occur within adoptive families have transnational political implications for global social policy, as social welfare is privatized and children’s well-being left in the hands of “charitable” individuals with money. Once the adopting family has welcomed the child, the reality of adjustment on both sides may not correspond to the perfect harmony depicted or predicted by the media. Katarina Wegar (2000), a sociologist, claimed that failure in the past to recognize the  35  stigmatized social position of adoptive families in North America has shaped current public opinion about adoption and hindered research and practice related to it. As a result, according to Wegar, the individualistic (and often victim-blaming) approach of some adoption research has served to perpetuate rather than correct stigmatizing biases against adoptive family life. To her, it is important to recognize that adoptive families are different in one crucial aspect: “They are families tied together by bonds beyond genes, but they exist in a society that still primarily assumes that real families should be connected by blood” (Wegar 2000, 368). She claims that by failing to recognize negative cultural attitudes toward adoption, researchers and social workers who counsel members of adoptive families are unable to prepare their clients for the real social and cultural challenges they will inevitably face. More recent studies of attitudes to families with transnationally adopted non-white children (such as Dorow 2006) indicate that the situation has changed to some extent, at least in multicultural urban contexts where unconventional families have become more common. An earlier study of transracial adoptees by Karen March (1995) also examined experiences of social stigmatization. In response to an open-ended questionnaire about the outcomes of reunions with birth family members, many reported discrimination from others who constantly questioned their unknown biological kinship ties. The results of this study supported the trend toward more openness in adoption, which has since become the predominant model. The benefits are not only to the adopted individuals but also to the birthmothers, who previously had very little say in what happened to their children and no contact with them.  36  Documenting Identities: Collective and Individual Sources of Information Drucilla Cornell’s essay “Adoption and its Progeny: Rethinking Family Law, Gender and Sexual Difference,” in the book Adoption Matters (Haslanger and Witt 2005) discussed above, addresses the distinctions separating a birthmother from the adopting mother (Cornell 2005, 19). To her, it is not just class privilege, economic security, or racial prejudice that separates the two women, but how the state deems one or the other to be the “real” mother, according to varying criteria. She proposes a reform in American family law which would change the very meaning of adoption, as the adopted children and birthmothers would be given the means to work together through the traumatic events that produced their situation (Cornell 2005, 21). Cornell argues for open public records where all adopted children and birthmothers could register and should be given the option to contact each other if they wish to do so, as was already the case in some jurisdictions. Her discussion relates to domestic adoptions in the US, but it raises issues that are increasingly relevant to adoptions from Korea and elsewhere in the world, as many adult adoptees now return to their country of birth and attempt to establish communication with family members (Yngvesson 2003) in locales where records may be non-existent, changed, lost, or destroyed, as will be discussed in Chapter 4. As the above overview of some relevant studies of adoption in general and transnational/transracial adoption in particular indicates, inquiry into this field has occurred from a range of perspectives but it has often been hampered by a lack of complete, available, and trustworthy documentation. Most agencies, governmental or non-governmental, that keep or destroy files and compile statistics do so with specific ends in mind. As well as consulting existing sources of information, I undertook my own research in relevant archives  37  in Korea and in Canada in my efforts to trace how policies and attitudes towards international adoption have developed and changed over the years. My field research included visits to adoption agencies, on-site observations, interviews, and discussions with adoption workers and scholars in both Korea and Canada, as well as many meeting with Koreans who were adopted in North America. In addition to the studies discussed above that raise general issues, a number of sociological or psychological studies assessing the “adjustment” of transnational and transracial adoptees in the US were published prior to some recent ones specifically dealing with adoptees from Korea (to be discussed in detail in Chapter 4). Earlier research mostly aimed at defending transracial adoptions and focused primarily on the opinions and experiences of adopting parents. Some researchers drew their conclusions from observation of young children based on types of tests that have since been abandoned as inconclusive.8 Rita Simon and Howard Altstein conducted an initial study in 1972 of white families in the Mid-West that had adopted racialized children, and a follow-up study ten years later (Simon and Altstein 1981). Both stages of their research looked at the perceptions of children of colour adopted into white families, in relation to those of their adoptive parents and siblings. The sample included Afro-American, Native Indian, and Asian children, with some from Korea. The main purpose of the first study was to “explore the racial identity, awareness, and attitudes of the adopted and non-adopted children in the families” (Simon and Altstein 1981, 1). The children were young, and tests involving dolls of different colours claimed to show that both the adopted children of colour and white siblings were “colour blind” in their preferences. The researchers came to the conclusion that, based on this evidence, “the parents  8  See Kirton (2000, 33–37) on the types of test conducted. 38  were extremely optimistic about what relations between different racial groups in the United States would be like in the next one or two decades” (Simon and Altstein 1981, 1). This favourable outlook in 1972 undoubtedly reflected gains made by the Black Civil Rights Movement and support for integrated schooling. Nevertheless, the authors also reported that a majority of prospective parents would not consider taking an Afro-American child, and one respondent gave the following reason: “A black child is from American society . . . they suffer from prejudice, which is not usually the case for a foreign child” (Simon and Altstein 1981, 104–5). This view also turned out to be overly optimistic. In the second stage of the study, seven years later, only the parents were contacted, not the children. The second questionnaire included questions relating to extended families and the type of neighborhood where the families lived (almost all all-white). In response to new interventions by the National Association of Black Social Workers in the US that criticized the removal of Afro-American children to white homes, this time the parents were asked “what kinds of activities or rituals” they practiced to “enhance the adopted child’s knowledge of or identification with his or her racial or ethnic background” (Simon and Altstein 1981, 3). More sensitive issues were raised, such as whether the parents had experienced a change in their own self-perception as a result of the adoption, whether it had changed the relationship between them, and what type of dating or marriage the children were likely to enter into, in terms of race (Simon and Altstein 1981, 3). As open adoptions were beginning to be discussed at that time, information was also collected on whether the adopted children had sought contact with birth families, and if so what the result had been. Not all the original families agreed to take part in the follow-up study, and of those who did a quarter admitted that the experience had been less easy than they had anticipated.  39  Some expressed bitterness and disillusionment, but the majority still believed they had made a good choice in adopting transracially, for themselves and the children (Simon and Altstein 1981, 5). The same authors conducted a further follow-up study in 1991, and went on to publish Adoption across Borders: Serving the Children in Transracial and Intercountry Adoptions (Simon and Altstein 2000). This volume looked more closely at the arguments in favour of matching children to families of similar racial background, and undertook a more detailed comparison between domestic transracial adoptions and international ones. It provides a useful summary of the growth and distribution by country of transnational adoptions to the US up to 2000 (Simon and Altstein 2000, 7–22) and relevant changes in immigration law (Simon and Altstein 2000, 30–35). One chapter devoted to empirical studies of intercountry adoption (Simon and Altstein 2000, 85–95) includes tables conveying the reasons for adopters’ choice of this route (Simon and Altstein 2000, 89) and criteria for assessing the “psychological health” of adoptees. Several studies cited compare the experiences of international adoptees from European countries and those from racialized groups, with inconclusive results. It was the Asian adoptees (Simon and Altstein 2000, 93) who most readily acknowledged both race and adoption as being significant elements of difficulty as they reached adolescence, although only 25% of the respondents did so. The authors conducted their own study with grown-up Korean adoptees, located through the Holt Adoption Agency, in which the vast majority of adoptees and parents expressed satisfaction with their experience. This study is typical of a number that continue to be used to justify the continuation of transracial adoptions, as defended by Bartholet (2005), whereas some more recent sociological studies, as well as individual accounts by adult adoptees, raise more difficult questions. I shall return to the  40  variable results of some sociological studies, as well as the deficiencies in agency records, in Chapter 4, which will focus on the views expressed by adult adoptees, especially those who have returned to Korea to seek out their birth families.  The Value of Personal Testimonies It is clear from a superficial perusal of sociological and psychological studies of the outcomes of transnational adoptions that the results are likely to be determined to a large extent by the context of the study, the selection of the sample, the way the questions are posed etc. Nevertheless, they do provide valuable and necessary cumulative and quantitative information. Individual or anecdotal evidence may be considered even less “scientifically” valid, but the personal stories produced more recently by adult adoptees that will be analyzed in Chapter 4 provide more in-depth accounts of the issues raised in their lives than do statistics or questionnaires. These texts do not make any claims to be “objectively” representative, but they do convey the depth of the emotions involved on all sides. My goal here is not to make a case for one type of “evidence” being more convincing than the other, but to look at them together to see where convergence or divergence occurs. In Foucauldian terms, academic studies reflect the type of institutionalized collective “knowledge” legitimized by disciplinary power structures, whereas personal confessional accounts may represent acts of resistance to the dominant discourse, through “testimony” based on a different kind of knowledge and “speaking truth to power.”9 As well as individual published autobiographical texts there are now also a number of anthologies of auto/bio/graphical  9  Different types of individual and collective “testimonial” communication, and the importance of the context of their production and reception, will be discussed in Chapters 3 and 4. 41  accounts of transracial and international adoptions. One collection entitled In Their Own Voices: Transracial Adoptees Tell Their Stories (Simon and Roorda 2000) is based on interviews with black or biracial individuals adopted by white families, but raises many of the same issues regarding racial discrimination in North America as do other narratives by international adoptees. Outsiders Within: Writing on Transracial Adoption (Trenka et al. 2006) explicitly addresses the similarities and differences when not only race but also a separate geographical space and language are involved. This volume includes a number of contributions from Korean transnational adoptees, representing a range of views, who will be cited in Chapter 4.10 An earlier collection, Voices from Another Place (Cox 1999), was published as part of the International Gathering of the First Generation of Korean Adoptees in September 1999. The narratives include the story of the editor, Susan Soon-Keum Cox, who was herself a mixed-race child adopted to the United States in 1956 at the age of six. Other contributors include adoptees raised in the United States, Europe, and Australia, some of whom are now living in Korea. A more recent collection entitled After the Morning Calm: Reflections of Korean Adoptees (Wilkinson and Fox 2006) adds further accounts of growing up in America, as illustrated earlier by Catherine Choy and Gregory Choy in “Transformative Terrains: Korean American Adoptees and the Social Construction of an American Childhood” (in Levander and Singley 2003). While there are as yet no such anthologies of life stories from Koreans adopted in Canada, the examples from Korean adoptees raised in Europe do show some differences from the US that will be relevant to the discussion of Canada in Chapter 5,  10  They are J.A. Dare, Laura Gannarelli, Mark Hagland, Tobias H!binette, Sunny Jo, Jae Ran Kim, Mihee Nathalie Lemoine, Beth Kyong Lo, Soo Na, Ami Inia Nafsger, Kim Park Nelson, Sun Ying Shin, and Kirsten Hoo-Mi Sloth. 42  notably less religious influence. Full-length memoirs are increasingly being published by adult Korean/American adoptees, including Thomas Clement’s The Unforgotten War: Dust of the Streets (1998) and Hyun Sook Han’s Many Lives Entwined (2007), as well as Katy Robinson’s A Single Square Picture (2002) and Jane Jeong Trenka’s two volumes, The Language of Blood (2005) and Fugitive Visions (2009), which will be discussed in detail in Chapter 4. Adoptive mothers have also begun to tell their stories (like Cheri Register in Beyond Good Intentions: A Mother Reflects on Raising Internationally Adopted Children, 2005), possibly in reaction to the growing number of anthologies of “letters” by Korean birthmothers which will be discussed in Chapter 3. The most recent volume of such letters, Dreaming a World: Korean Mothers Tell Their Stories (Han 2010), provides a sequel to I Wish for You a Beautiful Life (Dorow 1999).11 These accounts, like those of the adult adoptees, vary in their emphasis on a therapeutic function related to self-recovery or self-reconstruction, a polemical function conveying a political message about transnational adoption, or an aesthetic function that plays with formal aspects of memoir writing (as in Trenka’s second volume, 2009). In analyzing these texts I will bear in mind feminist reflections on the theory and practice of reading women’s auto/bio/graphical texts, as developed by Sidonie Smith, Julia Watson and others.12 In the second half of Chapter 2, dealing with early adoptions from Korea, I will look closely at the memoirs dictated or written by Bertha Holt, who co-founded the Holt Adoption Agency with her husband, Harry Holt, who received most of the credit.  11  See Laurel Kendall, “Birth Mothers’ Imaginary Lives,” in Volkman (2005, 162–185). Sidonie Smith, Julia Watson et al. Reading Autobiography. A Guide for Interpreting Life Narratives (2001) is particularly useful for methodology, and their overview in Women, Autobiography, Theory: A Reader (1998) is an invaluable resource. See also Schaffer and Smith (2004). 12  43  Her account, from an Evangelical Christian perspective, conveys a favourable vision of international adoption—one that still survives but now competes with the alternative views offered by adult adoptees and birthmothers. The latter are often closer to the sub-genres of trauma narrative or testimonio (witness accounts of atrocities). Cross-disciplinary research on transnational and transracial adoption also relates to broader studies of diasporic identity politics and cultural or racial hybridity.13 The autobiographical accounts of Koreans adopted into white North American families reveal many experiences and conflicts that are similar to those experienced by second-generation children of Korean immigrants (Kim and Yu 1995). However, many of the adoptees grew up in geographical and social contexts where they were the only Asian-looking person on the horizon, and their adoptive families knew little or nothing of traditional Korean food, costume, or customs, let alone language. When they return to Korea, they realize to what extent their perception of life has been trained to be through “white eyes.” They are physically marked as outsiders, in both locations, although they mostly feel and think like insiders in the West. They suffer from being torn between two cultural worlds and struggle to make sense of what institutions (governments, agencies, the family) have made of them. Their writings indicate their determination to redefine who they are or wish to be in their own terms. Returning adoptees are precariously balanced on a “tightrope” or “sitting on the fence,” images that Eleana Kim (2010, 113, 120) notes as often mentioned by those she interviewed. Many are attempting to “go it alone,” but are attracted on one side by the safety net of the adoptive family, which reassures but restrains and maintains dependency, and on the other by the unknown, beckoning space of Korea. They are precariously situated between what Foucault terms the 13  See for example Chandra Mohanty, “Genealogies of Community, Home, and Nation,” in Mohanty (2003, 124–136). 44  “discipline of institutions” and the performance of “technologies of the self,” as will become clearer in the chapters to follow.  Web-Based Sources Kim’s study (2010) relies heavily on reports, both formal and informal, from various gatherings for adult Korean adoptees, as well as on websites and listservs that provide access to exchanges between the adoptees dispersed across the world. These reveal personal stories that are unlikely to be published, and communicate the adoptees’ efforts to research their own genealogies and the intricacies of adoptions from Korea. Some unearth horror stories of alleged mistreatment of adoptees in Western homes, while others discuss the problems they have experienced in Korea. The Internet is also the easiest source of up-to-date statistical information from governments and details of political and legal shifts in national policies. American and Canadian adoption agencies have websites that set out the changing requirements for prospective adopters, and provide links to various venues for discussions among adoptive parents. These sources will be drawn on especially in Chapter 5, which focuses on Canada and the intermediaries that facilitate transnational adoptions from Korea. The Internet is also an invaluable source for accessing press reports on inter-country adoptions, and has been particularly useful in keeping track of new developments in Korea that have led to a reduction in adoptions over the last few years. Public perceptions of transnational adoption in all the countries concerned has been strongly influenced by media images, from the arrival of the Holts’ adopted children in the 1950s to more recent tales of rescue and kidnapping, as illustrated in Karen Dubinsky’s Babies Without Borders: Adoption and Migration Across the Americas (2010). The fact that narratives of events and perceptions of their contexts are always framed within ideologically determined discourses is one of the 45  reasons that I have chosen to deploy some concepts borrowed from Foucault in this study, in spite of the reservations of some feminist scholars regarding some of his ideas.  The Relevance of Foucault, in a Feminist Framework The terms I have chosen to use resonate in surprising ways with the issues raised by transnational adoption. Several studies of adoption refer to Foucault in passing (including those by E. Kim 2010, and Strong-Boag, 2006), but none, to my knowledge, uses any of his concepts in a more extended fashion.14 I make no claim to be an expert on Foucault, or to have read all his works, and I admit to relying to a great extent on others’ interpretations of his methods of inquiry.15 I am not attempting to apply his method or make a contribution to Foucault scholarship, but following his advice to treat his ideas as a “toolbox” 16 by making use of some concepts he introduced to provide a conceptual frame for my “undisciplined” approach.  14  Kim refers mainly to the concepts of “technologies of the self” in relation to the Internet, and “heterotopias” as in-between spaces. Moosnick, in Adopting Maternity (2004), a work which I discovered only at the end of my research, comments on the relevance of some of Foucault’s ideas to the medicalization of mothering (7–8). 15 I found the explanations of some of the terms used by Foucault on a website created by Clare O’Farrell, author of Michel Foucault (2005), particularly useful as I began thinking about their relevance: Accessed November 10, 2010. (See my glossary of terms from Foucault on pp. xi–xii). I also wish to acknowledge the contribution of Valerie Raoul in pointing out the usefulness of Foucault’s work for this study. 16 In A Very Short Introduction to Foucault (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2005; available on-line) Gary Gutting (author of The Cambridge Companion to Foucault, Cambridge University Press, 2005), quotes Foucault in a 1974 interview as saying: “I want my books to be a sort of toolbox that people can rummage through to find a tool they can use however they want in their own domain” (112–113; Gutting’s translation from the original in Vol. 2 of Foucault’s collected writings and interviews in French: “Prisons et asiles dans le mécanisme du pouvoir” in Daniel Defert and François Ewald, eds. Foucault: Dits et écrits 1954–1988 (Paris: Gallimard, 1994, 523–4). 46  Foucault’s early use of the image of “archeological excavation” to describe his first approach to history corresponds, to my mind, with the kind of delving into lost or hidden archives that research on adoptions in and from Korea entails. Like Foucault, I have discovered that the documentary or discursive materials available reveal taken-for-granted attitudes and expectations rather than “facts,” which prove hard to pin down. The past has to be deciphered from traces that link it to the present, and cannot be separated from the current situation. For Foucault the reason for historical inquiry is to better understand the present situation and how we think today. His focus on how institutions evolve from “disciplines” that govern the “subjects” created by them (and subject to them) is very relevant to the evolution of policies and practices related to both adoption and transnational migration. The applicability of some of his ideas to the growth of social work as a feminized profession and discipline is particularly striking.17 The treatment of children “in care” represents a particular kind of exclusion, detention, and institutionalization (in orphanages or group/foster homes), involving various types of surveillance and scrutiny. The seclusion of women about to give birth in unwelcome circumstances is also ambivalent in fulfilling both protective and condemnatory functions. The role of Christian missionaries and welfare workers illustrates the “pastoral” control that Foucault also discusses, including “confession” and guidance. Attitudes to promiscuity or prostitution, unwanted fertility or sterility, miscegenation and “illegitimacy,” all of which may be stigmatizing for both mothers and children, are part of what Foucault calls “biopower” (see Hook 2007). This term refers to all the ways in which governments “administer life” and produce “docile bodies” by controlling who may be born or aborted, in what circumstances, what kind of (dis)abilities they may be assumed to have, 17  For applications of Foucault’s ideas in sociology and social work, see Trainor and Jeffreys (2003), and Kendall and Wickham (1999). 47  the health-care available to them, and what constitutes a useful or superfluous body. It applies also to genetic engineering, eugenics, and reproductive technologies. This biopower or control of life becomes “biopolitics” when it extends to collective notions of race or nation and involves the control of whole populations, as in genocides, mass migrations, forced sterilizations, or China’s one-child policy (Hook 2007, 226–7). Individuals’ genealogy, in terms of their racial and familial history, is undoubtedly relevant to efforts to control the exodus or entry of foreigners or returning exiles into nation states. Foucault’s use of the term “genealogy” to describe the method he developed in his later historical work seems to me to be particularly appropriate in the context of adoption studies, where origins or roots are hidden, and “growing up” takes place as part of a different “family tree.” In his much-cited essay entitled “Nietzsche, Genealogy, History” (Rabinow 1984; see also Prado 1995), Foucault explains that Nietzsche’s reinterpretation of the term, which he himself builds on, is not about finding “true origins” (Rabinow 1984, 78), as investigation always shows them to be disparate and murky. As he puts it, “things are most previous at the moment of birth” (79); what came before remains mysterious and unknowable. Accidents rule in the realm of “succession” and inheritance, and no “true self” is to be found behind any mask (78). This is certainly what many adoptees discover, on searching for their birthmothers and documents, and Foucault could be speaking to them when he writes: “The origin lies at a place of inevitable loss, the site of a fleeting articulation that discourse has obscured and finally lost” (79). They may be engaged in the type of “adolescent quest” for origins that he urges his readers to abandon, yet they may be more fortunate in investigating the other aspects of genealogy as Foucault defines it: “descent/stock” and “emergence.”  