[KS] Korean Adoption

tobias at orient.su.se tobias at orient.su.se
Mon Jul 30 02:20:56 EDT 2001

I am a new Ph.D. Candidate in Korean studies at Stockholm University, Sweden,
and I am writing this open letter in order to try to find out both what has
been written before and if someone else is doing research on the same subject.

I will write my dissertation on Korean adoption (se the following
presentation), and I have already contacted some scholars on this
matter. Unfortunatley very few people seem to know much about this
special subject.

I would be very grateful for answers!


Since 1954 150,000 Koreans have been adopted to a dozen Western
countries. Both the numbers and the time span are unique in a world
perspective. Actually for many years international adoption itself was
synonymous with Korean adoption. And Korean adoption is still an
ongoing phenomenon. Every year around 2000 children leave Korea for
overseas adoption.

Korean adoption was an immediate result of the Korean war 1950-53,
itself a result of Western imperialism in the end of the 19th century
and Japanese colonialism during the first part of the 20th century.
Since the 1860s, and especially during Japanese rule between 1910-45,
Koreans emigrated or were forcefully transported abroad in thousands
creating a huge diaspora and establishing a tradition of displacement.

The emigration continued during the authoritarian regimes of the
Republic of Korea between 1948-93, creating a diaspora which today
numbers 5,8 million people. From a Korean perspective, the adopted
Koreans are a part of this huge Korean population living abroad.

It is often taken for granted that children adopted from non-white and
Third world countries leave their original ethnicity behind. This is
not the case from a Korean perspective. Since the middle of the 1990s
when adoption became a visible question in Korea, adopted Koreans have
been treated as ethnic Koreans. This is especially evident in the media
and through the acts and laws of the government during Kim Dae-jung's
presidency 1998-2003. Even if the existence of the adopted Koreans was
hidden and forgotten for many years, today they are remembered and
grieved and play a role in the globalization of Korea.

Through a postcolonial theoretical approach, Korean adoption is viewed
as a result of colonialism and continued Western dependency, and the
adopted Koreans as a diasporic community of Korean ethnicity. The
dissertation is divided into three parts: a historical background to
adoption in a Korean setting, the adoption issue in Korean media before
1998 and the main themes during Kim Dae-jung's 8th republic 1998-2003.
The third part is an analysis of the articles on adoption published in
the Korean newspapers, Chosun Ilbo, Donga Ilbo, Hankyoreh and Joongang Ilbo.

The dissertation is raising the following questions: How was the
adoption issue transformed from a shameful taboo to a public question?
How is the adoption issue treated in today=B4s public discussion? And
what is the meaning of the adoption issue in an ethnic perspective with
regards to globalization?

Key words: adoption, diaspora, ethnicity, postcoloniality

Tobias H=FCbinette/Lee Sam-dol

Doktorand i koreanska
Institutionen f=F6r orientaliska spr=E5k
Stockholms universitet
106 91 Stockholm

Tel: 08-16 15 88
Fax: 08-15 54 64
E-post: tobias at orient.su.se

Ph.D. Candidate in Korean studies
Department of Oriental Languages
Stockholm University
S-106 91 Stockholm

Tel: 46-8-16 15 88
Fax: 46-8-15 54 64
E-mail: tobias at orient.su.se

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