Updated: November 19, 2012 06:24 PM GMT
South Korea is to sign up for the Hague Convention on intercountry adoption by the end of this year to better protect the rights of children adopted overseas, a government official said today.
The Ministry of Health and Welfare announced a set of measures on Friday to provide better support for Korean overseas adoptees in order to meet convention guidelines.
These include helping adopted people find their natural parents and providing them with access to government services when they visit the country of their birth, Lee Kyung-eun, the ministry’s child welfare policy director said today.
As many as 4,000 Koreans adopted by overseas couples return to visit the country each year, according to the ministry.
The government has also recently amended domestic laws to bring them into line with the convention, Lee told ucanews.com, citing the Special Adoption Law which took effect in August.
The law tightens adoption procedures by permitting adoptions only after court approval, and strengthened a more transparent and stringent registration system for children’s rights.
The Hague Convention on Intercountry Adoption aims to regulate international adoption to protect children and families from potential risks such as child laundering and child trafficking. The convention was concluded in 1993 and entered into force in 1995.
As of April 2012, it had been ratified by 89 countries.
Since the end of the Korean War (1950-53), around 240,600 South Korean children have been adopted with the majority – 164,600 – having been adopted by families overseas.
South Korea is the world’s fourth largest “orphan exporter” after China, Russia and Guatemala.
Child welfare experts say the government needs to make sure that international adoption only takes place as a last resort.
“If a parent is unable to raise a child, a greater effort is needed to ensure the child is raised by a family or institution in South Korea” said Professor Pyoun Mee-hee, a welfare expert at Baekseok University.
Reverend Kim Do-hyun, director of the KoRoot, a shelter for overseas Korean adoptees visiting their motherland, said the government should be helping single mothers so that they don’t give their babies up for adoption.
“Some 90 percent of babies put up for adoption are from single mothers,” he said, adding that “adoption would not be needed” if they were financially able to raise their own kids.