48  “Descent” involves “the ancient affiliation to a group, sustained by the bonds of blood, tradition and social class” (Rabinow 1984, 80). Transnational adoptees may grow up to identify with initially unfamiliar traditions and change socio-economic class, but when they are of another race their lack of “bonds of blood” with the majority population in the new country remains, since it is embodied and visible. The third aspect of genealogy that Foucault distinguishes, following Nietzsche, is “emergence” or “arising/growing up” (84–5). This stage occurs through the “interaction of forces,” as the result of a “play of dominations,” in a “non-place” (85). For Foucault knowledge “emphatically excludes the ‘rediscovery of ourselves,’” because history “introduces discontinuity into our very being.” (88) What interests Foucault in history is “the affirmation of knowledge as perspective” (in Rabinow 1984, 90), and he believed the historian should focus on what is unique, “the reversal of forces, the usurpation of power, the appropriation of vocabulary” (88). The aim is to produce a counter-memory of effects rather than of causes or origins, of alternative identities rather than certitudes. All these statements are remarkably applicable to the history of international adoptions from Korea, as the chapters to come will show by emphasizing shifts in perspective. As Foucault puts it, “Genealogy . . . does not seek to define our unique threshold of emergence, the homeland to which metaphysicians promise a return: it seeks to make visible all of those discontinuities that cross us” (95). While a number of feminist theorists have used Foucault’s ideas, critiques from writers representing different types of feminist thought are summarized usefully by Margaret McLaren in Feminism, Foucault, and Embodied Subjectivity (2002, 7–10).18 Some liberal feminists, who seek equal rights and opportunities with men, have seen Foucault’s denial or 18  This was the sixth anthology of feminist essays arguing for or against the usefulness of Foucault; McLaren lists the others on page 16. 49  demolition of both the “unified” humanist subject and the concept of history as progress as dangerous for women, who have yet to be recognized as fully human and able to speak as subjects. Other radical feminists, who privilege femininity and difference and defend the category of “women,” may regret his lack of recognition of women’s experience and question his downplaying of sexual difference. Socialist or Marxist feminists point to a lack of class analysis or focus on the material aspects of economic structures in his work, and some condemn his analysis of the “disciplinary power” of institutions as deterministic and ruling out collective agency. Anti-racist feminists see little direct analysis of issues related to race in his work, and may be suspicious of the concept of “biopower.” Postmodern feminists with a more psychoanalytic orientation, like Judith Butler, have criticized some aspects of his work but seen it as useful to deconstruct sexual difference and analyze how power relations function and identities are constructed (Stozier, 2002, 79–110). McLaren’s summary of the stages of feminism in relation to Foucault provides a striking parallel with Derek Kirton’s (2000) overview of changes in attitudes to transracial adoption in England. He points out that at first, in the “liberal” stage, it was considered progressive and anti-racist (“colour-blind”) for white families to adopt children of colour, as a positive force for equality and “integration,” although they would not have contemplated non-white families adopting white children. In the second stage, marked by the countermovement for “radical blackness,” racial “matching” was promoted as better able to prepare children of colour to face racism and value black culture, as well as representing the right of the black community to reproduce itself. Meanwhile, socialists have continued to campaign for changes to welfare programs to provide services to make adoption unnecessary, and postmodern globalists maintain that racial diversity, cultural hybridity, and mixed families  50  will become so common that there will no longer be a problem. Overall, I find McLaren’s arguments for the usefulness of Foucault’s ideas convincing. Foucault does address socially and historically situated embodiment, from a marginalized perspective as a homosexual; he certainly provides insights into how power works; and he also leaves room for individual agency, resistance, and self-construction, which he addresses in his last work on “technologies of the self” (Martin 1988; see also Rabinow 1994, 207–251). In terms of attention to racialization, the work of Derek Hook (2007, 215 ff.) on biopower in relation to institutionalized racism in South Africa offers an interesting example of the application of Foucauldian theories in this area. Hook’s analysis of the concept of “heterotopias” in the same book (178 ff.) will also be referred to at a later stage. In the present study some of Foucault’s ideas will be used to draw out aspects of adoptions from Korea in North America that are relevant to critical studies of whiteness, as well as to the perception of racialized and gendered bodies in relation to culture, and the intersections of gender, class, and age where writing about the self is concerned. Following Foucault’s advice to examine history from “up close” and begin with the present situation (which is constantly changing), this study also includes accounts of fieldwork that I conducted in Korea and Canada which enabled me to contextualize both archival information and the personal accounts of adoptees and birthmothers.  Fieldwork: Close Encounters in Korea For this part of my research I followed the “Ethical Guidelines” set out by UBC for preparing questionnaires and interview questions, and obtained the appropriate permissions and letters  51  of consent from all those I contacted.19 I also bore in mind my own location and perspective, cultural differences demanding sensitivity, and the principles of respect and inclusivity governing feminist qualitative research. In Korea I conducted my field research in two phases. I began in the summer of 2005, while visiting Korea to participate in the Women’s World Congress held at Ewha Women’s University in Seoul. Ewha University, which claims to be the biggest women-only postsecondary institution in the world,20 is home to the Asian Centre for Women’s Studies and a well-respected journal, the Asian Journal of Women’s Studies. I was therefore surprised that Korean feminist academics seemed to have paid little attention to transnational adoption, judging from the conference program. The single session dealing directly with related issues was sparsely attended, with only two presenters and an audience of three people from among the three thousand participants in the Congress. However, I was fortunate to meet the chair of the panel, Professor Kim Hyun Mee, a specialist in Gender and Cultural Studies from the Department of Sociology at Yonsei University, who was willing to spend time with me later discussing my research plans. Her advice, and recommendation of articles in both English and Korean related to the situation of women in Korea and the history of the Korean social welfare system, were invaluable. This background provided a solid foundation for the fieldwork I undertook on my return to Korea for four months in 2007, when Professor Kim agreed to be my supervisor and provided a Korean student to assist me.  19  The questionnaires used can be found in Appendix A. See the Preface to Chung, Sei-wha (1986). Ewha University was founded in 1886 as the first college for girls in Korea; the Korean Women’s Institute began there in 1977 and it has been home to the Korean Association of Women’s Studies since 1984, as well as a centre for gender studies in Asia. Twenty other Korean universities have Women’s Studies programs, and Ewha offers both Master’s and Doctoral degrees in Women’s Studies. Many research studies conducted there are published in Korean, but relatively few are available in English. 20  52  This student accompanied me on visits to adoption agencies. In spite of media publicity for returning adoptees’ reunions with birth families, she admitted that like many other Koreans she was not aware of the scale of international adoptions from Korea.21 I had already conducted background research on various agencies and maternity homes for unwed mothers in Seoul, and contacted their representatives right away. It took longer than I had expected to obtain their agreement to allow me to visit, and I realized that they are very cautious and somewhat suspicious about discussing potentially contentious or confidential issues with an unknown outsider. I was able to reassure them that their anonymity would be respected and that I was not intending to attack their agency’s reputation. As I began conducting my visits, I faced a number of situations regarding access to information that made me re-think the scope and methods of my research. My appearance and introductory letters from the Korea Foundation identified me as a student from India living in Canada. At times this worked in my favour, as India has positive associations as the main source of Buddhist influence in Korea, in the past and in the present. I was obviously not a Christian missionary, government agent, or spy. Canada is also viewed positively, as a modern Western nation where many Korean students would like to go for higher education. I realized that the difficulties I experienced in gaining access to various facilities were not due to my identity or attitude, but rather to understaffing and overwork for the social workers. At Korean Social Welfare Services (SWS) the Director of the International Adoption Program was responsible for administering all international adoptions; her time was precious and it therefore took longer than I had anticipated to arrange a meeting with her. However, the staff members at SWS and at Holt Children’s Services were very helpful in answering the 21  I later learned that this student became so interested in my topic that she worked on it for her graduating essay. 53  questions I had formulated in my questionnaire (see Appendix A). My first visit was to the SWS Adoption Centre, established by the Korean government as its first welfare agency in January 1954. Four adoption agencies are recognized by the government and licensed to arrange international adoptions from Korea, but SWS is the only one that administers an adoption program in collaboration with Canada. The building itself conveys a clear message that adoption is a positive experience for all concerned. A large collage at the entrance showed celebrities posing with babies in their arms, and I found myself surrounded by promotional posters of cheerful children with adoptive families (some foreign, some Korean), and others with disabilities “waiting for homes.” A horizontal banner on the outside of the building proclaimed in Korean “Adoption Means Giving Birth from the Heart;” another vertical one showing popular film star Shin Hae Ra holding a child provided phone numbers for domestic adoption and the “House of Unwed Mothers.”  54  Illustration 1. The Social Welfare Services Building, Seoul (photo by R. Bagga, 2007).  I also visited the office of Holt Children’s Services (HCS) of Korea, which began as the “Holt Adoption Program” (HAP) in 1956, and was founded by the American farmer and Christian believer, Harry Holt, whose role will be discussed in Chapter 2. Though the Holt agency does not deal with adoptions to Canada, I learned more about its role in placing many mixed-race and Korean children, including many with disabilities, with American and Western European families. I was also able to talk to Molly Holt, the Chairperson of Holt Korea and third biological child of Bertha and Harry Holt, who has been living in Korea at the Holt Ilsan Centre for four decades. With her assistance I was able to visit the Holt Ilsan Centre, which serves the needs of approximately 300 residents with some kind of disability, as well as their home for unwed mothers and the Holt Baby Reception Centre, where the  55  relinquished children are taken care of until they are placed with a foster family or adopted. These visits will be described in Chapters 2 and 3. The Holt building was decorated with the flags of many adopting nations, conveying the message that adoption is a global concern and fosters good international relations.  Illustration 2. Holt Children's Services Inc. Main Office in Seoul (photo by R. Bagga, 2007).  The emergence of organizations administered by and for returning adult adoptees represents a new stage in the history of transnational adoptions from there. As Kim (2010) documents in detail, small but significant groups have taken up the daunting task of spreading grassroots-level awareness about issues concerning children sent abroad, while creating support networks and lobbying for those who wish to return, as will be discussed in Chapter 4. I was able to have extensive individual and group discussions with a number of participants, including those running the web-based network called Adoptee Solidarity Korea (ASK), and to make site visits to the office of Global Overseas Adoptee Link (G.O.A.’L) founded in 1998. There I met with G.O.A.’L’s secretary general, Kim Dae-Won (Jan Wenger, adopted from Korea in 1968), who invited me to attend a session organized to  56  connect returning adult adoptees with those already settled in Korea. He also facilitated meetings with Molly Holt and Jane Jeong Trenka, whose memoirs will be analyzed in Chapter 4. Trenka was President of a recently formed organization called “Truth and Reconciliation for the Adoptee Community of Korea” (TRACK), with a mission to “advocate full knowledge of past and present Korean adoption practices and to protect the human rights of adult adoptees, children, and families” (TRACK 2009). Another visit was to the Overseas Adoptee Korean Services office, where I met the Reverend Kim Do Hyun, director of “KoRoot,” an organization established in 2003 to support returning adoptees by providing guest house facilities during their stay in Korea. As he accompanied me to the guesthouse he provided some insights into changing socio-cultural norms in Korea in the twenty-first century. He maintains that in spite of economic development and a degree of westernization there has been no dramatic change in the status and treatment of women, because of the still dominant role of patriarchy (as will be discussed in Chapter 3). He also shared his views on the celebration, since 2005, of May 11th as “Adoption Day,” an event that I was able to witness in May 2007. He explained that the Korean Government introduced this annual reminder at the suggestion of the Ministry of Health and Welfare and the adoption agencies, who recommended it as a way to promote domestic adoption. In 2006, 2000 Korean families that had adopted children were invited to the big KOEX Centre, where celebrities congratulated them. Rev. Kim regretted that during this celebration “more than 150,000 birthmothers who had sent their children for international adoption were forgotten.” He went on to make the following statement: “Many Korean women feel low and guilty. If the sun shines on one side it is dark on the other, for those who had to relinquish their children. We should think first about not separating family  57  members. In this respect, domestic adoption is not an ideal solution any more than international adoption.” Eleana Kim’s detailed account of meeting Rev. Kim provides further details that complement my discussion with Rev. Kim (E. Kim 2010, 109, 222, 230–35). He sees overseas adoption as entailing an unjustified ky!kch’ul (displacement) from the society into which these children were born and might have expected to spend their future. Since they cannot consent, this may be seen as a form of social violence toward children. At his suggestion I also visited an SOS (Save Our Souls) children’s village in Seoul, which offers an alternative solution. Rev. Kim interprets Adoption Day as an attempt by the government to celebrate something of which they are, or should be, ashamed. Although a leftist in favour of social welfare reform, he is opposed to abortion for religious reasons. He expressed his opinion in terms that evoke Foucault’s concept of biopower as a form of government control deciding who is encouraged to thrive or considered expendable (though a pro-choice advocate would see it differently): “Life in women’s womb has no power. How can we make our society more sensitive about life?” The availability of contraception and sex education has improved, but abortion (although illegal except in certain cases) is still the only alternative to adoption available to many young unmarried Korean women who find themselves pregnant, as will be discussed in Chapter 3. My meetings with adult adoptees left me with several unanswered (and probably unanswerable) questions regarding the effect of gender on individuals’ desire to find out about the circumstances of their birth. Some of the returning adoptees I met looked on their visit to Korea as a cultural holiday rather than an identity quest, and it was noticeable that those who had little motivation to find their birthmothers were mostly male. Was that  58  because they were not thinking, as were many of the female adoptees, about giving birth themselves? I also speculated as to whether some male adoptees might have more fear of disappointment, possibly sharing a masculine disapproval of the kind of “loose” women who produce unwanted babies and then send them away? Why, as men, were they not more curious about their birthfather? These are amongst the complex and perplexing questions that cannot be easily answered through academic research.  An Evolving Project I have ended this chapter outlining my research sources and methods with a personal, autobiographical account of the beginning of my fieldwork in Seoul, to which I will return in the chapters to come. As explained in my Introduction, this project has taken much longer than I had originally expected, as it was interrupted by two maternity leaves and prolonged periods spent in places where I had little access to the necessary materials. The fieldwork aspect of my initial endeavors is still relevant, but mainly as background. Statistical information has also required a good deal of updating, and there have been significant recent changes to Korean laws regarding adoption and family structures. Fortunately, the delays have enabled me to take these into account as well as to incorporate references to several important studies of adoptions from Korea that were not available earlier, including International Korean Adoption (Bergquist et al. 2007) and the in-depth studies of adult adoptees’ experiences by Eleana Kim (2010), Tuan and Shiao (2011), and Palmer (2011). In each chapter I attempt to combine “archeological” historical material with personal accounts that demonstrate what Foucault calls “care of (or caring about) the self.” Some of these convey the experience of very young mothers, still in need of care themselves, who  59  decide that the best way to show they care for their child is to allow someone else to care for it. Some of those children have later told their own story, and may see themselves as having been deprived of maternal care, or forced to be part of a family where they do not belong. They attempt to construct a self that is “grown-up,” still relational but self-supporting, in the face of forces that tend to infantilize them. The next chapter will delve deeper into the genealogy of the beginnings and early stages of adoptions from Korea, focusing on the closeup perspective of Bertha Holt, a woman who had already raised one family and found herself unexpectedly responsible for a second one composed of Korean-born children. Her story, which is often referred to but has not to my knowledge been analyzed before in detail, reflects and explains some of the paradoxes involved in international adoption. Personal selfsacrifice and heroic dedication to saving children are interwoven with unspoken assumptions of western/Christian superiority. Bertha Holt herself eventually became “Koreanized” in an apparent reversal of the westernization of her adopted children, but her voluntary exile was based on very different power relations.  60  Chapter 2 Archeology and Genealogy: Post-War Adoptions from Korea to the United States It seems to me that the real political task in a society such as ours is to criticize the workings of institutions which appear to be both neutral and independent . . . in such a manner that the political violence which has always exercised itself obscurely through them will be unmasked, so that one can fight them. –Michel Foucault, in Rabinow, Foucault, Ethics, Subjectivity and Truth (1984, 6).  The cheers and celebrations on August 15, 1945, marking the independence of Korea from thirty-six long and harsh years of Japanese colonization, were short-lived in the wake of the arbitrary division of the Korean peninsula along the thirty-eighth parallel, under Soviet and American influence. South Koreans realized the worsening economic situation of their country after liberation. While the people were mourning the sudden partition of their ethnically homogeneous nation, the outbreak of the Korean War on June 25, 1950, when North Korea invaded South Korea aiming to reunify the country, led to further mass destruction of human life and property. By its end on July 27, 1953, 36,000 American troops were dead, and 3 million Koreans on both sides had perished (E. Kim 2010, 47). The history of transnational adoptions from South Korea (designated simply as “Korea” from now on) began in the mid-1950s in the aftermath of that war, when policies related to the political, economic, and military interests of the newly developing nation-state and of its ally, the United States, conflicted with Korea’s socio-cultural traditions regarding race and gender. Both Japanese colonialism and American/UN military occupation led to sexual relationships between Korean women and occupiers of different races, resulting in  61  many unwelcome pregnancies that produced mixed-race offspring.1 While Korean women had been forced to become unwilling “comfort women” for Japanese soldiers, and redress was later sought on their behalf, those recruited to serve the American and UN forces during and after the Korean War were in a different situation. These troops were allies, and the South Korean government implicitly condoned or even encouraged the existence of “camp towns” surrounding foreign military bases, in the interest of good relations with the occupying forces (Hall 2006, 37). The children born as the result of various types of sexual relationships between foreign troops and local women were recognizable from their mixed-race physical appearance, and therefore even less acceptable in Korean society than other “illegitimate” offspring. All unmarried mothers suffered from extreme social stigma and lack of material support, because of the central importance in Korean culture of “pure blood lines” and a patriarchal, patrilineal kinship system dominated by hierarchical relationships based on gender and age. Two regimes of social control, the state/government and the family, were in this case in conflict. While the state saw women’s bodies as a “natural” or “national” resource to be deployed for military, political, and economic advantage, the women concerned were spurned by their families and their children were deemed unacceptable. In an extreme example of “biopower” (in the sense of control over who should be encouraged to live and thrive or allowed to be excluded or die as part of a nation), some were left to perish or fend for themselves, while many others were effectively expelled from the country, with the cooperation of foreign missionaries.  1  This was the first war in which the United Nations participated as peacekeepers. See Moon (1997). 62  This chapter will look closely at why and how this occurred, from two perspectives. The first is “archaeological,” in Foucault’s terms, as it involves excavating archival sites that reveal the traces of planned and unplanned events involving governments, armies, social services, and population control. The second is “genealogical” in personal as well as Foucauldian terms, as it focuses on personal accounts by one woman, Bertha Holt, whose family and beliefs were instrumental in the birth and subsequent growth of the campaign to bring thousands of mixed-race “orphans” to the US. The intersections of class, gender, race, and age are mediated in this context by specific religious and cultural discourses originating in Korea and the US, both of which may be seen to mask the use of women and children as pawns in promoting national agendas. I will begin by delving into the background to traditional adoptions in Korea, which partly explains why so few “war orphans,” even those who were really orphaned and had “pure” Korean blood, found homes in the country of their birth.  