A reporter from the Pressian released a story regarding the press release:
(Original press release can be found here [KR, EN, FR])
What will become of adoptees' rights if Korea Adoption Services (KAS) disappears?
Adult adoptees express "concern that birth family search services will decrease"
KAS, previously a part of the Ministry of Welfare which oversees adoption policy, will become part of the National Center for the Rights of Children (NCRC) beginning on the 16th of next month. The Moon Jae-in administration decided to establish the NCRC to combine seven separately-run governmental agencies that deal with child abuse, adoption, foster care, missing children, etc. in order to offer systematic and comprehensive services. In January, revisions to the Children's Welfare Act, which were among Moon Jae-in's presidential campaign promises, were passed by the National Assembly and were implemented from July of this year.
The fact that the Moon Jae-in administration which advocates for a "embracing nation," has established a NCRC is encouraging in and of itself. However, since the NCRC will subsume the previous tasks of KAS, in the process of the organization's dissolution, concerns are being raised that the protection of the rights of adoptees who are not children but now "adults" and other related tasks will be slashed.
KAS was established by the Special Adoption Law revisions of 2012 in order to promote domestic adoption and provide post-adoption services such as birth family search, etc. The adoption law revisions were the result of the active lobbying of returning adult adoptees and civil organizations. For this reason, to adoptees KAS is considered the successful result of adoptee activism. For the past 67 years, although South Korea has sent approximately 200,000 children overseas for adoption, the country has never fully realized the need for post-adoption services. There are critiques that if KAS is rolled into the NCRC, even if the duties and numbers of workers were to remain the same, the meaning and history of its establishment would disappear.
"Where will the 200,000 Korean adoptees go...?"
KAS board member Oh Myungsuk (John Compton) said, "To be honest, adoptees had doubts as to whether KAS was actually fulfilling its duties, however it was the only legal agency in South Korea that even had the word 'adoption' in its name so at the very least it was the one government agency that made adoptees think 'the government hasn't totally abandoned us.'" In order to reflect adoptee voices in policy and services, KAS had continued to appoint one adoptee to its board as a non-permanent member.
Board member Oh argued that "Even now many adoptees are still unaware that KAS offers birth family search services but if the agency disappears and its name changes, the 200,000 adoptees all over the world will have difficulties accessing birth family search and other post-adoption services."
He continued, "I am also concerned that since the size of the new agency will be larger, the personnel who will handle the services for international adoptees will decrease." He also brought up the problem that "The spot that is currently reserved on the KAS board of directors for an adoptee could even disappear in the case that the NCRC is established"
Oh added, "Adoptees are highly concerned that the current administration does not respect the rights of adoptees and human rights. In fact, by looking at the current situation, there are even those that are wondering if this might even be a regression from the Lee Myung-bak administration when KAS was established."
Ministry of Health and Welfare and KAS, "No drastic changes to related personnel and duties"
In response to such concerns by adoptees, the Ministry of Health and Welfare and KAS argued that the number of related personnel, duties, and designated budget, etc. will not be reduced and there will be no large changes."
In a telephone interview with Pressian, Kim Ji-yeon, team leader of Ministry of Health and Welfare's Population and Child Policy Bureau said "The personnel and budget of KAS will be absorbed as is and is merely being added to the NCRC . With the overseeing agency becoming larger, we can expect that the services provided will be even better."
Regarding concerns that the budget was being cut, Kim said, "The budget is currently in the discussions stage with the Ministry of Strategy and Finance. It will be determined by the National Assembly but currently considering the seven agencies' combined budgets, we do not foresee any large cuts to the budget."
However, the chances are high that the board member seat currently reserved for an adoptee on the KAS board will disappear. According to Kim, "The board of directors for a public agency must take into consideration expertise and representativeness, etc. Additionally, there is the problem of legal responsibility. Once combined with NCRC, the tasks will increase and thus there will be so many organizations that must be represented. Currently, the composition of the board of directors is under review. However, I think that the question should be less about whether or not an adoptee will be a member of the board of directors and more about how well adoptees' voices are being reflected in policy. We can search for a way besides the board of directors for adoptees voices to be well reflected."
During an interview with Pressian, KAS Education and PR team leader Hong Seokwon said, "Just the name is changing. The work that KAS has been doing will continue just as before. We are working to ensure that adoptees rights are protected even if our agency is merged."
Overseas Korean Foundation -> KAS -> NCRC... Are adult adoptees South Korea's black sheep?
Policies for post-adoption services for adult adoptees were previously housed as one of the overseas Korean program under the Ministry for Foreign Affairs. However, due to the lack of awareness and expertise on adoption issues of the foreign ministry, the very approach of housing adoptees as a part of overseas Korean program was a limitation. Thus, it was not until the Kim Dae-jung administration that in reality non-existent government policies for adoptees were established and jurisdiction for related policy was transferred to the Ministry of Health and Welfare, and in 2012 Special Adoption Law revisions, provisions were established for the support of adult adoptees such as birth family search, etc. and KAS was charged with handling these services.
During a phone interview with Pressian, Amnesty International South Korea Secretary General, Lee Kyeong-eun said, "Adult adoptee related policies are completely different than the main programs of NCRC which are children in crisis situations, child abuse, institutional childcare, etc. It's a shame because being continually passed around, first from Ministry of Foreign Affairs and after coming to Ministry of Health and Welfare being handled as a part of children's policies, it's like adult adoptee-related policies are considered like the black sheep."
Lee continued, "The benefits and protections of the law that must be handled are different than the purposes of the Special Adoption Law which regulates the adoption process of children and so it would be best if the policies were separate. You cannot find another country that has sent 200,000 children for international adoption for the past 60 years as South Korea has. The least the country can do is create policies that ensure adoptees the right to know their identity."
SNU law professor, So Rami pointed out that "Currently one of KAS programs supports adoptees in crisis. This project has no legal basis but the program was created based on a policy need. If KAS is merged with NCRC, such programs could be overlooked."
Prof. So also added, "Currently, there is a need to pass laws that grant stipulations for legal basis for support programs for returning adoptees and the overall revisions to Special Adoption Law proposed by Democratic Party Representative Nam In-soon."