The Confucian Kinship Model and Adoption in Pre-War Korea Perceptions and practices of adoption are inseparable from cultural models of the ideal family and legal issues relating to lineage and inheritance of names, land, and property. Both scholarly sources and my personal interaction with Korean families have given me some insights into how Korean concepts of adoption differ significantly from those current today in most of the Western world (Peterson 1977, 28–31). In the North American context, as discussed in Chapter I, “adoption” usually refers to a situation where a couple takes a homeless and supposedly parentless unrelated child permanently into their own home and  63  family.2 Both the receiving family and the state are expected to treat that child “as if” it were the natural child of the family, but in the present-day context most children are told that they are adopted and there is no pretence of their being the adoptive parents’ biological child. While the adopting parents’ desire to have a child or increase their family is acknowledged, adoption is now seen by domestic agencies as primarily “child-centred,” with concern for the child’s wellbeing as the initial and official motivation. In Korea (as in India) adoption was traditionally seen differently, as a response to a lack on the part of the adopting family, rather than the needs of a child. According to the Korean tradition, a related child, sharing the same paternal bloodlines, could be adopted and assimilated into the family as if born into it. In the Korean context, “bloodlines” are considered of major significance, both in terms of a collective desire to maintain a racially homogeneous nation and individual families’ protection of their reputation and inheritance. Rather than the individual birth certificates issued in North America, each Korean family has (as in some European countries such as France) an official “family book” showing all family births, marriages, and deaths (which will prove significant in Chapter 4 as part of returning adoptees’ attempts to trace their lineage). Until recently this family record was always held in the father’s name, except in exceptional circumstances.3 A Korean family without a son traditionally adopted a relative’s son—a child or young adult who had living parents, well known to the adopters.4 The adopted child was necessarily a male, often a nephew from the father’s side of the family, as the purpose was to acquire a legitimate male heir to bear the  2  Many legal adoptions in North America today are by stepparents in “blended families,” but these are seen as regulating an existing situation where parental ties already exist. 3 Changes since the new Family Law of 2005 (in effect since 2008) will be discussed towards the end of this study. 4 The new Family Law now forbids this type of adoption. 64  father’s name and maintain the patrilineal line.5 As boys are considered precious, parents seldom abandon or give away a son, and doing so represented a sacrifice to serve another branch of the same family, to maintain the frequently expressed belief that “incense must be kept burning at the family altar” (Peterson 1977, 28). The family, according to the traditional Korean belief system, is not considered to be a passing constellation based on voluntary association, but an institution inherited across generations.6 Those of the next generation are essentially valued as caretakers of the family line; while women prepare the food involved in the traditional rituals celebrating ancestors, it is sons who are expected to perform the official rites.7 Some Buddhists in Korea did see the care of abandoned children as a “good deed” and eventually established orphanages and encouraged the adoption of an unrelated male child in some circumstances,8 but the emphasis on “pure bloodlines” in the dominant Confucian context made filial piety the ultimate social virtue. All important occasions, such as births, marriages, and funerals, are still associated with ceremonies marking respect for ancestors, according to the Four Rites established by the Chinese Confucian scholar Zhu Xi 5  For details see H!binette (2006, 30–33). He discusses how ancient Korean texts such as Samguk sagi and Samguk yusa (the historical Chronicles of the Three Kingdoms and Unified Silla) portrayed adoption as acquiring a legitimate heir. During the Koryo dynasty (918– 1392), adoption still represented a means to ensure a male line of descent. 6 Koreans frequently use the word “bloodline” to describe patrilineage, which is the only legitimate line of descent. The word for an adopted child is yangja (yang meaning adoption and ja signifying son). See Peterson (1977); confirmed in personal discussion with Lee Jong Hyeok and Lee Mi Kyeong in Las Cruces, New Mexico, 1999. 7 Feminist theologian Choi Hee An explains that “ancestor worship was the first responsibility a married woman had to assume,” including remembering the dates, preparing the food, and serving it with special silverware (2005, 38). This is confirmed as still the case by Nicola Jones (2006, 218). 8 See H!binette (2006). In 994 the ruling King, Sonjong, instituted a law that gave the right to an orphan under the age of ten to be provided with food and clothing. Later, in 1046, an orphanage was established. In 1068 it became legal to adopt an unrelated abandoned boy under the age of three, if there was no direct male heir. 65  (Deuchler 1992, 129–178). Prior to the Choson dynasty (1392–1910), rites of passage had different regional characteristics based on locality and individual family traditions, but under Choson rule the family became the principal means to enforce and perpetuate Confucian values based on hierarchical interpersonal roles according to gender and age. The basic relationship of continuity and inheritance/indebtedness between father and son established the foundation for all other relationships among family members, reinforcing a strong sense of being embedded in a social continuum (Grayson 1989, 210–220). Korean feminist scholar Lee Sang-Wha (S. W. Lee 2005a) explains the force of patriarchal control in Korea by a theoretical model showing the centrality of the family, embedded within a larger system encompassing political, military, and social institutions, organizations of production, and ideology (S. W. Lee 2005a, 70). The Confucian code of conduct emphasized three “cardinal principles” (samgang): loyalty to the ruler (ch’ung), filial piety towards one’s parents (hyo), and obedience, faithfulness (yol), and chastity in the conduct of women, who were assumed to be subservient to men. These principles were reflected in five “ethical norms” setting out the responsibilities and obligations governing relations between individuals, based on the authority of patriarchal rulers and male heads of households. Although this model of responsibility and respect applied strictly only to the aristocratic elite class (yangban), others attempted to follow them in order to rise in the social hierarchy. Women were confined to private domestic spaces and excluded from public life: gender segregation, a corresponding division of labour, and women’s subordination formed a critical triad in perpetuating the patriarchal model of power relations (S. W. Lee 2005a, 71).  66  The Confucian way of life became more concerned with external rituals than with the moral obligations that they originally represented (Deuchler 1992; Nahm 1988). Patterns of speech and writing focused on the use of honorific forms of address, reinforcing class, age, and gender divisions. To members of the lower classes, those of higher rank used blunt forms of expression (panmal). The scholar-official class never used the honorific forms to address their wives and children or servants, while wives and children always addressed their husbands and fathers in this form. These linguistic distinctions are still in use in modern Korean society, and the fact that these hierarchies are built into everyday language makes it difficult to challenge them (see D. H. Chung 1986). The status of Korean women certainly declined with the establishment of the Confucian social order.9 Men were free to have concubines and practise adultery, while women’s sexual behaviour was strictly controlled and regulated. Under the principle of samjong a woman was to follow her father before marriage, then her husband, and her son if her husband died10; the remarriage of widows was forbidden by law in 1485. A woman’s life was conceptualized in three stages: first as a daughter, second as a wife, and finally as a mother (S. W. Lee 2005a, 71). Beginning from a marginal, temporary position in her natal family, her filial piety was to be transferred to her parents-in-law on marriage (S. W. Lee 2005a, 72). Her main task was to produce a son, and failure to do so could result in divorce. Divorce was rare, and virtually impossible for women to initiate, but a man could in theory divorce his wife for any one of “seven evils” (chilgojiak): (1) disobedience to parents-in-law;  9  For details on the situation of women in Korea in pre-Confucian times, see Choi Hee An (2005). 10 There are a surprisingly high number of references to this code in a collection of brief accounts of Korean women’s lives (Daughters of the Bear, Maite Diez and Jennifer Mathews eds.) published by Ewha University in 2004. 67  (2) failure to bear a son; (3) adultery; (4) jealousy; (5) carrying a hereditary disease; (6) larceny; and even (7) being talkative (Nahm 1988, 11–14; S. W. Lee 2005a, 72). Women no longer had the right to own or inherit property, and the status of women worsened over the next two hundred years.11 Widows and unwed mothers were unable to provide for their children unless the extended family took them in. It was only in 1885 that King Kojong ordered the establishment of orphanages, and in 1894 non-agnatic (i.e. unrelated) adoptions became legal for the first time, especially in instances where the spouse or concubine failed to bear a male child.12 It was not until the time of the Japanese colonization of Korea (1910–1945) that a fully-fledged modern adoption law came into force (H!binette 2006, 33; Holt Children’s Services 2005, 122). Whereas the civil law of 1912 (Choson minsaryong) still relied on the Confucian concept of adoption (H!binette 2006, 33), in 1939 Japanese government officials promulgated a revised law, making the inheritance rules similar to those in Japan and legalizing adoption outside the family structure. However, after independence in 1947, the Korean department of justice again forbade adoption of a child from a different family (Holt Children’s Services 2005, 122; H!binette 2006, 33). In 1949 the government also outlawed the previously accepted practice of adopting a son-in-law (Holt Children’s Services 2005, 122). No enumeration of non-agnatic adoptions was made during the later stage of Japanese colonial rule, but Tobias H!binette, citing a government source, estimates that between 1939,  11  For further details on the status of women, see Deuchler (1992), Kim Ok-yol (1986), Nahm (1988), Palais (1996), Peterson (1996). 12 H!binette (2006, 33); Deuchler (1992). “Agnatic” is defined as being descended from the same male ancestor or lineage. In 1894 a program of social reforms, popularly termed the Kabo Reforms, was introduced by pro-Japanese Korean officials. Yangban (the aristocratic class) and commoners were made equal before the law, and the old Confucian civil service examination was abolished. 68  when the colonial law came into effect, and 1961 when independent South Korea’s adoption law was passed, a total of 4,491 domestic adoptions were registered in the country (H!binette 2006, 34). As no available data provides a gender ratio, one assumes that such adoptions during colonial times were mostly of male children who were close relatives; later, as the Korean War ended, the relatively few domestic adoptions were of “full-blood” Korean children, while “mixed-blood” children were made available for international adoption.13 The Confucian belief system was still dominant in post-war Korea, and explains the reluctance of Koreans to adopt any unrelated children, let alone those of mixed race. It also contributed to the shaming of Korean women who had illegitimate children, and affairs with foreigners were subject to even greater condemnation. Yet the government tacitly encouraged the sex trade, and lack of alternative ways to make a living tempted many poor women to join the “camp-towns,” while false promises led some to allow themselves to be seduced by foreign soldiers.14 The reasons why many were compelled to abandon their children, and even killed themselves or their babies, were a complex combination of lack of material resources and social rejection. Some accounts (including Harry Holt’s, which will be discussed below) claim that hundreds of older mixed-race children were roaming the streets or left uncared for, while babies and toddlers were found near orphanages, on the doorsteps of foreign missions or hospitals, or outside private homes. Many were simply abandoned on the street or in an open field, as a number of contacts confirmed during my fieldwork (2007). 13  Interestingly, Taiwan, like Korea, witnessed a large number of mixed-race children born out of wedlock, fathered by American soldiers in the early 1950s, yet that country never placed such large numbers of children for international adoption, in spite of sharing Confucian traditions. See H!binette (2006, 32). A recent documentary film entitled Left by the Ship (aired on PBS in May 2012) follows the lives of mixed-race teenagers in the Philippines fathered by US naval personnel, showing their mothers’ struggle to raise them. 14 See Moon (1999, 310–327). E. Kim (2010, 68) refers to “underclass military brides.” See also Abelman and Lie (1995). 69  For these “abject,” discarded or rejected children, adoption outside their country of birth, especially in the US, the putative home of most of the fathers, became seen as the easiest solution at the time, and “in the best interest of the child” (Kim and Carroll 1975, 223–35; Valk 1957, 4–5). Children born of African-American soldiers deployed by the United States faced even greater difficulties than those with white fathers, because of their physical appearance, since Koreans openly expressed their even greater prejudice against dark skin than against white complexions, as will be further discussed below.15 One of the ironies of the first adoptions from Korea to the United States is that the adopters were quick to denounce the “racism” of Koreans, while many remained blind to the racial prejudice still dominant in their own country.  Historical Background to Transnational Adoptions from Korea Transnational adoption was an unfamiliar venture in Korea in the early 1950s. There were no specific laws, policies, social agencies or networks governing the adoption by foreigners of either Korean orphans or mixed-race children. It was under these circumstances, at the end of the Korean War, that a change in adoption policy took place which shifted the purpose from continuing the family lineage to a new goal: “to protect children with no parents or to protect children from unqualified parents and find new families to satisfy children’s basic needs” (Holt Children’s Services 2005, 123). To achieve this goal the Korean government established an office under the supervision of the Ministry of Health and Social Welfare  15  See Steven Lee, The Korean War (2001). In tracing the origins of the Korean War Lee discusses its social background, including the new racial integration of the American forces, war and disease, and women and war. Kim (E. Kim 2010, 71) mentions that some Ethiopian UN troops offered to adopt half-black children—possibly their own biological offspring—but were refused permission. 70  (MHSW). An attempt to pass a new adoption law did not succeed, but in October 1952 a new clause allowed the MHSW to arrange the adoption of children who were given shelter in welfare facilities. In January 1954 the government established its first child welfare agency, the “Korea Child Placement Service” (CPS). The American adoption of Korean-born children (both mixed-race and Korean “war orphans”) was launched in 1955 by the Catholic Relief Organization and the Seventh-Day Adventist Church, followed in 1956 by the Holt Adoption Program (HAP), which at first placed only children assumed to be of mixed-race in American homes. Between 1958 and 1960, domestic adoptions in Korea accounted for a mere 6.2% of the total number of adoptions (168 out of 2700 according to Holt records (Holt Children’s Services 2005, 124)). The Holt Adoption Program processed 1,514 children between 1958 and 1960, accounting for about 56% of the total and almost 60% of international adoptions, while domestic adoptions remained almost non-existent. In the same period, of the 2,700 international adoptions the majority (2,388) were of mixed-race children. Of a total of 4,185 mixed-race children adopted between 1951 and 1961 US citizens adopted 4,155. In subsequent years, the Holt Adoption Program began to place other war orphans and abandoned children in secure Korean homes as well (Miller 1971, 29–31). Data compiled by the association of Overseas Adoptee Koreans (OAKs), in collaboration with the Korean Ministry of Health, Welfare and Family Affairs (MIHWAF), show that the only other countries taking children from Korea before 1960 were Sweden and Norway, where a relatively small number were sent owing to the presence of Scandinavian missionaries in Korea. Statistics that will be examined more closely in the next chapter reveal that there were  71  about 157,145 children adopted abroad from Korea between 1958 and 2005, and two-thirds of them (104,781) went to the US (OAKS 2006).  The Beginning of Transnational Adoptions to America from Korea Korea’s need to find homes for children who had no family to care for them coincided with the growing willingness and desire of many American couples to adopt children from overseas. At least four significant motivating factors can be seen to explain in part the popularity of Korean adoptions in the US in the 1950s. The first is glorification of nuclear family life in post World-War II middle-class America (as described in works cited in Chapter 1), where women’s fulfilment was assumed to lie in raising a family and demonstrating domestic accomplishments, and women with few or no children were at a disadvantage; the second, demonstrated in Bertha Holt’s memoirs, is the strength, especially in rural states, of commitment to Evangelical Christianity with its message of salvation by faith and the need to “save” others, especially in distant and “undeveloped” parts of the world; the third, also illustrated by the Holts’ story, is the new power of the visual media in bringing images of far-away events right into people’s churches and homes; and the fourth is the sense of responsibility and guilt experienced by some Americans, especially committed Christians like the Holts, on learning about the American-fathered abandoned mixed-race children and the Korean children orphaned by a war in which their country was involved. Behind the apparently altruistic or redeeming motives that were presented in public, more personal and selfish factors often triggered the demand for international children to adopt. The sometimes over-eager prospective adoptive mothers included women who were unable to conceive (before the current reproductive technologies were available), and others  72  who had only one child, or children of only one sex. Many had considered, or actually tried, adopting domestically, but did not meet the criteria because of their age, health, or financial circumstances, as revealed in Bertha Holt’s memoir discussed below. Some were not willing to take an older American child, or one with a disability. Afro-American children were not available to white families, even if they would have accepted them, as racial segregation was still largely in force across the US, especially in the South. Some religious observers sincerely believed that they should share their own economic privilege with those less fortunate, and this was reinforced if taking a foreign child meant increasing its chance of “spiritual rebirth” as a Christian. The receiving family’s reputation in the Christian community, as well as their prospects for reward in Heaven, would be enhanced. Once “rescue” efforts were publicized, the opportunity presented itself for “ordinary people” to perform heroic acts—to make a real difference in at least one life (Register 1990, 2–22; Koh 1988, 22–34). Fantasy mingled with ignorance of where these children were coming from and what they stood to lose as well as to gain. Social and economic circumstances in the 1950s and 1960s in post-war Korea meant that raising an illegitimate child there, especially one with mixed-blood ancestry, was almost impossible. One can argue that, from the Korean perspective, international adoption was prioritized, not because it was seen as being in the best interest of the child or that of the adopting family, but as in the “best interest of the nation” which sought to eliminate children marginalized and seen as a burden because of illegitimacy, mixed blood, or abandonment. Foucault’s concept of population control as bio-politics seems to be well illustrated in this case. While “race” preference certainly played a part on the Korean side, it seems to have stemmed from the traditional beliefs about bloodlines discussed earlier, rather than from any  73  particular political animosity towards the Americans or the mostly European U.N. forces that were present in South Korea. Ironically, most of the white American families who accused the Koreans of racism were very race-conscious themselves, in the American context, and even those who wished to fight discrimination against people of colour in the US implicitly assumed that these half-Asian children would be better off, from every point of view, being raised by Christian people in America. As will become clearer in discussing the particular case of the Holt family, humanitarian endeavour was inseparable from a subtly colonizing or openly culturally imperialistic attitude. The Koreans, as well as the Americans, had political reasons for encouraging the closer ties between the two countries that these adoptions came to represent. The welcome given to Christian missionaries in Korea was originally based on anti-Japanese sentiments. As Hyaeweol Choi (2006) [quoting Chung–Shin Park], states: the association between the church and Korean anti-Japanese sentiment and activity—the primary cause of the rapid growth of Protestantism during the early colonial period—was established unintentionally, not by the church, but by colonized Koreans who joined the religion and colored it politically. (Choi 2006, 142)16 Choi argues that while the political crisis in Korea during Japanese colonial times (1910– 1945) initially motivated Koreans to join Christian churches, especially Protestant ones, conversions subsequently led to the unprecedented growth of the pro-American population (Choi 2006, 142). The popularity of missionary ventures was increased by the building of schools that were urgently needed. Although the missionaries were supposed to adhere to a strict policy of neutrality concerning political affairs (Choi 2006, 142–143), a shared antiJapanese stance evolved into a common resistance to Communism. Many missionaries spent 16  Kim (E. Kim 2010, 46–47) points out that Americans were less inclined after World War II to welcome mixed-race children born to Japanese mothers, as Japan was seen as an enemy, whereas South Korea was an ally. 74  their whole life in Korea and were committed to improving conditions for Korean people, albeit in the hope of influencing their religious beliefs. In the absence of state social services (which their own had made less necessary), at the end of the war they were present and able to “come to the rescue” of a devastated nation that did not know what to do with its Korean widows and orphans, let alone its “fallen women” and their illegitimate and mixed-blood children. The fact that members of the progressive Minjung (People’s Movement), which advocated for better social services, and especially for women’s rights, were suspected of Communist sympathies and consequently persecuted also contributed to the resistance to government intervention in “family matters” (Jones 2006, 32–34).  The Aftermath of the Korean War in the 1950s The outbreak of the Korean War and attendant exigencies forced the Korean church to depend even further on foreign assistance. Numerous new missionaries from various denominations arrived in South Korea after 1953 to undertake evangelization (Holt Children’s Services 2005; Nahm 1988, 45–46). The end of the war led to a flow of economic assistance from overseas churches and their organizations, which encouraged the further spread of Christian beliefs. Both Catholic and Protestant missionaries brought in economic aid in the form of relief supplies, ranging from food to clothing and medicines (A. Kim 1995). The missionaries’ projects included the establishment of orphanages, homes for unwed mothers and widows, amputee rehabilitation centres, and other efforts to assist those adversely affected by the war. As the only national relief agency operating effectively, the Korean church conveyed a positive image of the Christian faith, and many converted. In fact,  75  traditional Confucian beliefs in the value of racial homogeneity, patrilineal bloodlines, and women’s chastity or fidelity (A. Kim 1995, 47) coincided with the views of many Christians. Since childcare institutions did not receive any assistance or support from the government, they relied on relief aid from many private, usually religious, foreign organizations. The first President of independent South Korea, Rhee Syngman, was himself a Christian and a member of the First Methodist Church in Seoul. Some observers are of the view that he was heavily influenced by his own education in the West, and sought and supported the Christian missionaries’ charitable activities as a means to promote the “christianization” of South Korea while he was in office.17 He certainly shared the US view that Communism was to be curbed at all costs. His wife, a European woman from Austria, became involved in the cause of relocating mixed-race children.18 In marrying her, Rhee did not contest the importance accorded by Koreans to “pure bloodlines” but confirmed that the only blood that counted was the father’s. Children of Korean women with fathers of another race were not acceptable. Rhee initiated a policy of setting up separate shelters for mixedrace “orphans,” and encouraged their “repatriation” to America as consistent with a policy of “one state, one ethnic group” (Social Welfare Society 2004, 17).  17  Clark (1986, 18–20). For more details see Choi (2006, 142–143). Choi discusses how a number of prominent Korean national leaders during the early 1900s, including Yun Chi ho, Phillip Jaison (Seo Jae-pil), Yi Sang-jae, and Syngman Rhee (Yi Seung-man), were profoundly influenced by Christianity and believed it would help Korea transform itself into a modern nation. Currently around 25% of the Korean population are affiliated with Christian churches. 18 Kim (E. Kim 2010, 60–62) provides details of letters written to Mrs Rhee by individual parents, whom she tried to assist. Harry Holt also reported visiting a Buddhist orphanage where “Mrs Rhee, the President’s wife, is the sponsor of the 260 children” (Holt 1956/1979, 66). 76  His personal situation reflected a wider clash in Korea between loyalty to tradition and a desire to adapt to modernity. He probably also shared the general impression that the difficulties predicted in assimilating Korean children orphaned or abandoned due to poverty, illegitimacy, and disability, in a country recovering slowly from a devastating war, were enough to cope with without taking responsibility for these mixed-blood children left behind by the Americans, whose Korean blood was, for Koreans, also tainted by their mothers’ promiscuity. As Harry Holt noted (approvingly): “Unlike many in America, the Koreans do not think lightly of adultery. These children born out of wedlock are symbols of shame to them. Because of the difference in appearance, everyone knows what happened” (Holt 1956/1979, 65). While missionaries and other foreign relief workers and institutions were working to assist the children in need, in 1954, in order to save its national and international image regarding child welfare, the Korean government established the first indigenous social welfare organization, initially called “Korean Child Placement Services” (CPS). Realizing that the mixed-race children, although numerous, were far outnumbered by Korean children in need of homes that were unavailable in Korea, the Rhee government decided to allow the new agency to handle national and international adoptions of all available “orphans”19 (Social Welfare Society 2004, 17–18). As a result, between 1955 and 1961, 4,190 children, of whom only 2,061 or 52 % were racially mixed, were placed for adoption overseas (Global Overseas Adoptees’ Link 2003, 17). It is in these circumstances that US-based overseas adoption programs materialized, initially to facilitate the American adoption of Korean-born mixed-race children. In 1955,  19  “Orphan” denoted any child unclaimed by a family member (Social Welfare Society 2004). 77  both the Catholic Relief Organization and the Seventh-day Adventist Church established programs, followed in 1956 by the Holt Adoption Program, which began by placing GI and UN children in American and Scandinavian Christian homes and went on to place other war orphans and abandoned children as well (Miller 1971, 29–31). In 1957, foreign adoption programs increased even more with the establishment of an American branch of “International Social Services” (Holt Children’s Services 2005, 124).20 According to data released by the Korean government after the war, about 715 children lost their families and were forced into the streets in 1955. The numbers rapidly increased each year after that, so much so that by 1961 the number of children in distress was assessed at 4,453 (Holt Children’s Services 2005, 118–119). Missionary-run organizations and childcare facilities or orphanages took custody of these children, although they had very limited resources and struggled to provide sanitation, food and medical supplies for the many children in need of care. The number of facilities for infants, older children, and those with disabilities grew, from 434 taking care of 46,000 children in 1955 to 525 looking after 55,000 children in 1961. This reflected the fact that Korean single mothers or families living in extreme poverty were willing to give up their children in hope of a better life for them, but even children with “pure” Korean heritage were not being adopted by Korean families. It was also difficult to find overseas families for very sick or disabled children, as they could not pass the medical inspection demanded by the US authorities. Rehabilitation and medical centres did increase, but there was a rise in the number of older homeless children roaming 20  International Social Services (ISS) is an international charity first established in Geneva as a non-government organization in 1924, as “International Migration Service.” The name was changed in 1946. It became active in more than 140 countries through national branches. ISS still provides assistance to individuals, children and families confronted with social problems. See http// Accessed May 22, 2008.  78  the streets and seeking shelter and food when the number of centres for “juvenile delinquents” was reduced from 43 in 1955 to 17 in 1961 (Holt Children’s Services 2005, 120). Meanwhile, as US and UN troops continued to be stationed in Korea, there was no decrease in the “military camp towns” or Kijich’on surrounding military bases. Many Kijich’on women worked in bars and nightclubs in order to support their impoverished families (Moon 1999, 310–327). Their numbers grew from about 439 in 1955 to over 1,300 by 1961 (Holt Children’s Services 2005, 120). Some of their children were taken care of by their extended family, but many children of prostitutes, or those born to women deserted by American soldiers, were in a vulnerable situation. The disgrace and shame experienced by these mothers, who were disowned by their own family and treated with contempt by the society at large, forced them to take the drastic step of abandoning their children in the hope of giving them a better life through overseas adoption. In the immediate aftermath of the war, the women who gave birth to these children mostly became invisible and were forgotten. Years later, however, attention focused on them when some of the internationally adopted children, on attaining adulthood, took the bold step of searching for their biological mothers and hearing their stories. In Chapter 3, I will look more closely at the “letters from birthmothers to their unknown child” which have been collected and published, although the women writing are (not surprisingly) mostly from later periods. As will be discussed later, irresponsible fathers went unscathed, while the women had to bear the shame and heartbreak of abandoning their children. Their situation could not have provided a greater contrast with that of the family responsible for removing many of their children to North America.  79  One Family’s Perspective: The Holt Agency’s Genealogy The advent of the “Holt Adoption Program” (HAP) in Korea, founded by the American Harry Holt in 1956, led to the beginning of large-scale adoptions of mixed-race children from South Korea to the United States (Social Welfare Society 2004, 19; Holt Children’s Services 2005, 124). Harry Holt and his wife, Bertha, became pioneers in 1955 by adopting eight Korean-born children assumed to be half-American, all under the age of three, into their existing family of six children aged between eight and twenty-two. Much of the information cited by others about the situation in Korea at that time is based on the letters that Harry Holt wrote home in 1955 while searching for children to adopt. These letters are quoted at length in his wife’s memoir, The Seed from the East, first published in 1956 (reprinted in 1979 and 1983). It was followed by three texts bringing the situation up to date: Outstretched Arms (1972, reprinted with Seed in 1979), Created for God’s Glory (1982, focused on the rehabilitation of children with disabilities in Korea), and Bring My Sons From Afar (1986, a sequel including extracts from letters from Molly Holt and details from Bertha’s diaries). Bearing in mind the method proposed by Smith and Watson (2001) for reading women’s auto/bio/graphical texts, and Foucault’s ideas on the “technologies of the self,” it is useful to look closely at the way in which these accounts are framed. The front cover of the most widely available edition of The Seed from the East (1979) depicts that of the original 1956 version bearing photos of the children the Holts adopted, including a larger one of the first, Christine, smiling impishly in the middle; behind it we see part of the cover of an earlier edition of Outstretched Arms, with a line drawing of Harry Holt’s strong-looking face, surrounded by small, unsmiling heads with black hair.  80  This re-presentation of the two texts assumes some familiarity with the Holts’ “fabulous story,” as it is referred to at the bottom of the cover. The reader, who may well be a prospective adopter, is addressed directly: You’ve read parts of the story in Reader’s Digest, Life, Look, and in newspapers from coast to coast. Now—enjoy the entire account of how God worked in the hearts of an Oregon farmer, his wife and his six children to cause them to open their home to eight orphans—orphans who had been abandoned by their Korean mothers and their American fathers. Read how the Holt “Adoption Program” is successfully placing needy orphans from Korea with families here in America. This is the story of how it all began. The repetition of the word “orphans” (referring to children who actually had parents) is reinforced visually on the back cover, which shows a black and white photo of Harry, seen from behind, carrying a small child with Afro hair and leading the way for six toddlers straggling behind him. In the corner a framed text explains the book’s title: “Fear not: for I am with thee: I will bring thy seed from the East, and gather thee from the West.” Isaiah 43:5.” This is the text that appeared when Holt opened his Bible at random, seeking divine guidance on what to do with the rest of his life after suffering a major heart attack (Holt 1956/1979, 55). It confirmed the reaction that both he and Bertha experienced in December 1954 on seeing a missionary film presented by Dr. Bob Pierce of World Vision (Holt 1956/1979, 14), about the war widows and orphans in Korea and the mixed-race children roaming the streets. The film was entitled “Other Sheep” (20), a reference to Christ as the Good Shepherd and his servants who have the mission to bring wanderers into the fold. Foucault’s concept of “pastoral” discipline is in evidence from the beginning of this story. The image becomes even more pronounced when, in the early scenes of life on the Holts’ Oregon farm, we learn of calves (27) and lambs (29) being born and nurtured back to health when necessary, thanks 81  to the hard work, hygiene, and home cooking of Mrs. Holt and her four daughters who are still on the farm. The sheep are gathered into “labour” and “nursing” pens that foreshadow future maternity homes and Baby Reception Centres, and one lamb is rescued when born in the wild because of a “stubborn” mother (33). Exclamations that “There’s nothing on earth sweeter than a baby” (15) in reference to animal breeding are accompanied, ironically, by the expression of a preference for purebred and registered livestock (18). Maternalism and domesticity are glorified almost to comical excess in the first few pages (Holt 1956/1979, 13–16), where we see Bertha ironing and basting the roast while overseeing her daughters, who are busy cleaning the silverware and peeling potatoes, when they are not typing for their father. Harry Holt, still recovering from a series of heart attacks, is depicted with reverence. He is the one who normally drives the farm machinery and makes decisions, although it is often Bertha who carries out his wishes. The fact that the book is signed “Mrs Harry Holt” and dedicated to “Jesus Christ, My Lord” illustrates early models of female autobiography, as described by Mary Mason and others (Smith and Watson, 1998), characterized by an apparently modest focus on a central male actor, rather than the supposedly subservient female narrator. The woman’s life is not only eclipsed by her husband’s (or God), but owes its meaning to male orders from above. Her glory lies, like that of all traditional mothers, in being the means to ensure that the man’s name will live on. He will provide the “seed” and she will nurture it. Their initial decision after seeing the film is to sponsor as many children as possible in Korean orphanages through World Vision, at $10 each. While the Holts are initially presented as simple farming folk, it becomes clear that they have not only been “well provided for by the Lord” (Holt 1956/1979, 15), but have risen from humble origins in a  82  trailer to occupy a thirteen-room house on 353 acres of land (76), as well as owning a beach cottage and numerous lots on the Oregon coast, and a large sailing boat capable of taking them to Alaska. Harry’s early business ventures in the lumber industry paid off well. Their relative wealth has not made them any less thrifty, and they scrimp and save to be able to sponsor more orphans. Each one comes with a card from World Vision bearing a photo, and the picture of the first boy is greeted with joy by their son, Stewart, who suffers from being the only male in a context where men are expected to play a leading role. He distributes cigars, as if he had become a proud father (24). At that stage, these American Christians seemed to be content to provide money to sustain homeless children in existing facilities in Korea, to ensure that they have food, shelter, and “Christian education and supervision” (22). The Holts’ vision shifted to bringing children to the US to join families there, beginning with their own, after Harry’s interpretation of the text from Isaiah referring to “the seed from the East” as a personal message from God, giving him a messianic mission to undertake (Jae Ran Kim 2006). This view is strengthened by Bertha’s revelation, in Bring My Sons from Afar. The Unfolding of Harry Holt’s Dream (Holt 1986/1992), written after Harry’s death, that Harry had also had a recurring dream or vision, which he was embarrassed to talk about, in which a specific Korean child (later identified with Christine) called out to him. The Holts’ superhuman efforts in the years to come seem to reflect a compulsion or obsession, arising from this “call from God” which led to the mass transfer of children who otherwise might have been provided with care in Korea with the help of foreign financial contributions. The shift depended on the Americans’ conviction that the Koreans were in fact unwilling or unable to care appropriately for the mixed-race children, even with assistance. Dr Pierce expressed this opinion, stating: “Mixed-race children will never be  83  accepted into Korean society. Even the youngsters, themselves, are conscious of the difference. At a very early age they seem to sense that something is wrong” (Holt 1986/1992, 21). Harry’s first-hand observations (Holt 1956/1979, 46, 72) later confirmed the situation depicted in the film. The mixed-race children might be able to stay hidden with their mothers until they were about two, but as soon as they were exposed to others they were badly treated, even by other children. The film graphically depicted the tragic plight of hundreds of illegitimate children: “GI babies . . . children that had American fathers and Korean mothers . . . children that had been hidden by remorseful mothers until it was no longer possible to keep their secret…. Finally the children were allowed to roam the streets where they were often beaten by other children who had never known Koreans with blond hair . . . or blue eyes” (Holt 1956/1979, 21). Many of the mothers were compelled to either abandon their children or give them away to anyone who could provide them with food and shelter (Holt 1956/1979, 20). One was even found in a garbage dump (21). While the mixed-race children were assumed to be illegitimate, some mothers who relinquished children were widows “with large families for whom they had no means of support” (26). The film also displayed the terrible state of small bodies “ripped and torn by hellish metals of war. Some were left blind; some deaf and dumb. Some could not speak because of the psychological effects of what they had been forced to endure. These children were shown to be silently singing ‘Jesus Loves Me’ with their fingers” (20). The message was that they owed their lives to the Christian missions, rather than their wounds to an American war. Pierce described some mothers as “remorseful” (Holt 1956/1979, 21) and also expressed his scorn at the men who had turned their backs on them. Both parents are  84  assumed to be equally guilty for producing this situation. When Bertha speaks of the “shameful results of undisciplined conduct” (21), it is not clear to whom she is referring. As one daughter, Wanda, gazes at the picture of a child she is sponsoring, she exclaims, “Imagine such a thing! Deserting a lovable little darling like this. . . . Isn’t she cute?”(32) Throughout this account, there is a mixture of pity and contempt for the birthparents of the children, and admiration or desire for the children in the pictures is proportionate to their cuteness (often associated with light-coloured hair or eyes) and the wistfulness of their expression (“such wistful little faces,” 21, 90). Once the decision was made to bring eight children into their family (four of each sex, the maximum number the house could accommodate according to Bertha’s calculations, 38), their attitude changed. Harry left for Korea in May 1955, to find suitable children for himself and other would-be adopters. On his arrival he saw that “The damage to this country is heartbreaking” (Holt 1956/1979, 65) and the situation for many children was desperate. On witnessing bodies washed up on beaches (65) and the death of many babies from starvation and disease (74), he reverses his criteria for selection: he will take those who are not so attractive, or struggling to survive, as the cute, chubby, fair-haired ones will find other families: There are lots of cute little girls but I don’t allow myself to get too wrapped up in the cute, fat ones. They’re the babies others will want. I want the kids that look frightened and lost. I wish I could take them all. (Holt 1956/1979, 66) He visits a number of orphanages, finding some to be good and some “awful” (Holt 1956/1979, 60). The one where their sponsored children were located was deemed good, so he decides to leave them there (62). The first mixed-race child he commits to is Christine, who resembles the small girl in his dream. The wife of the overseas director of World Vision  85  had already written to Bertha to tell her about her: A little GI-girl has just been brought to our office for placement in one of our homes. She was two years old last April 7th. Her father did not want her. He has returned to the States assuming no responsibility whatsoever. Her Korean mother brought her to a chaplain saying she could not keep her any longer . . . she is old enough to play outdoors but the children of the street hit her. They call her names and spit on her because she is different. She has nice brown eyes and light brown, or blondish, hair. . . . Her name is Christine. Would you want her? (Holt 1956/1979, 56) Later, when another woman in Oregon looks at the photos of the children the Holts expect to adopt and picks out Christine, saying “I want that little girl in the picture . . . behind your husband,” Bertha responds possessively: “She belongs to us . . . no-one else is going to have her!” (101).21 The fact that Christine’s father accepted no responsibility was typical. Holt later records the arrival of another baby: “A GI man brought him in, saying it belonged to his buddy. That seems to be the stock answer for where they come from” (Holt 1956/1979, 83– 4).22 Holt observed gender and race disparities in all the orphanages: Among the white GI-children there are many girls to every boy. However there are a considerable number of negro boys. . . . Pray [for] these poor little colored boys and girls that nobody wants. Many of them have been thrown in the river. . . . They need to be cared for right along with those of white mixtures” (Holt 1956/1979, 64–6). As at that time children of colour were not placed with white families, he adds:  21  Kim (E. Kim 2010, 64–5 and 67) draws attention to the fierce competitiveness and sense of entitlement and ownership revealed in letters from mothers determined to obtain a particular child, even if a father or foster family wanted to keep them in Korea. 22 In Sons extracts from Bertha’s diary during the time she spent at the orphanage in Korea in 1956 record that some GIs, including one “big black man,” volunteered there, or inquired about adopting. In Outstretched Arms she also mentions visits to their office in Oregon by former soldiers who have a guilty conscience about the child or sweetheart they left behind in Korea. Kim (E. Kim 2010, 45) describes orphans becoming army “mascots,” and some single military personnel adopting boys, as well as a photo exhibit entitled “GIs and Kids. A Love Story” that presents GIs as the children’s saviours (E. Kim 2010, 51). 86  I wish the negro people of America could be offered an opportunity to help in this mixed-race mess over here. I know there must be thousands of good negro families who would welcome these negro GI-babies into their homes. Many of the children are very nice looking. They have dark wavy or straight hair and fine features. There are people in the United States Embassy here who know that the Koreans will never let the black children grow to the ages where they can reproduce. The Koreans keep saying they have never had a race problem, and they’re not going to have one now. (Holt 1956/1979, 115) In fact, Holt ended up bringing one half-black child back with him for adoption by a mixedrace family, and later many Christian Afro-American families did adopt these half-black children.  Public Domesticity: Finding and Appropriating the Holt Children Harry Holt travelled around the country looking for the eight children that he believed God would reveal to be the ones chosen to join his family, and reported regularly to Bertha, who distributed his letters to church people. His efforts were accompanied by much prayer, especially by a blind friend, Paul Davis, who saw that task as his particular mission. Harry’s reactions to life in Korea are mixed. He admires the courage of Korean pastors and missionaries who saw many of their colleagues killed by the Communists.23 He also approves of the way Koreans raise their children (Holt 1956/1979, 90), but is shocked by ancestor worship and the use of human fertilizer on the fields (85), and hates the Korean climate and food (126). As they accumulate, the chosen children are taken to stay with him in a separate room at a Christian hospital in Seoul, and later in a borrowed house. He sends pictures and home movies to his family in Oregon, showing him making up many bottles of baby formula and 23  The first film shown by Bob Pierce was “Dead Men on Furlough,” about Christian martyrs in Korea, and he refers to meeting people who had family members murdered, claiming that 600 pastors were killed (Holt 1956/1979, 15, 19). 87  changing diapers. Bertha is amazed at this, as their roles are switched: he becomes a surrogate mother (“Harry never minded babies before!” Holt 1956/1979, 97), while she drives the pick-up truck and combine harvester “in skirts” (81). The female Korean staff members are initially sceptical about a man taking care of young infants, but end up admiring his dedication (103). All the children suffer from malnutrition, serious infections, and parasites, and some have life-threatening conditions such as TB and a virulent form of pneumonia. One baby girl, Judy, dies, and is buried under the name of “Judy Holt” (106). Holt comments: “These little ones do not have the resistance American children have. Of course, she never had a mother. She was abandoned in a hotel a day or two after she was born” (113). He fails to consider that Korean children may have more resistance to local contagions than those of foreign extraction. The Holt family grieves for “Judy” as if she had belonged to them, but she is soon replaced by “Betty.” Harry remarks that these children have no “real names” (Korean ones do not count), but he will give them his (95). Similarly, one of their daughters says, “We’d have to teach them how to talk . . . our language, I mean” (36). For Harry, “It is always somewhat a shock to hear children who look American speak Korean. It just doesn’t seem right”(145). It is as if their life in Korea will be erased, or assumed not to have existed, once they arrive in the USA. Christine is the only one who remembers her mother and cries for her at night. She already has a Christian name, which she is allowed to keep. One boy is named after Paul, but fails to pass medical inspection, so a second Paul is sought out. The descriptions Holt provides of each child emphasize the lightness of their hair or eyes—not perhaps from personal preference, but to justify their classification as half-American and therefore eligible. Bertha records that many letters of request state that the potential parents  88  “don’t care whether the children look oriental or not. Some people say they’d be willing to take the babies with oriental and negro blood,” but the Holts, adopting an attitude that would later become the norm, think these children would be better off “matched” with Black families. They are hoping the negro people will open their hearts and homes to those children. It would be so much kinder for the children to grow up in the society of the race their fathers belonged to. (Holt 1956/1979, 236) They also assume that the fully Korean-born children would be better off in Korean homes, if they were available. Probably speaking of Betty (who was later considered to be wholly Korean), Harry states: “I have one little girl about six months old. The folks at the orphanage think she’s Korean but I feel almost certain she’s white. When I brought her here to the hospital, the head nurse and some others said, ‘GI-baby.’” (Holt 1956/1979, 73) The infants are placed in his care without questioning whether it may be the best solution for them. He is amazed himself that “the children are turned over without even having to sign a receipt. Just think . . . precious boys and girls being handed over like that” (Holt 1956/1979, 90). The mothers’ consent is of little importance, as Korea is “a man’s country. They don’t even list the wife on Korean adoption papers so there’s nothing for women to sign” (97). He adds, jokingly, “She (the Korean nurse) says the man has always been the head of the household. Remind me of this when I get back.” As his stay is extended from two to four months because of the children’s health problems and legal issues in the US, the children begin to call him “Aboji” (father), and he comments that the babies who have never been held cling to him, and think he is also their mother (99). He manages to move his new “family” into separate accommodation, and by the time they leave for America strong bonds have already been formed. It was in fact an arduous endeavour to get through  89  all the procedures required to import eight children from Korea into America.  Process and Pressure: Changing the Law When Harry Holt went to Korea in May 1955, it was his first visit to Asia. A successful businessman turned farmer, he was used to making deals, but had little experience of working with or through government agencies. In spite of his poor health, he travelled extensively across the war-torn country and made contacts at both the grassroots and senior government levels through his church connections. His conviction and perseverance gained cooperation from many sources, but he also met with many obstacles that he blamed on what seemed to him unnecessary red-tape, in spite of his comment cited above about the informality with which children were handed over. To begin with, he had little understanding of immigration requirements, both in Korea and in the US. In order to be admitted to Korea at all, one had to be either a statesman or a missionary, so he was passed off as a missionary (Holt 1956/1979, 44). Once there, he was surprised to learn that he needed a Korean resident permit to be allowed to adopt a child, so needed to stay longer than anticipated (94). The children required inoculations and extensive medical examinations in order to be declared fit to enter the US. Obtaining visas for them, even once they had been officially adopted by him in Korea, was not a straightforward process. American immigration quotas for Koreans and other Asians were very limited, and there was a two-year wait to bring a child in under that category. There was another option, to bring them under different legislation, left over from World War II, originally aimed to assist displaced war refugees from Europe. The US Refugee Relief Act of 1953 was about to expire at the end of December 1956. In addition, it permitted only two children per family  90  (44). While Harry was in Korea in May 1955, Bertha gained support from Senator Richard Neuberger (a Democrat representing Oregon who was also an Evangelical Christian), who began to lobby the Senate to extend the Refugee Relief Act. On June 24 his colleague, Senator Wayne Morse, introduced a separate Bill “for the relief of certain war orphans.” Its stated purpose was “to allow Mr and Mrs Holt to bring, upon enactment, six Korean War Orphans to the United States in addition to the two orphans permitted under the Refugee Act . . . (they) shall be deemed to be the natural born alien children of the said Harry and Bertha Holt” (Holt 1956/1979, 79).24 In fact, the Holts were to serve as a pilot project to publicize the plight of abandoned children in Korea and encourage other families to adopt. Bertha’s account of the situation in Oregon gives a running commentary on the lobbying undertaken at every level, and the hundreds of letters written to the President and various levels of government by their supporters. With support from Congresswoman Edith Green, the “Holt Bill” (Bill HR7043) was adopted in the House of Representatives, though complications arose because two of those coming (the replacements for Judy and the first Paul) did not correspond to the original list of eight names. Bertha commented (naively?): “It’s wonderful to live in a country where great men are attentive to the needs of an unfortunate few” (Holt 1956/1979, 79). That the same “great men” were responsible for the plight of more than a few “unfortunates” in Korea seems to have escaped her. The situation was further complicated by the fact that Harry also wanted to bring back four additional children who were adopted by him in Korea by proxy for other Christian couples linked to World Vision. One was a previously sponsored child who had needed 24  The use of the word “alien” was to become an emotional topic of debate years later among adult adoptees, as Eleana Kim (2010) documents. 91  hospital treatment, and two were for the Holts’ friends Bill and Penny Collier of Portland (Holt 1956/1979, 42). The fourth, the Black-Korean girl that Holt is holding on the book cover, was for a mixed-race family in Michigan that had been approved, unlike the others, by the US Welfare department. He wrote home: “We thank God for this family and for every Negro family who will adopt these children. . . . Lee Young Soni is the first coloured child to be adopted from Korea through the Welfare. Hundreds remain” (157). Bertha expressed her frustration: “Seventy couples there (in L.A.), many of them negroes, had been trying to adopt GI-babies from Korea since last February [1955] but it seems there are forces at work within our country who would rather see the children die in Korea rather than be brought to America” (117). This was only the beginning of the Holts’ conflicts with “the Welfare,” whose social workers justifiably wanted to check out the adoptive homes proposed. On July 16, 1955, Holt signed the papers to become the lawful parent of the children he had chosen: the boys were Joe, Bob, Paul, and Nathaniel, the girls Christine, Helen, Mary, and Betty. When he finally landed in the US on October 14, 1955, after a long journey via Japan and Hawaii, he was accompanied by twelve children and one nurse. Bertha had ensured that the media would be there to greet them, and to observe the children’s arrival at their new home, which all the Holts’ biological children had been busy preparing for them. The scenes recorded on film and in photos are reminiscent of the public’s fascination with the Dionne quintuplets when they were born in Ontario in 1937. But whereas the Dionnes were considered unsuitable parents to raise such a large and special family (StrongBoag 2006, 28, 89–90), the Holts received approval from almost everyone. The publicity surrounding the arrival of their children, and the planeloads that followed, produced a constant stream of requests from others who wanted a Korean-born child. In fact, with four  92  daughters living in the same house (Barbara, Wanda, Suzanne and Linda) and another training to be a nurse close by (Molly), the situation at their home in Cresswell, near Eugene, Oregon, was more like a group home with several caregivers than a conventional family. The house gradually became the hub for the administration of the Holt Adoption Program, once it became incorporated as a licensed agency with charitable status. Later, in 1961, when the Holts went to live in Korea for two years with Linda (their youngest biological child, by then fifteen) and all the Korean-born children, Bertha recorded her own concern that their adopted children would lose the sense of being part of a family: “I resolved to keep our identity in spite of everything. But I did not always live up to this” (Holt and Wisner 1956/1986, 263). By that time, the couple was frequently separated as Harry and their biological children all travelled to and fro between the US and Korea, and more and more children were airlifted on often dangerous journeys across the Pacific. What had been a family affair would grow to become a worldwide enterprise, and their undisciplined ad hoc arrangements would be institutionalized.  Changes in the Adoption Process In response to pressure from American social workers and their American-trained Korean counterparts, the government-sponsored Korean Child Placement Service (CPS), initially acting as Holt’s proxy, agreed to help the Holt Adoption Centre in seeking appropriate American adoptive parents for mixed-race children, and later also for Korean orphans (Social Welfare Society 2004; Holt Children’s Services 2005, 131). The Holts agreed, partly because of a threat to start sending Amerasian children to Japan (Holt 1986/1992, 13), at a time when Holt himself was thinking of sending some to Paraguay (Holt 1986/1992, 101). In the autumn  93  of 1957 the US passed a new Orphan Act, permitting proxy adoptions until the end of June 1958 and allowing families that had already adopted two children from abroad to take in two more. Available statistical data for 1958–1960 show that in-country adoptions remained insignificant, totalling only 6.2 percent (162 out of 2,700) of completed adoptions at the time, in spite of Bertha Holt’s prayer “that the Korean people will open their hearts to adopt these children even though it is very much outside their culture” (Holt 1986/1992, 130). Transnational adoptions continued to grow, rising to 4,185 by 1961. The sequels to The Seed from the East (Outstretched Arms and Bring My Sons from Afar) convey the ongoing battles over both proxy adoptions and Welfare approval of homes and placements that continued to occur over several years. The Holts, with the support of Senator Neuberger until his death in 1960, fought tooth and nail to keep transnational adoptions under the control of Immigration, rather than the State Department. Their lawyers were successful in finding loopholes in immigration laws that allowed supposedly temporary regulations to be extended several times, but eventually proxy adoptions were ruled out, and plane-loads of preapproved would-be parents headed for Korea and accompanied the children back to the US. The resistance of social workers to their ad hoc procedures was incomprehensible and infuriating to the Holts, who believed God was bringing children and families together in answer to their prayers. Many of the hundreds of requests they received were from couples who had been turned down by the Welfare Department for a range of reasons, while others did not want to even try that route because it was known to take so long. At first, the Holts arranged to have an investigative agency inspect potential homes and check out the record of would-be parents. Not every placement worked out perfectly, and their inspections were questioned when one adopted child died by falling off a swing (Holt 1986/1992, 44). The  94  parent was charged with murder by neglect, and rumours of child abuse by adoptive parents continued to circulate, although that person was acquitted and allowed to adopt Korean twins in 1958.25 North Korea contributed to hostile criticism, claiming that the Americans were importing child-slaves from South Korea (125). Others closer to home, “violently opposed to bringing oriental blood into the US” (203), hurled abuse at the Holts for adopting “slant-eyed children,” demonstrating racial prejudice at least as strong as that attributed to the Koreans. Some rival adoption agencies charged the Holts with forcing mothers to give up infants, and they were falsely suspected of paying money for children (Holt 1986/1992, 91). Holt admitted, once the numbers of children able to leave increased, that “we have trouble finding the little ones, other agencies are grabbing them, and some aren’t released by the mothers” (27). His fear seems to have been, however, that the children would perish before they could get to them, or that some other agencies would want them because of the sponsorships they could bring in. Harry Holt complained that “enemy forces have circulated stories that we dump children into any kind of home . . . the young mothers are afraid to give us their babies, some even kill them” (16). On another occasion, he recorded that “the mothers and grandmothers had tears running down their faces, but they wanted to give us the children for their sake, and let them have a chance to live in a home where they are respected” (17). Some bring the children to them: “They saw pictures of children with parents in America, so they decided they should help their child instead of forcing him to grow up here with no future” (38). Whether the dire predictions of their fate if they remained in Korea were justified or not is difficult to prove. 25  Although the details of this case are recorded in Bringing My Sons From Afar (Holt 1986/1992, 44, 45, 49, 84), there is a reference to it as an example of abuse on an adoptee website called “Pound Pup Legacy”: Accessed June 18, 2010. 95  Missionary Zeal The Holts and their representatives did indeed persuade many mothers to relinquish their children (Holt 1986/1992, 82), but in these early post-war years the poor condition they were in and the high infant mortality rate suggest that many of them would in fact have died otherwise. Many did die, even after they were taken into care in a Korean orphanage or hospital, and some of those flown later to America succumbed on the way. It is difficult to know if some babies too sick to travel were irresponsibly included (66), as others equally weak recovered in the US, including a number with TB who received free treatment at the Jewish Hospital in Denver. Although in later years the demand for children from the West outstripped the supply from Korea, and the Holts’ methods of obtaining and placing children were condemned and eventually stopped by social workers and others, it appears that in the early years the Holt Adoption Program was motivated by concern for the immediate physical welfare of the children. This was, however, inextricably entwined with their Evangelical perception of the need to “save” them through conversion and a Christian upbringing. The family certainly did not make money out of the operation, as some claimed. On the contrary, in Sons Bertha meticulously documents the progressive decline in their resources, as they sold farmland, beach lots, and stocks to cover the expansion of facilities in Korea. Even Wanda’s airplane was sold off for the cause, after she died in 1961, by accidental smoke inhalation while on a missionary assignment in Mexico (Holt and Wisner 1956/1986, 266). Because of their faith, the Holts preferred adoptive families that declared themselves to be “born-again Christians.” At the end of Bring My Sons From Afar, Bertha explains that in 1964, since there were no longer enough such families available, “We reluctantly changed our policy and voted to adopt, when absolutely necessary, to non-Christian families. This has  96  been a matter of controversy ever since. I prayed even more earnestly that every adopted child would become a born-again Christian” (Holt 1986/1992, 199). It is difficult for anyone who does not share this belief to understand that for the Holts, the children’s spiritual salvation was as important as saving their physical life. It seems to have been their faith that gave them the determination to continue their work in spite of all obstacles. They appear to have been unconcerned that their missionary zeal combined with US military presence on Korean soil to establish a firm foundation for prolonged American domination of that country. On the contrary, since they saw Communism as opposed to Christianity, they wholeheartedly supported military and ideological propaganda ensuring that no left-wing ideas (such as state provision of adequate child-care services) would take hold in South Korea. After showing the film that first exposed the Holts to the situation there, Dr Pierce condemned the North Korean Communists, claiming that “they will separate a family . . . to achieve their perverted aims” (Holt 1956/1979, 19). To non-believers it might seem that these Christians had similar priorities, since children were removed not only from catastrophic dangers but also from the reluctant arms of family members, with the justification that they would be better off in Christian homes in America. As my next chapter focused on the birthmothers’ perspective will show, many Korean mothers and families did not have access to the social or financial resources that would have allowed them to keep their children. As a successful businessman, Harry Holt had ample financial reserves to start his project, and he benefited from the volunteer labour of friends and family to keep it going. His social status gave him access to the right contacts in the US Senate and Congress to promote his ambitious project, and Bertha proved the power of  97  lobbying elected officials. The Holts’ church connections facilitated publicity in the media and the distribution of Bertha’s memoirs. Their family came to represent the success of an American “self-made man” or “do-it-yourself” philosophy that saw government-run services as an unnecessary intrusion into entrepreneurship. In their view, Korea could only gain by adopting a neo-liberal capitalist ideology, and they would not have comprehended an interpretation of their actions as neo-colonial or implicitly racist. It was only later, after living for many years in Korea, that Bertha and some other family members came to acknowledge the intrinsic value of the Korean culture, language, and land, and appreciate what had been taken from their Korean-born children. While the Holts’ adjustment to life in Korea might be negatively interpreted as “going native” in a way associated with colonial cultural appropriation, it nevertheless represents a dramatic change from Harry’s initial reactions. As the number of Korean adoptees in the US increased, efforts were made by adoptive parents in Oregon and elsewhere to expose them to Korean food, traditional dress, and customs, and to other Korean-looking children, by annual reunions. However, several adult Korean-American adoptees, especially those who were old enough when adopted to remember Korea, have since talked about how difficult it was for them to adapt, not only to Western food and customs such as sleeping alone, but to the strict discipline and rigid beliefs of some Evangelical families. This aspect will be discussed in detail in Chapter 4. Birthmothers have also had to accept exposure to Christian proselytizing in order to be accepted into maternity homes, as will be seen in Chapter 3.  98  Technologies of Persuasion In comparing the style and form of Bertha Holt’s auto/bio/graphical texts, a change is evident. The first, The Seed from the East, was written with the help of David Wisner, a professional writer and publicist working for World Vision, who “condensed and spiced it up to make it more readable” (Holt 1986/1992, 8). The amount of reconstructed dialogue, selfconscious use of sustained images (such as the animal husbandry discussed earlier), and humorous anecdotes turn Harry’s letters and Bertha’s diaries into a more entertaining as well as inspiring account of heroic endeavours. That book was published in order to raise money for the construction of new buildings in Korea, as Bertha explains in Sons. It was part of the same strategy that led both the Holts to engage in radio and TV shows and give many interviews, as they wanted as much publicity as possible in order to process more adoptions and provide care for more children in Korea. Harry was accused of liking the limelight, but to his family he complained about the invasiveness of journalists. Their private family life was difficult to protect. In fact, it seems that they were closest as a family in Korea, when they camped for several months in a tent on a building site with all the adopted children and Linda, their youngest biological daughter, who later married a Korean she met at that time. Outstretched Arms is less dramatic and narrated in a sober style, more like a report or summary bringing the reader of The Seed up-to-date on events. Bring My Sons from Afar is different again, as it presents extracts from Bertha’s diaries and Molly’s letters far more directly, with little commentary. Readers are left to draw their own conclusions, though the extracts selected are sometimes defensive. Written after Harry’s death, “my sons” in the title may refer equally in this case to Bertha, as the mother. With her daughter, Molly, she became responsible for the future of Holt Adoption Services, as well as for preserving Harry’s  99  memory. The goal, as expressed in the Foreword, is to convince readers that this is an accurate account, that the Holts are not hiding anything and the facts are corroborated by other witnesses. Just as all Christians must attribute their success to the Lord, the writer must excel by her sincerity and humility in confessing her weaknesses. This is a “technology of the self” that will re-appear in the “letters from birthmothers” to be discussed in the next chapter. Bertha Holt’s writings represent a paradoxical type of feminine self-representation that attributes success to someone else (God or Harry, in this case), while conveying at the same time the narrator’s superior powers of self-effacing multi-tasking. Bertha had been an active farmer’s wife, physically involved in the work, and becomes a highly successful political lobbyist and media propagandist, but it is as a mother that she is remembered. Turning her private nuclear family into a public international rescue operation allowed her life to emerge as both simply domestic and heroic on a grand scale. This glorification of motherhood occurred at a time when the life of a suburban housewife (the “feminine mystique” later exposed by Betty Friedan) was being glorified in America, partly to persuade women who had worked outside the home in the war years to retreat from the workforce. In this case, Bertha’s recognition as “American Mother of the Year” in 1966 was achieved at the expense of young Korean women who had no chance to mother their children, in a context where Korean women were also traditionally led to believe that being a mother was the noblest vocation. It is also somewhat ironic that the subsequent, professionalized work of the Holt agency was continued by their second biological daughters, Molly, who never married or had children (biological or adopted) herself.  100  Meeting Molly Holt When the eight children adopted by the Holts arrived in Oregon, Molly was away at nursing school, but she soon began accompanying her father on his frequent visits to Korea to find and bring back children for adoption. Bertha Holt’s notes in Sons are interspersed with hairraising letters from Molly recounting some of these perilous and often dramatic journeys, as well as providing detailed accounts of the children’s medical problems. When Molly completed her nursing degree at the age of twenty-one she became a full-time worker in Korea with the Holt agency and others attempting to place children. She returned to the US to complete Bible College training, and after the death of her sister Wanda she decided to spend the rest of her life as a medical missionary in Korea. Bertha also mainly lived there after Harry’s death in 1964, while other children ran the Oregon office of the Holt Adoption Agency. One of the paradoxical ironies of the Holts’ story is that having worked so hard to bring children out of Korea to the US, they themselves eventually became acculturated to life in Korea, and in a sense Korea adopted them. Bertha became known as “Grandma Holt,” and her youngest biological daughter, Linda, had a Korean wedding.26 Not only all the adopted children but also Linda and Molly learned to speak Korean. Now in her seventies, and still chairperson of Holt Korea Inc., Molly Holt continues to be actively involved and lives in a cottage attached to the Holt Ilsan Centre27 situated in the northwest of Seoul, where both Harry and Bertha Holt are buried. Owing to her extensive 26  Her marriage to Paik Hyun, a young Korean Christian she met at the time when the Ilsan Centre was under construction, later ended in divorce. 27 This is a residential care facility for homeless children with disabilities, originally financed by Harry Holt, who physically participated in building the original structures. Ilsan currently serves the needs of approximately 300 residents, ranging in age from toddlers to adults. Most of them live in group-home arrangements and receive therapy and training. For more details on the Ilsan Centre visit: Accessed June 20, 2007. 101  work for the rehabilitation of children with disabilities, she is known as “Mother of the Disabled” 28and respectfully addressed as Onni/Nuna (Older Sister).29 Dae-Won Wenger, Secretary General of the adoptee-run organization G.O.A.’L. (Global Overseas Adoptees’ Link), arranged for me to meet with Molly Holt in Seoul on May 8, 2007.30 I was aware that the Holt agency did not have an adoption program with Canada, and my main focus at that stage in my research was on adoptions to this country, but I was nevertheless eager to ask Molly Holt a number of questions. I was particularly interested in her experience as part of the Holt family and her memories of the adoption process in the early years. Since I aimed to examine the intersections of gender, class, age, and race, I wondered how she saw these aspects of the situation when assigning children to specific homes. When I asked her if the Holts themselves had considered adopting a BlackKorean child, she replied: At that time in the history of social work, no one adopted Black children to white families. In fact we had lots of Black families wanting Black children. Of course my father didn’t know that until after he arrived home with my brothers and sisters. In one letter he mentioned the Black children (while he was in Korea in 1955). I wrote him a letter (I was in nursing school then), and told him I would be happy with a Black brother or sister. He didn’t answer that at all, but I think he was trying to find the children we could help most. This response conveys some ambivalence as to whether the Holts were conforming to written  28  The headline when she received an award from Norway for her work was “Mother of Disabled, Molly Holt Decorated with Humanity Merit.” Korean Overseas Information Service (KOIS), Seoul, October 28, 2000. Accessed August 20, 2007. 29 Onni is used by a girl and Nuna by a boy to address an older sister. 30 G.O.A.’L was established in Seoul in March 1998 as an independent organization to assist returning adoptees. It brings Korean adoptees from European countries and the US together with over 100 native Korean volunteers who share knowledge about Korean culture and provide insight into Korean behaviour, as well as increasing public awareness of adoption issues. For more details see: Accessed May 10, 2011. 102  or unwritten rules, and whether she agreed with her father or not. She threw a clearer light on the reasons why some families preferred to adopt through the Holts: After he [her father] arrived back in Oregon with the new additions to our family, we got letters from a group of several hundred families, many of them Black, who lived in Southern California. Many of them were in the process of adopting children from Korea through ISS (International Social Services), and they were very frustrated at all the delays they encountered. My father once wrote that one family had fifty-three visits to their home by social workers. . . . He put these families in contact with Child Placement Services and they processed some. Then he went to Korea in March of 1956 and directly began to adopt these children to waiting families. Her memory confirms that adoption agencies generally kept few records of their transactions, and children were sometimes mixed up: A Black adoptee visited me recently from Florida (but she grew up in Los Angeles), who had been adopted through CPS (Korean Child Placement Service) in 1958. We tried to find out her background at SWS (Social Welfare Society, formerly CPS) but they had no records. She had her old passport and Family Registration but it was in another name, as she had been switched with another child. Since she was adopted at age six, she remembered her own name. She remembered living with her grandparents in the country and living briefly at an orphanage. She also knew Mrs. Ok Soon Hong, the head of CPS, and remembered when Mrs. Hong visited LA in the late ‘50s. There is a picture of these children in the book “The Five Decades of SWS.” She had had a wonderful adoptive family and many adopted Black Korean friends. They were all middle class families. She found twenty-three names of her friends in my lists of 1956–1958 (all adopted to Black families). It is not surprising that Harry Holt, like most white American citizens in the 1950s, was not more outspoken in condemning the racial segregation policy, which was still in full force. Although he challenged racism in taking partly Asian children into his home, he also furthered racial segregation by organizing adoptions along racial lines. His reasons for favouring racial and religious “matching” were different from those brought forward later by Black social workers, who saw the frequent adoption of Afro-American children by white families in the 1970s as depriving the Black community of its children and the children of their heritage. Holt believed that half-black children would be better off in Black homes  103  because of the racial prejudice they would suffer in white neighborhoods, rather than encouraging adoptive parents to confront anti-Black racism. He also assumed that only middle-class Christian homes would be desirable, of whatever colour. I found it difficult to question the motivation behind the Holts’ efforts, in a context where Molly Holt is venerated by all around her as the representative of the family. Her personal manner inspires respect, and I was favourably impressed by her kindness and willingness to talk. If I had the opportunity to meet her again, having completed this project, I would ask a different set of questions regarding the current situation of children in need of care in Korea and alternatives to adoption. I believe her response would be informative, in view of her long experience of living and working in Korea.  The Institutionalization of Transnational Adoptions from Korea With the establishment of Child Placement Services in Korea in 1954 and Holt Adoption Services as an official agency in 1956, transnational adoptions began for the first time on a large scale. Statistical data for 1958–1960 show that in-country adoptions remained insignificant, totaling only 6.2 percent (162 out of 2,700) of completed adoptions at the time, while transnational, transracial adoptions accounted for the majority, rising from 2,388 to 4,185 between 1955 and 1961 (Holt Children’s Services 2005, 121). Two other religious organizations, the Seventh-day Adventists and the Catholic Relief Service, also gained government recognition as international adoption agencies, but both were short-lived. In 1964 Korea Social Service (KSS) was established, and the Eastern Child Welfare Society (ECWS) was founded in 1972. These two organizations have collaborated with the Social Welfare Society Inc. (SWS) and Holt Korea Inc., to become the only licensed agencies that  104  deal with inter-country adoptions from Korea. According to OAKS’ (Overseas Adoptee Koreans) statistics, of a total of 6,677 children adopted overseas from Korea between 1958 and 1968, 6,002 were placed in the United States, 491 in Sweden, 12 in France, 13 in Denmark, 34 in Switzerland, and 11 in Canada (OAKS 2006). The Social Welfare Society, after its inception in 1954 as discussed earlier, became a non-profit organization authorized by the government, with six regional branch offices and seventeen institutions with facilities across the nation. One adoption worker I interviewed in 2007 noted that in Korea SWS cares for “children who are neglected, amid social indifference and apathy . . . children with special needs and nowhere else to go to be rehabilitated.” Like Holt, the SWS also runs several other adoption and post-adoption programs, including homeland tours and counselling for returning adoptees, as well as “unmarried mothers’ shelters,” “in a bid to assist those who become mothers too early in life to cope with trauma.” Attitudes to both birthmothers and adopted children have evolved, and by the mid-1960s the reasons for children being adopted abroad were very different from those first encountered by the Holts. By the mid-60s the Holt Agency was also forced to conform to the rules set out by US and Korean welfare departments. Their work expanded to include placements from Korea in countries other than the US, and to the US from countries other than Korea (Holt 1986/1992, 209). While their religious motivation and unselfconscious sense of American superiority and entitlement undoubtedly contributed to a culturally and politically imperialist agenda, they clearly saw themselves as stepping in to assist in a unique and dramatic context. Why adoptions from Korea have continued up until now in spite of very different conditions there is another difficult question, to be addressed in the next chapter. The focus will shift to  105  the perspective of birthmothers who “deliver” their child in maternity homes like the one run by the Holt agency. The Christian “pastoral care” they receive there may be some comfort in their grief at losing their child, but this does not cancel out the fact that the presence of such “charitable” services perpetuates the lack of social infrastructure that would allow the children to remain in Korea. Whether a child is “given” or “taken,” and the extent of the constraint or obligation involved in the transaction, may be difficult to discern but remains a central issue. A more critical view of the Holts’ venture will emerge in Chapter 4, where adult adoptees provide yet another perspective. Sadly Joe Holt, the oldest of their adopted children, was among the far too numerous adoptees “saved” from Korea only to decide later that their life was not bearable. He put an end to his life in 1984 at the age of thirty-two.31 Such individual tragedies draw attention to the “political violence . . . exercised . . . obscurely” through institutions, like international adoption, that “appear to be both neutral and independent,” as stated by Foucault in the epigraph to this chapter, but in fact have barely hidden agendas.  31  See “More than just a number: Harry and Bertha Holt’s adopted children.” Transracial Korean Adoptee Nexus 2010/05/13. Accessed November 3, 2011. Adoptee suicides will be discussed in the next chapter. 106  Chapter 3 Surveillance and Confinement: Mothers and Children in Need of Care in Korea after 1960 From [1961] on, Korea embarked on its rocky road from tradition to modernity through a Korean version of a Foucauldian-style governmentality and instrumentality, and . . . international adoption was to become one of its most successful self-regulating and selfdisciplining biopolitical technologies of social control and biological purification in the reproductive field. –H!binette, Comforting an Orphaned Nation (2006, 50)  In the 1950s and early 1960s children available for adoption in Korea were the result of the Korean War, as described in Chapter 2. Christian missionaries initially became involved in response to an emergency situation, and the Holt family and others undeniably made a significant contribution to saving many lives, as well as to establishing a colonizing American presence in South Korea. The growth of Protestant Christianity in that country was inseparable from an on-going US military presence and the expansion of a capitalist economy in collaboration with American-based multinational companies. It might have been expected that responsibility for children in need of care in Korea would shift to the Korean government, as the country emerged from post-war chaos into rapid economic development. This did not occur, because of the desire to maintain close “familial” ties with the US and a shared anti-Communist position sustained by hostile relations with North Korea; the latter made any attempts to encourage government interventions into social welfare suspect as inclined to socialism (Jones 2006). By the 1990s, economic and political changes had moved Korea from the status of an impoverished nation in need of aid to that of an “Asian Tiger.” Social change accompanied economic development, as women joined the labour force in large numbers, but Confucian patriarchal models of family relations remained strong in spite of modernization and globalization. 107  As Eleana Kim (E. Kim 2005, 56) explains, by the 1970s the children available for adoption were “full-blood Korean ‘orphans,’ relinquished in large part due to extreme poverty, lack of social service options, and the importance still given to consanguineous relations, especially on the status that comes with bearing sons.” The abandoned or relinquished children were no longer unacceptable in Korea because of racial prejudice, but because of gender and class distinctions, as poverty disproportionately affected workingclass women, especially single, deserted, or widowed mothers, and the majority of the children concerned were initially female. As Korea became increasingly industrialized and urbanized, fewer women were able to conform to the full-time housewife/mother model still dominant in the middle-class, more were exposed to contact with men in situations that made them vulnerable, and attitudes to sexuality and reproduction evolved. These developments will be discussed according to four decades marked by political changes of regime: the 1960s, 1970s, 1980s, and 1990s. Data and information gathered during my fieldwork in Korea will be combined with archival and secondary sources to provide an overview of these changes, with a focus on the intersections of class, gender, and age. The second half of this chapter will bring in the perspective of birthmothers, as conveyed in personal accounts that reflect these changes. The priorities established by militarized governments, and the effects on women and children of the disciplines they imposed in the areas of both production and reproduction, are interwoven with the personal priorities and emotions that characterize the tensions between “caring for others” and for the self.  108  The 1960s: Abortive Attempts to Find Domestic Solutions The nation-wide student protests of April 19, 1960 (mentioned in Bertha Holt’s diary in Sons on May 2, 1960) brought down the corrupt government of Syngman Rhee (1948–60),1 under which any progressive or critical political actions had been quashed as pro-Communist (Jones 2006, 39). The “Democratic Spring” led by Chang Myon (May 1960–May 1961) proved disappointing, since he failed to purge the bureaucracy and security forces (Jones 2006, 39), and his administration was removed through a coup d’état. It was led by the military commander Park Chung Hee, who declared himself President in May 1961. The main focus of Park’s regime was to mobilize national energy for rapid industrialization, expansion of production, and an export-based economy. In the first half of the 1960s this authoritarian military dictatorship recognized that “overseas adoption undermines the spirit of an independent state” (Social Welfare Society 2004, 23). This was partly in reaction to criticism from North Korea (Holt Children’s Services 2005, 197, 291; E. Kim 2005, 56–7. See also H!binette 2005, 56), which had sent children to the USSR at the end of the Korean War, but on condition that they be returned to Korea.2 My interviews with SWS and HAP adoption workers confirmed that, as Korea planned to become the equal of First World countries, the government was embarrassed by the export of children who were no longer the result of war and the presence of foreigners, but of the dire poverty experienced by many female factory workers, both married and unmarried, and lack of social assistance for them (Social Welfare Society 2004, 23; field research at SWS and HAP, Seoul 2007). To improve Korea’s image abroad, significant  1  Jones (2006, 26) mentions that businessmen who had “fattened at Syngman Rhee’s trough” were marched through the streets wearing Chinese-style placards denouncing their greed. 2 On the situation of war orphans in North Korea, and others since, see H!binette (2007). 109  policy initiatives were introduced with two aims: increasing the availability of long-term foster care and promoting domestic adoptions (Holt Children’s Services 2005, 195; Tahk 1986, 79–82; Social Welfare Society 2004, 22). Both these projects would prove difficult to realize. Adoptions within Korea at the beginning of the 1960s were still not well regulated, and as the number of abandoned children increased the existing orphanages and other childcare facilities were unable to cope. It was estimated that more than 70% of the children in orphanages had living parents. Many were sent there for schooling or day care, with the expectation that a parent would retrieve them at some point, while some existed only on paper to bring more money into the institution (E. Kim 2009, 18). The government made plans to place about 2,000 children in domestic foster-care homes, as well as attempting to make domestic adoption more attractive. In the 1950s the latter accounted for only 6.2% of all adoptions. During the 1960s there were 4,206 domestic adoptions, about 36% of the total number, as a result of new laws and policies aimed at reducing both the number of children in care and international adoptions (Holt Children’s Services 2005, 198). The modernization of Korean society under the Park regime thus included, in principle, accepting state responsibility for providing welfare services for children needing assistance outside their family homes. International adoptions became much more strictly regulated with the passing, on September 30, 1961, of Korea’s first modern law concerning adoption, the “Orphan Adoption Law.” The new law emphasized that the aim of overseas adoptions was “to improve the welfare of the orphan,” and established clear legal procedures for conducting them. It also placed restrictions on children to be made available, as well as clarifying the  110  approval process for adoptive parents (Holt Children’s Services 2005, 195; H!binette 2006, 50). Four government-appointed adoption agencies were assigned to work with Western agencies in placing Korean children with overseas families, and an adoption fee was fixed to prevent the growth of a black market for children. More professionals in the field of social work and child welfare were recruited in order to promote awareness regarding the new rules and to seek and approve both temporary and long-term foster-care homes, as well as Korean adoptive families. While adoption as it is perceived and practised in the West was foreign to Korean culture, as discussed in Chapter 2, the concept of caring for children in the equivalent of foster homes was not, although their status at times in the past was closer to that of indentured labourers or slaves.3 Beginning in the early 1960s, Korean social workers trained in America encouraged programs similar to those in the West, emphasizing the importance of nurturing young children in a home-like environment rather than in institutional settings. Since most Koreans continued to resist encouragement to adopt, the government turned to the fostering program as an alternative, urging that “each family raise an orphan” (Social Welfare Society 2004, 21; Holt Children’s Services 2005, 227). In August 1961, the first 3  Examples from the early thirteenth century on were cited in the Annals of the Choson dynasty (1392–1910). Abandoned and orphaned children, along with widows and others lacking adequate family support, were provided for through legally codified relief efforts: “the local government officer should provide such children with food and accommodation until he or she reached the age of ten years, upon which they could settle wherever they wished” (Kim and Henderson 2008, 15). Care for children displaced through war or other disasters could be implemented in three ways: one could take a child as a suyang (foster child) or suyancha (adoptee), or as a servant or slave (Kim and Henderson 2008, 15). Provisional care was also provided in Seoul through the Chesaengwon (similar to modern emergency homes operated by child welfare authorities). Many communities also took care of orphaned children without government intervention, and Buddhist monasteries played a major role in housing, educating, and caring for abandoned children who later became monks or nuns. For further details see Kim and Henderson (2008).  111  social welfare agency, Child Placement Service (CPS), which was established in 1954 as a subsidiary of the Ministry of Social Welfare, was expanded into a nation-wide welfare organization and began to move approximately 2,000 children per year from institutions to foster homes. However, this campaign came to an end three years later, since the government did not adequately lay out the expectations for fostering a child, and lack of funds meant that families were paid very little to take on the task (Holt Children’s Services 2005, 228). Published records reveal incidents where children were exploited for home labour, as had presumably occurred under less formal arrangements in the past. Some were returned to the orphanage or became homeless when they were not useful to the family. The government did not expect to be able to do away completely with overseas adoptions, and records confirm that many children remained in need of homes (Social Welfare Society 2004, 21; Holt Children’s Services 2005, 227). In spite of measures to encourage both domestic adoptions and foster homes, by 1964 the number of abandoned children had increased to around 11,000 (in comparison to 755 in 1955). In 1968 approximately 70,000 children were still living in about 600 institutions, many of them considered unsuitable for adoption owing to their older age, poor health, disability, or “unattractiveness” (E. Kim 2009, 18). The earlier promises to provide better government-run child-care services were not fulfilled. With only 2% of the national budget spent on social welfare, and more than 40% on national defence, Korea was once again criticized for transferring its welfare responsibilities to other countries. Many facilities became completely dependent on foreign sponsorships, and orphanages and baby homes held on to as many sponsored children as possible in order to receive a continuous flow of financial assistance from foreign organizations (E. Kim 2009, 18).  112  CPS itself underwent a transformation on June 8, 1965, when it ceased to be a “semigovernmental office under the Department of Health and Social Welfare” and became a “civilian institute” designated as a “corporation” (Social Welfare Society 2004, 31). That year it launched a campaign to increase funding called “Share Your Love”: employees of the organization donated 1% of their salary each month towards child welfare, and sponsorships of individual children were sought from affluent families both in Korea and abroad. In 1966, CPS was formally recognized as a “not-for-profit organization serving (overseas) families who wish[ed] to adopt a child from Korea,” and produced a four-page black-and-white pamphlet in English entitled If You Want to Adopt a Child (Social Welfare Society 2004, 31; fieldwork at SWS, 2007). By 1965 it had the support of about 60,000 overseas sponsors linked one-on-one with a child, and by 1966 it had already successfully placed more than a thousand Korean “orphans” in homes in the USA, Norway, Sweden, the UK, and elsewhere (Social Welfare Society 2004, 31–32). As it became clear that overseas adoptions were not going to be easily phased out, SWS continued to work closely with foreign missionary agencies. The latter also began to promote domestic adoptions and foster-care. My interview with Molly Holt confirmed records put together by Holt Children Services showing that from April 1965 on the Holt Adoption Program (HAP), under its American CEO, Louis O’Connor,4 began to actively promote foster care through its regional offices and main office in Seoul. HAP succeeded in establishing a Foster Home Department, in spite of the high costs of implementing and maintaining the program, which mainly served to place children relinquished by single 4  According to Molly Holt, and the Holt published records, Louis O’Connor (CEO for HAP in 1965), already had experience in organizing foster care in America. He was responsible for promoting the program, in the belief that creating a warm family environment was essential for the wellbeing of the child. See Holt Children’s Services (2005, 228–29). 113  mothers and waiting for adoption (Holt Children’s Services 2005, 229). The newly developed process for selecting foster families included home visits and assessment of the neighbouring environment and family relations, aimed at a suitable placement for each specific child (Holt Children’s Services 2005, 230). The program showed positive results, but its long-term success was impeded by limited human resources. Only one social worker dealt with approximately thirty families, with sometimes negative consequences. Placements of up to six months did increase the survival rate for fragile infants and demonstrated the benefits of personal parental attention in child-rearing, but the child was taken away to be sent overseas just when bonds had been formed. Adoption workers at SWS and HAP confirmed in interviews that this was (and still is) often hard on the foster families, as some foster-mothers were grief-stricken when the time came for the child to leave. In the short-term foster care was of benefit to the children, but not all agencies adopted this policy, and even HAP could not keep it up at that time because of the high costs involved, since government support was minimal and donations hard to come by (Holt Children’s Services 2005, 230–31). Some administrators of regional orphanages and children’s shelters formed an alliance to resist foster-care, for fear of losing their jobs. Used to running things their own way, they also resented the authority given to government officials at the regional health departments and were not ready to take orders from placement centres (Social Welfare Society 2004, 23). Ultimately, the government’s initial plan to replace overseas adoptions by domestic arrangements had already failed by December 1964, three-and-a-half years after it started. The domestic adoption program came to an abrupt end by late 1964, and the fostercare program collapsed in the late 1960s (Social Welfare Society 2004, 22). The Department  114  of Health and Social Welfare, after discussions with the Department of Home Affairs, decided to reabsorb all the regional branches of CPS into provincial departments of Health and Social Welfare. By 1964 CPS, one of the most promising nationwide programs, lost all its regional branches and was downsized to one main office in Seoul (Social Welfare Society 2004, 22). In these circumstances, the primary mission of CPS at the end of 1964 reverted to international adoption, continuing the program initiatives it had started in 1954 (Social Welfare Society 2004, 23). By 1965, 70% of the children being sent overseas were of full-Korean heritage, yet unadoptable within the country of their birth. By 1967, the number of countries these children were sent to saw an expansion, including the Scandinavian nations, the Netherlands, Australia, and Canada (E. Kim 2009, 18; see Appendix B). A new Child Welfare Act was enacted in 1966 in response to the on-going recourse to international adoption as an alternative to costly institutional care (H!binette 2006, 50; E. Kim 2009, 18). The Orphan Adoption Law had been revised in 1966, when the Ministry of Health and Social Affairs was given the authority to oversee adoptions through its four licensed agencies. In 1971, CPS became a private agency, renamed Social Welfare Society (SWS), and was one of the four, along with the Eastern Child Welfare Society established in 1972 (presently the Eastern Social Welfare Society, Inc.), Holt Children’s Services established in 1956, and Korea Social Service founded in 1964. All received approval from the Korean government to place children for both domestic and overseas adoption. The law clearly stated that it was illegal to adopt a child from Korea without the consent of one of these four agencies. Article 7 of the same law emphasized the need for confidentiality regarding the child’s origins, while Article  115  8 provided a detailed list of the steps expected of adoption agencies to protect adopted children (Holt Children’s Services 2005, 195). As a result of this law, the Holt agency, that had placed all children under their care with American families up until 1967, began expanding its adoption program in 1968 to Europe, beginning with Norway which had provided post-war medical services for the prevention and treatment of tuberculosis patients in Korea. Concern for Korean children expressed by members of the Norway-Korea Association led to the adoption of Korean children in Norway (Holt Children’s Services 2005, 232–33). By June 1968, formalized adoption programs existed with seven countries, including Belgium, Italy, Iceland, Switzerland, France, and Australia (Holt Children’s Services 2005, 234). In the following years, HAP further expanded its links in Europe to Germany, England, and Denmark. As a result, the number of children adopted in countries outside of America in 1968 reached 277 out of a total of 783 children placed by HAP for adoption overseas, showing an increase of 35.4 %. The numbers had increased even further by 1970, when 408 children were adopted through HAP in European countries, representing 37.99 % of international adoptions through HAP (Holt Children’s Services 2005, 234). With the agreement of the Department of Health and Social Welfare, HAP reviewed the foreign receiving agencies’ qualifications and facilities, and held them accountable for initially monitoring the child’s progress in the adopting family (Holt Children’s Services 2005, 235). Failure to successfully implement domestic adoption and foster care programs in the 1960s, in spite of efforts in that direction, eventually led to an overall increase in international adoptions. The sustained supply of children was complemented by increased demand from American and European families wishing to adopt children from Asia,  116  especially from Korea where procedures were already in place. The economic situation in Korea at that time was also quite sluggish, in spite of the desire to expand and modernize. Low salaries, rising prices, and lack of job security or educational opportunities led to family break-ups and in many cases extreme poverty as well as domestic violence. My meetings with representatives of SWS, HCS, and other agencies in 2007 confirmed the reports that I had read. Although Korea achieved significant economic progress in terms of GNP, and living conditions improved for some sectors of the population, many workers were exploited and lived in miserable conditions. Some married women with several children could not cope with another one, and believed the child would have a better future elsewhere.  The 1970s: The Persistence of Transnational Adoptions As will be discussed later, the government did not at any time in this period consider providing financial support for the birthmothers to raise their child themselves, or allocate funds to provide subsidized day-care facilities in factories. Abortion was illegal except under very restricted circumstances (as will also be discussed later), and contraception not widely available. While Western cultural influences were increasingly felt, the population still largely adhered to traditional values regarding the unworthiness of unmarried mothers, discarded wives, and fatherless children. The mothers continued to fear the disgrace and social stigma attached to raising a child alone, as well as the financial hardship if they had to quit work, which newly married women or those with infants were expected to do (Ochiai and Molony 2008, 49). Whether the foreign agencies could have directed money in the direction of support for single mothers at that time, or lobbied the government to provide services for them, is a question requiring further research.  117  The situation throughout the 1960s already reflected competing views of Korean women’s bodies as a “natural resource” to be exploited for the benefit of the nation (Choi 2005, 45): they were valued, according to the Confucian tradition, as mothers of sons (who would be subject to military service), but also as sex workers still serving foreign troops stationed in Korea (Choi 2005, 84), and increasingly in the 1970s as cheap labour in the rapidly expanding sweat-shop factories, where they worked extremely long hours (often a 54-hour week) for very low pay (Choi 2005, 79, 82). In any of these roles they were expected to be willingly self-sacrificing for the common good (Choi 2005, 63). The economy of South Korea reached new heights, with rapid industrialization and growth throughout the 1970s. Women constituted 53 % of the industrial workforce, and two out of three of these women were unmarried and aged between fifteen and twenty-five. A number of studies5 show that although Korea approached the status of a developed nation economically, issues related to gender relations and the treatment of women and children remained unresolved. In agrarian rural areas the Korean population suffered from mass poverty and overpopulation (H!binette 2006, 63; Gills, 19996). The growing number of relatively uneducated and very young rural women migrating to the cities and living away from home for the first time in order to work in factories can be seen as contributing to the rise in illegitimate births. Family planning measures were implemented by the military government, along with greater access to contraception, including a “two child policy” that resulted in an increase in gender-selective abortions (although abortion was still officially illegal) and sterilizations (Jones 2006, 28–9, 85–6). Emigration and international adoption 5  Including E. Kim (2000), Hagen Koo (2000), S. K. Kim (1997), H!binette (2006), and Jones (2006). 6 This study shows how low-wage subsistence farming by women subsidized initial urban industrialization, and later rural women became cheap labour in factories. 118  were seen in the 1970s as additional useful measures of population control (H!binette 2006, 63). Attention was not paid to the reasons for an increase in children given up for adoption by mothers who simply could not afford to keep them, nor to the need for more accessible sex education for teenagers. Adoption agencies like HAP had to deal not only with an increased number of children in need of care, but changes in the laws regarding adoptions and modification of their status in relation to the Korean government. On January 1, 1970, the military government created a “Law on Society Support Services” in an attempt to regulate social services, including the Korean branches of foreign organizations. The Holt Adoption Program had been subject to governmental approval since December 1960, and Molly Holt confirmed that in October 1971 the Holt agency accepted official status as a Korean “social welfare corporation.” In July 1972 the name was changed from Holt Adoption Program to Holt Children’s Services (HCS), to represent the additional types of support being offered. In 1972 the military government announced “maintenance of child welfare centres” and promised to repair rundown and overcrowded buildings, while at the same time converting some of these facilities into centres for people with mental or physical disabilities. The overall number of places for children in care was reduced as a result, while the number of children needing protection continued to grow, opening the path to a further increase in transnational adoptions (Holt Children’s Services 2005, 197). Like other agencies, HCS began to be involved in a wider range of programs, such as counselling for single mothers, as well as promoting domestic adoptions from 1973 onwards (Holt Children’s Services 2005, 242). In late 1973 they also began producing a Korean version of a Newsletter called Child Welfare published in English by their US branch since 1959. Along with information about  119  adopted children and news of the organization and its staff, the journal highlighted new policy initiatives to assist children in care. It received an award in 1978 for its efforts in the field of social welfare (Molly Holt, fieldwork interview 2007; Holt Children’s Services 2005, 243). In spite of efforts to improve services for children in need of care in Korea, transnational placements continued unabated. In the first half of the 1970s, the number of children placed overseas by all agencies saw a further increase, from 2,725 in 1971 to 5,075 in 1976 (Social Welfare Society 2004, 47). Legislation regarding adoption underwent further modifications: in December 1975 the “International Adoption Law” was revised, only to be replaced a year later by a new law covering domestic adoption as well (Holt Children’s Services 2005, 196). A “Five-Year Plan for Adoption and Foster Care” (1976–81) was introduced in a renewed attempt to promote domestic adoptions as a preferable alternative to transnational placements, which were once again seen as a blot on South Korea’s national reputation (Holt Children’s Services 2005, 197; E. Kim 2005, 57). This came into effect in 1976 through a “Special Law on Adoption” that led to the establishment of a wide range of adoption centres and counselling services nationwide to facilitate domestic adoptions. Further measures suggested to make the latter more attractive included shortening the procedures involved and arranging for the adopted child to take the name of the adopting family, in order to avoid stigmatization (Holt Children’s Services 2005, 197). These efforts, however, did not produce the desired results, as the new domestic adoption centres had inexperienced and unqualified staff, with the result that a number of children were inappropriately placed and experienced abuse (H!binette 2006, 82). At the same time, in the late 1970s a “quota policy” was introduced, regulating the number of  120  international adoptions in proportion to domestic adoptions. The plan was to increase domestic adoption and reduce transnational adoption by 10% respectively each year (Holt Children’s Services 2005, 292). This system, ironically, ultimately had negative results for child welfare, as the rate of domestic adoptions increased extremely slowly and transnational ones were correspondingly severely curtailed (Holt Children’s Services 2005, 291; E. Kim 2009, 19), leaving more children in institutional or foster care. The Korean children sent abroad were welcomed with open arms. They compensated for a decline in the number of healthy white infants available for adoption in North America (where other children still remained unadopted and were even sent abroad: H!binette 2006, 55). In America the widespread availability of the contraceptive pill and legalization of abortion in the late 1960s and early 1970s contributed to this decline. Single mothers in the West were also increasingly deciding to keep their children and raise them themselves (McDade 1991; Westhues and Cohen 1995). Whereas needing to find homes abroad for desperate children had been considered shameful for South Korea, by the late 1970s their ongoing provision was reframed as an aspect of maintaining good relations with the West: the children served as “goodwill ambassadors” in what many saw as a “win-win” situation (H!binette 2006, 55). Under the rule of President Park Chung Hee any political dissidence or lobbying for social justice, human rights, or welfare services was branded pro-Communist and brutally repressed. The National Security Law stipulated prison sentences for anyone speaking favourably of North Korea, and military spending increased. As Jones (2006, 33–34) points out, “Korea’s modernisation project capitalized on Confucian hierarchy and family values to discipline workers (i.e., as loyal “sons” and “daughters” of the “father” employer and  121  nation).” Protests against political repression and the harsh living conditions of many workers did, however, occur, spear-headed by unions, intellectuals (including feminists from Ewha University), and some church groups. The Evangelical Protestant churches did not, as in the US, take up right-wing political causes. Park’s assassination on October 26th, 1979, was the result of “a heated post-dinner squabble with his national security chief” (Jones 2006, 40) rather than an overtly political action, but many rejoiced at his demise. Lack of concerted organizing by the opposition produced another period of political unrest and instability, leading to the rise of another military government in February 1981 under Chun Doo Hwan. The economic boom continued and Chun allayed dissatisfaction by promising better state provision for social welfare. Yet the number of children needing a home did not diminish and the situation of women showed little improvement.  The 1980s: Incentives to Give Up or Take In a Child in Korea In the 1970s many of the young unmarried women giving birth were poor migrant factory workers, but as a result of Korea’s economic prosperity in the 1980s women of all classes achieved higher levels of education. Those who still planned a traditional life as stay-at-home mothers nevertheless took advantage of the opportunity to acquire a college degree, as a means to find a better-class husband or take on part-time work when their children reached school age (M. Lee 1998). Like the young rural women who migrated to the city, many middle-class students left home for the first time to live in student housing. Some were victims of sexual harassment, others engaged in romantic affairs, and many were surprisingly ignorant about birth control (Jackson, Liu, and Woo 2008). Although abortion had been tolerated under the two-child policy, it was still illegal and not easily accessible or free. As a result, a rise in teen-age pregnancies continued throughout the 1980s, ensuring the on-going 122  supply of adoptable infants (E. Kim 2010, 36). Overall, with no support or assistance from their family or the father, who usually completely disappeared from their lives, many of these often very young mothers reluctantly gave up their children for adoption (E. Kim 2005, 57). As their own accounts confirm, pressure was exerted by the stigma their children would bear as illegitimate, as well as the shame they themselves and their families would experience if they should try to keep the child. During the 1960s, unwed mothers represented only about one fifth of those giving up children for adoption, but by the end of 1980 that proportion had increased to over 80%. (B. J. Lee 2007, 79).7 At the same time, there were cases where children whose parents were temporarily unable to care for them were made available for adoption, provoking criticism. The reasons for sending children overseas could no longer be assumed to be dire poverty, since the nation was now relatively rich. The Chun government was increasingly embarrassed to be seen as unable to care for its own children, and in 1981 it stated its intention to “prohibit all forms of international adoption from 1985” (Holt Children’s Services 2005, 292–93). New rules instructed the adoption agencies not to allow adoption for at least three months after the child arrived in an institution, imposing a waiting period that was increased in 1984 to six months for infants and twelve months for children older than eighteen months (Holt Children’s Services 2005, 294). Records do not reveal how many of the children affected ended up remaining in institutions, or were taken back by a parent or extended family member. It was often not easy to ascertain if a child was in fact an orphan or had no family capable of caring for it, and mothers were still not offered the option of assistance in raising their child. 7  By 2008 it would be 90%. See National Partnership for Women and Families. Accessed May 1, 2012. http://www.national 123  The Asian Games of 1986 and the 1988 Seoul Olympics marked a major turning point for Korea where transnational adoptions were concerned. Journalists all over the globe portrayed the host country as the “Number One Orphan Exporter,” exploiting a “natural resource” (children) and “trading in human beings” (E. Kim 2005, 57; H!binette 2005, 57; Social Welfare Society 2004, 102). The New York Times of April 21, 1988, claimed that each year “About 6,000 deserted children are admitted to the United States through overseas adoption” while “the Korean government is merely indifferent and disregards the issue.” The situation was summarized thus: “Originally the adoption service began after the Korean War, when the country was lying in ruins. But long since that time Korea has economically revived and is stable enough to host the Olympics. Yet, such untimely child welfare practice continues even today” (Social Welfare Society 2004, 101–102). Newsweek, in its June 6, 1988 edition, stated: “Confucianistic Koreans appreciate their ancestry and therefore do not wish to admit any illegitimate children to their family. Because of this, two-thirds of children with no family ties were sent to homes overseas, with a fee of $4,500 paid by the adoptive parents” (Social Welfare Society 2004, 102). The payment made by adoptive parents from abroad remained a contentious issue, as all four major adoption agencies in Korea relied on foreign funding sources to run their welfare programs, leading many to question their “non-profit” status (E. Kim 2010, 33). Reducing the number of international adoptions meant downsizing their other activities. Consequently, when the total number of overseas adoptions dropped from an annual average of 12,000 to 8,000 in 1989 (Social Welfare Society 2004, 104), the SWS had to downsize some of its programs and lay off some employees (Social Welfare Society 2004, 105). In the following year (1989) intense media coverage and lobbying by civil rights groups compelled  124  government officials and policy-makers to legislate more new policies to emphasize the value of domestic placements and reduce international adoptions, with the deadline for their cessation postponed to 1996 (H!binette 2005, 87; Holt Children’s Services 2005, 294). Incentives such as tax reductions and family benefits were provided for domestic adopters, and overseas adoptions were restricted to cases of relinquishment of infants born to young, unwed mothers at the maternity clinics run by government-recognized agencies (H!binette 2006, 71–73). The government made it clear after the 1988 Olympics that there would be no more overseas adoptions of children with known parents or adult male guardians, or those abandoned and unidentified (Social Welfare Society 2004, 104). This initiative clearly signified that the “illegitimate” children of young, single women, known to be born out of wedlock with no claim to a father (or father to claim them), were still liable to be banished. As Choi (2005) explains, the church provided facilities for the mothers, but with the aim of reforming them and “exposing them as deviants” (81). Their children were regarded as a “legitimate” source of revenue for the centres run by government-approved agencies where they were “confined” for the “delivery” of their baby. Shelter and assistance were provided in return for the loss of their right to “own” and raise their child. The placement of these children with families abroad created a regular source of revenue for the adoption agencies, which could continue to provide services for the state. Official policies also gave preference to foreign couples open to adopting mixed-race or special-needs children (E. Kim 2005, 57). Many took children with disabilities, who accounted for only 1% of domestic adoptions, compared to almost 40% of international adoptions in the late 1980s and early 1990s (Holt Children’s Services 2005, 295). This  125  occurred in spite of the creation of a “Rehabilitation Division” within the Ministry of Health and Social Welfare (Holt Children’s Services 2005, 295). The government increased funds for people with disabilities and opened various service centres to take care of such children. Free support services and rehabilitation became available in 1980, and work programs in 1982, followed by a policy for recruiting professionals with disabilities in 1983. In 1987, the initial service agency was expanded, and in 1990 a policy on compulsory hiring of people with disabilities signified a major step towards improving the level of their acceptance (Holt Children’s Services 2005, 295). However, despite such changes, high unemployment rates, low wages, and inadequate social welfare facilities meant that many struggled to survive, and the future appeared brighter elsewhere for some of these children. By the mid-1980s, Korea had achieved considerable economic wealth, and Park In Sun (1998, 229) has called the infants who were dispatched abroad as “goodwill ambassadors” in that decade the forgotten victims of a government in pursuit of even greater national economic prosperity (Hübinette 2005, 72). International and domestic adoptions continued to be arranged by the four government-recognized adoption agencies, while there were eighteen other institutions that specialized in domestic adoptions only (Holt Children’s Services 2005, 295). Adoptions through Holt Children’s Service in the 1980s accounted for over 40% of the total number of adoptions in Korea. Their international adoptions constituted over 50% of all international adoptions from Korea before 1985, and although the numbers were greatly reduced in the 1990s, they nevertheless made up approximately 45% of all international adoptions in that decade. They were also responsible for about 30% of all domestic adoptions in the same period, the largest share in comparison with twenty-two other agencies (Holt Children’s  126  Services 2005, 297). After the amendment to the welfare program for those with disabilities, the Holt Ilsan Centre (which had been built twenty years earlier by Harry Holt and housed three hundred children, including young people with disabilities), rebuilt its dormitories and subsidiary buildings and reopened under the new name of “HCS Ilsan Centre” (Holt Children’s Services 2005, 297). The facilities expanded to include an improved farm, a sheltered workshop providing vocational training, the Holt Special Needs School, the Holt Memorial Hall, and a gymnasium with specially designed equipment. During my visit to the Ilsan Centre in 2007 I observed the range of activities and work conducted there by a welltrained staff, headed by Molly Holt who personally cared for several young children with severe disabilities in her cottage located at the Centre. In the 1980s, under Presidents Chun Doo Hwan (1981–1987) and Roh Tae-Woo (1988–1993), almost 8,000 children born in Korea were placed through overseas adoption every year. By the end of the decade, the Ministry of Health and Welfare, under pressure, had reduced the rate to 2,000 per year (Social Welfare Society 2004, 23). According to Holt records, a total of approximately 91,000 children had been adopted both domestically and internationally (i.e., since the 1950s), amounting to around 9,180 children on average per year. Of this number, about 26,000, or 28.66%, were adopted domestically, with an average of 2,650 per year, while 65,000 children, or 71.14%, were adopted abroad, for an average of 6,532 per year. The period leading up to the 1988 Olympics saw rapid change on the Korean political scene. In 1985 the New Korea Democratic Party, led by Kim Young-sam and Kin Dae-jung, gained ground with the support of minjung (progressive) activists including feminist groups (Jones 2006, 40–42). By the time of the 1988 presidential election massive demonstrations  127  included middle-class civil-rights proponents as well as union members and students. Unfortunately, the vote was split between the two rival pro-democracy leaders, allowing the ruling party under a more conciliatory leader, Roh Tae-woo, to hold on to the Presidency for five more years. Roh was, however, obliged to promise constitutional reform, and a gradual transition away from the military rule in effect since 1961 culminated in the election of Kim Young-sam as the first civilian President in 1993. This led to the expectation of major shifts in policy, as Kim announced ambitious plans for “Productive Welfare,” aiming to reform almost all sectors of the government to produce a better distribution of the benefits of a booming economy (Holt Children’s Services 2005, 364).  Changing Trends Since 1993 Kim saw the importance of providing better public welfare services, and introduced employment insurance as well as new legislation concerning social security and medical insurance (Holt Children’s Services 2005, 364; H!binette 2006, 81). In 1994 the new government’s policymakers turned their attention to the adoption law. They wanted it to reflect a shift from maintaining family lineage, which still figured prominently in the Family Law, to an emphasis on the welfare of children in need of care, security, and protection outside of the family home. In 1995, the government replaced the Special Law on Adoption of 1976 by a “Special Act on Adoption Promotion and Procedures,” in order once more to promote domestic adoption and protect the rights of adopted children (Holt Children’s Services 2005, 366). While the new law did make concern for the child a priority, it failed to accept that the child might be best off with its own mother. On-going prejudice against single  128  parenthood and “illegitimate” children still prevented the introduction of any measures of financial and social support to birthmothers who might wish to keep their child. Although Korea had witnessed a major economic transformation and was now considered a developed country, traditional beliefs still reigned where social issues were concerned. Birthfathers continued to be absent and no claims were made on them. Many mothers felt they had no available alternative to adoption that could ensure an economically stable and socially accepted life for their child. Nonetheless, the new law did check the illegal sale of children, by prohibiting private adoptions completely. At the same time, the government announced the renewal of licenses to a select number of agencies, which were legally permitted to carry out the adoption process with specific countries. In order to improve Korea’s image, the government also provided better benefits to parents adopting domestically (B. J. Lee 2007, 77). All prospective adoptive parents had to undergo rigorous investigation before acceptance, including a home study conducted by a licensed agency, initial supervision, and follow-up reports to ensure the child’s welfare. The licensed adoption agencies were also mandated to provide pre- and post-adoption counselling and other support services (B. J. Lee 2007, 77), and counselling for birthparents was also established. The new government planned to make international adoptions illegal by 1996, but came up against the same obstacles as existed earlier. Many children, especially those with disabilities or of mixed race, could not be placed in Korean homes. In response, a new foster care system was set up in 1994, and international adoptions were allowed to continue (Holt Children’s Services 2004, 366–67). Between 1991 and 1997, the Korean government succeeded in keeping the numbers of overseas adoptions down to about 2000 placements a year. However, the “IMF crisis” of  129  1997–1999 was a major setback, as the economic crash clearly revealed the fragility of Korea’s apparently robust economy, and high unemployment put a strain on the social security system at a time when funding was being cut back. The stress arising from loss of income lead to situations of domestic tension and family breakdown, including increased child abuse or neglect (Government of the Republic of Korea 2002). Women’s wages were much lower than men’s (42c to $1 in the mid-1990s8), and many women could not maintain a family on their income alone. Unable to deal with the economic crisis, the Ministry of Health and Welfare announced its decision to reverse its policy aimed at reducing and eventually eliminating international adoptions, claiming: “[We] have no choice but to make changes to recent policy which sought to restrict the number of children adopted overseas” (E. Kim 2005, 57). The result was an increase in the placement of “IMF orphans” abroad (Kim and Finch 2002; see also H!binette, 2006). The number of children placed for adoption had risen throughout the 1950s, decreased in the 1960s because of government restrictions, soared again in the 1970s (to about 63,550), and reached even higher in the 1980s (to 91,824) (Holt Children’s Services 2005, 376). Since 1990, however, the low birth rate,9 high number of  8  Choi (2005, 82). This applied to factory workers and married women doing contract work at home. 9 South Korea’s birth rate continued to fall, and was recorded as 1.19 in 2008, according to the Korean Statistical Information Service, making it the lowest among OECD countries. Announcing “comprehensive plans” to counteract the low birth rate, the government’s Presidential Council for Future & Vision announced anti-abortion campaigns. See “South Korea: Low Birth Rate Blamed on Women” Inter Press Service News Agency, December 19, 2009. Accessed June 14, 2012; see also “Where Children are ‘too expensive’: South Korea Struggles with its Low Birth Rate.” Global Post, January 24, 2009, updated May 30, 2010. Accessed June 14, 2012. 130  abortions,10 and stabilized social conditions had led to a decrease in the number of homeless children, and overseas adoptions were down to around 2000 a year in the late 1990s. While the IMF crisis represented a setback, there was still the will to prove that Korea could take care of its own children. Domestic adoptions, which had increased to 36.6% of total adoptions in the 1960s, decreased to 30% in the later periods, but after the new incentives were introduced in the early 1990s they rose to account for 40% by the end of the century (Holt Children’s Services 2005, 367). However, for children with disabilities, the proportion of domestic adoptions was still very low: only 0.3% between 1958 and 2002, while international adoption of such children reached 23.4% (Holt Children’s Services 2005, 367). Although adoption was gradually becoming more acceptable in Korea, children with disabilities were still regarded as a burden that most families would not be willing to take on, and “disability rights” were only slowly being recognized. The shortage of homes available in Korea and reluctance to send children abroad led to another new development after the crisis of 1997–8. While between 5,000 and 6,000 children were placed in state-run orphanages in the first half of the 1990s, the numbers increased to about 7,000 by the end of 2000 (B. J. Lee 2007, 79; Social Welfare Society 10  Abortion is illegal in South Korea except in cases specified under the Mother-Child Protection Law. However, according to a 2005 survey conducted by the Ministry of Health, Welfare and Family Affairs, 340,000 abortions were carried out that year across the country. The actual numbers may have been much higher. The abortion rate for married women is stated to have fallen sharply to 17.1 in 2010, from 20.7 in 2009 and 28.1 in 2008. However, the rate for unmarried women shows an increase to 14.1 in 2010 from 12.7 in 2009. According to the Ministry, the number of abortions for every 1,000 fertile women saw a gradual decline from 21.9 in 2008, to 17.2 in 2009 and 15.8 in 2010. See “South Korea: Low Birth Rate Blamed on Women,” Inter Press Service News Agency, December 19, 2009. See also “Abortion Rate in South Korea on Decline, ”Korea Herald, September 23, 2011. Accessed June 14, 2012. 131  2004, 21). This represented a large-scale return to “residential care” in institutional settings rather than foster families or group homes, as statistics from 1998 reveal (Table 1).  Table 1. Number of Children Separated from Their Birthparents Requiring Different Types of Care in Korea  Year  Total  Family Foster Care 505  Adoption  4,576  Residential Group Care 2,819  472  Youth-Headed Families, etc. 780  1995 1996  4,951  3,161  727  479  584  1997  6,734  3,917  1,209  898  710  1998  9,292 (100%)  5,112 (55%)  2,353 (25%)  1,283 (14%)  544 (6%)  1999  7,693 (100%)  4,683 (61%)  1,249 (16%)  1,181 (15%)  572 (8%)  2000  7,760 (100%)  4,453 (58%)  1,406 (18%)  1,337 (17%)  564 (7%)  2001  12,086 (100%)  6,274 (52%)  3,090 (26%)  1,848 (15%)  874 (7%)  2002  10,057 (100%)  4,663 (46%)  2,177 (22%)  2,544 (25%)  673(7%)  2003  10,222 (100%)  4,824 (47%)  2,392 (23%)  2,506 (25%)  500 (5%)  2004  9,393 (100%)  4,728 (51%)  2,212 (24%)  2,100 (22%)  299 (3%)  Source: In Bong Joo Lee, 2007, 78 Chronological Statistics of Health and Welfare, Ministry of Health and Welfare, 2003, 2005, in Social Welfare Society, Inc. (2006, 20).  Alternatives to Adoption Jung-Woo Kim and Terry Henderson (2008) define the modern Korean use of terms such as foster care, residential facilities, and “youth-headed households.” They explain that foster care began primarily to prepare infants for adoption abroad, but advocacy promoting longerterm foster care by the Korean Foster Care Association led to a change by 2000. In 2003 the government set up sixteen centres for the development of foster care services throughout the country, and provided funding for research, recruitment, and management of the system. Foster care appeared to occupy a relatively stable portion of the child welfare system,  132  however, according to Kim and Henderson (2008), 90% of what the Korean Government defines as foster care could be more accurately described as kinship care, since a majority of children are taken in by their grandparents. A comparative study of child-care arrangements in Korea and other East Asian countries published in 2008 noted that Korea is unique in the region in that care by grandparents is often remunerated by the child’s parents (Ochiai and Molony 2008, 51–52). The government allowance to foster grandparents or other extended family may therefore in some cases be a replacement for what was previously paid by a parent. Since 2007, longer-term foster care primarily focuses on children of known family origins, whose families have maintained traditional kinship ties but been hit by drastic economic or social crisis. The non-kinship proportion accounts for a mere 10% of the total, and the numbers remained steady between 2003 and 2006 (Kim and Henderson 2008, 25– 26). During my field research at SWS in 2007, I observed an emotional reunion between a seven-year-old boy adopted abroad and his unrelated former foster mother. The SWS counsellor explained that with the help of photographs from his early childhood, the boy and his adoptive parents were able to reconnect with the foster family. In her opinion it was the efficient foster care system, which enables infants and young children to thrive in a family setting while waiting for formalities to be completed, that made Korea such a popular source for international adoption (Field research SWS, 2007). However, though the government provides some assistance to the families coming forward to offer foster care, it is very limited and there are more children than families available. Ironically, the fact that some foster mothers bond closely with the child may also become a deterrent to providing foster care, as mentioned earlier.  133  The “youth-headed household” (at first referred to as “child-headed”) is another model that emerged in the mid-1980s. It provided young people over seventeen with some assistance to remain in their own community, living independently but under the supervision of relatives. This extension of kinship care assumes that the teenagers are of known origin and residing in communities close to some extended family members (Kim and Henderson 2008, 25–26). It is not clear whether the teens themselves were expected to care for younger siblings or simply live with other teenagers in a group home. In 2000, the government began providing financial, counselling, educational, and other support for such arrangements. This was a viable option for some youths, but the number of such households declined steeply, from 13,778 in 1990 to 3271 in 2006. The reason may be that in many cases older relatives moved in to benefit from subsidies, rather than supervising the young residents from a distance (Kim and Henderson 2008, 26). Since 1998 the number of children being cared for in institutions has remained stable at around 18,000. Between thirty and a hundred children may be housed in one facility. Since 1997, however, after a successful pilot program, the government has increasingly established group homes. As of 2008, there were 120 group homes with a maximum of seven children residing together (Kim and Henderson 2008, 19). The Ministry of Health and Welfare promised to expand such programs as part of better financial and legislative support, to ensure the best conditions for children in need of care (Kim and Henderson 2008, 19). During my fieldwork (2007) I had the opportunity to visit one model which combines some of the best features of foster-care and group homes, an SOS (Save Our Souls) Children’s Village in Seoul originally established in 1980. This spacious compound consists of fifteen individual houses, each of which accommodates up to eight children. In each  134  dwelling one woman, who makes a long-term commitment to stay, plays the role of mother to a group of children permanently housed there, who function as siblings. As I entered the “Village” I was impressed by the surroundings. In addition to the well-maintained and comfortable family homes I was shown an administrative building and a shared community centre with several small and large playrooms well equipped with toys, games, and musical instruments, including a piano. One area was reserved for children with special needs, staffed by workers trained to build their skills. I learned that other children from the neighbourhood also come there, or to the large outdoor playground, to join the resident children for sports or musical activities. The Village does not discriminate against families or children with low economic standing and visitors are welcomed with open arms. The Village Director, who has his own house on the site, serves as a father figure for all the children (reflecting the patriarchal model still prevalent in Korea). Several other small houses are allocated to retired mothers, so that they can remain close to the family, and to the “aunts” (eemo in Korean) who provide respite care on a rotating basis so that the mothers can take a break. When a mother retires one of the aunts, who is already known to the children, takes over her role. I was given a warm welcome by the Director of the Village, who answered my questions at an informal information meeting that included social workers involved there. I was told that the negative impact of high unemployment and poverty has produced an increase in the number of “social orphans” who may have parents, or only one parent, with insufficient means to care for them adequately. The Village provides permanent homes for abandoned or orphaned children as well as some from financially unstable families facing economic hardships. Some of the latter are not permanent residents, but stay in a short-term shelter until their parents’ situation improves. I gathered that the facility has been  135  acting as a Children’s Welfare Centre, admitting children from government-run institutions. At this Korean SOS Village the staff members were mostly Roman Catholic and many of the children were following this faith, but the SOS organization does not espouse any particular religious belief. While most of the resident children are healthy, there is also provision for a number of children with disabilities or medical problems. Both physical therapy and psychological counselling are available. There is an on-site Kindergarten that is open to children from outside, thus creating links with the community. Older children attend good local schools. Their academic program is complemented by a study schedule and extracurricular activities such as sports or performing arts. The children not only receive a good education and training, according to their interests and ability, but also a sense of security, belonging, and togetherness. Normally only children under the age of ten are accepted as permanent residents, unless older biological siblings are involved. None of the children from the Village are put up for adoption and they grow together as a family of brothers and sisters. The website ( is well maintained and explains the origins of the SOS Children’s Villages in South Korea. In addition to the one in Seoul there are two others: Daegu, founded in 1965 in the south-east, and Suncheon, founded in 1982 about 200 km from Daegu Village. An umbrella organization, SOS-Kinderdorf International, has the task of guaranteeing that each village follows the same educational and administrative guidelines.11 In Korea they are registered as a charitable organization and receive 60% of their funding from the South Korean government, 40% from private donors. Most of the children have a sponsor who contributes to the cost of activities and further education or training beyond  11  See the Europe-Korea Foundation http://www.ekf.or.krfor for more on their philosophy. 136  high school, which can be very expensive. Those who manage to go to college or university serve as role models for the younger children. An additional SOS Youth Village was established in 1988 to house 30 boys while they pursue vocational training or continue their post-secondary schooling in Seoul. The Youth Village provides a degree of independence without cutting them off. Since 1982 the SOS Social Centre, located on the site of the Seoul SOS Children’s Village, has offered further education courses, lectures, and other activities open to the public. It also runs a day-care centre for children of working mothers and study classes for neighbourhood children to improve their learning skills, as well as providing a meal every day for children from low-income families. The big cafeteria on the premises, where I was invited to dine with the Director and some other Village officers, was an impressive unit with motherly Korean women expertly preparing traditional food with great care and warmly hosting the children and guests (constantly urging more food on us, as is common in Korea). All these contributions to the local community have ensured their support, and the children are treated with respect beyond the Village. This model allows stability and provides a family-type environment without cutting children off from extended family and the local community. More amendments were made to the Child Welfare Act of 1961 in the year 2000, when legislation was introduced to prevent or deal with the mistreatment of children. Before this there was no law mandating the reporting of suspected abuse or neglect, only minimal services were available through private investigating agencies, and advocacy groups had not yet emerged to lobby for assistance to abused children and their families on a voluntary basis. After mass media coverage of some cases of severe abuse and neglect in the late 1990s, child  137  welfare groups urged the government to include a mandatory reporting clause in the new law, as well as to ensure provision of a twenty-four-hour emergency line and clear procedures for official intervention (B. J. Lee 2006, 77–78). These measures, once in place, have proved difficult to implement, as procedures for apprehending and placing children at risk were not spelled out. The traditional Confucian system emphasizing family hierarchy, dignity, and honour, is still strong enough that most families do not want to admit to problems in this area. The law does not include any particular specifications about the treatment of adopted children, and in spite of the good intentions expressed South Korea was not a signatory to the Hague Convention on the Rights of the Child in 1993.12 This Convention clearly states that priority should be given to providing the child with a safe environment in its own home or country, and only if such efforts fail may the child be made available for intercountry adoption. H!binette points out that in 1997 the Korean government’s welfare budget accounted for about 6.8 % of GDP (up from a mere 2.6% in 1987), far behind OECD (Organization for Economic Co-operation and Development) countries, where it is generally 30–50 %, but even behind some Latin American nations with lower per capita income than Korea (H!binette 2006, 81; Bai 2007, 208). Korea’s amended Child Welfare Law (2000) did partially comply with the provisions laid out by the Hague Convention, but it still gave no incentives to birthmothers to raise their child on their own. It was only in 2007 that a new amendment was enacted to provide limited financial assistance to those who wish to do so.  12  In 2011 the Korean Government announced its intention of ratifying the Hague Convention and is being encouraged by agencies such as KCARE to do so as soon as possible. 138  The Perspective of Korean Birthmothers Little was known until relatively recently of the birthmothers’ perspectives on the abandonment or relinquishing of their children, or their thoughts on domestic or transnational adoption in relation to alternative solutions. Three collections of narratives produced by some of them are now available. All of them were collected and selected by staff at maternity homes run by adoption agencies, and are addressed to the unknown child who may return to Korea and want to meet the birthmother. They provide invaluable insight into the range of reasons for the birthmothers’ predicament, confirming much of what has been discussed so far in this chapter. Changes in policies regarding adoption, foster care, and assistance to single mothers, as well as the role of the extended family and religious institutions, are illustrated or denounced by individual voices. The previously depersonalized and anonymous “birthmothers” become engaged actors, victims or heroes rather than villains, in these accounts. Eloquent and moving stories reveal the trauma they experienced in making the often agonizing decision to give up their child. As was the case in examining Bertha Holt’s memoirs, the “letters from birthmothers” will be analyzed here using the approach to women’s auto/bio/graphy suggested by Smith and Watson (2001). I will first discuss the context in which these stories were produced and published, taking into account their purpose(s) and the implied and actual readers. I will then make a thematic analysis of the content, in relation to the archival evidence discussed so far in this chapter.  Letters to an Imagined Child: A New Genre? At the time of my fieldwork visit to Seoul in 2007 I had the opportunity to see several maternity homes run by agencies that arrange both overseas and domestic adoptions. I was 139  already aware of the book I Wish for You a Beautiful Life: Letters from the Korean Birth Mothers of Ae Ran Won (1999) edited by Sara Dorow, who grew up in Korea herself. As Dorow puts it (1999, 4), “the birth family’s story may be inaccessible, poorly understood, or even avoided, leaving painful gaps in the adoption narrative.” In 1998, when she was writing, Ae Ran Won was “one of few organizations in Korea that provides . . . support both during and after pregnancy” (Dorow 1999, 4). Since then things have changed, and it is now one of around forty maternity homes that currently exist. Initially known as “House of Grace,” it was established in 1960 as a home for runaway girls and prostitutes by Eleanor E. Vanlierop, an American Presbyterian missionary, and was originally funded by private donations. The Director, Ms. Sangsoon Han, explained that it became a home for unwed mothers and their children in 1973, in response to the Korean government’s desire to establish such homes. When the founder retired to the United States in 1983 the building was turned over to the Presbyterian Church of Korea, and renamed Ae Ran Won (“Planting Love”) in honour of Mrs. Vanlierop, as this was her Korean name.13 Although it was licensed by the government and has since received 70% of its financing from the state, it still maintains its Christian mission to meet the “spiritual” needs of the women, as well as their physical, psychological, and vocational ones. While seeking information at the Holt office I also came across another less polished anthology, To My Beloved Baby (Holt Children’s Services 2004), based on accounts collected from other birthmothers who had dealt with the Holt agency for their child’s adoption. This book was available only through the office of Holt Children’s Services in Seoul, whereas the earlier one received wider distribution, though mainly outside Korea.  13  The botanical image also seems to be a logical extension of the Holts’ Seed from the East. 140  Since then a sequel to I Wish for you a Beautiful Life has appeared, with the title Dreaming a World. Korean Birthmothers Tell their Stories (Han 2010). The editor this time is Sangsoon Han, the Director of Ae Ran Won who welcomed me there. Each of the seventeen accounts she presents includes a retrospective narrative by the woman concerned as well as a letter to the child that was given up for adoption, followed by brief notes from the editor giving an up-date on the narrator’s present situation. All three volumes provide some information about how and why the “letters” were produced and published, while leaving a number of questions unanswered. Ms. Han explained to me that from quite early on expectant mothers who were considering relinquishing their child were encouraged to write in a diary about their own feelings, and their hopes and fears for the child’s future. This practice has continued as a therapeutic exercise supervised by counsell