Letter sent to the Korea Adoption Services President & KAS Board of Directors

Letter send to Korea Adoption Services (KAS) President and KAS Board of Directors on July 12, 2019:

Edit:

Q: What does this mean for KAS, does this mean it won't be dissolved?
A: KAS will continue to remain an incorporated semi-governmental organization until the Board of Directors (BOD) can reconviene and re-vote on the dissolution. This usually requires an announcement 30 days prior to the BOD meeting.

 
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Dear President Kim and Korea Adoption Services Board of Directors,
 
Full information was withheld preventing the Board of Directors from making an informed and responsible decision concerning the future of Adoptee affairs. Adoptees spent countless years,  many resources and fought hard for the revision of the Special Adoption Law which took effect in 2012; resulting with the justification and process for the establishment of KAS, and its governance. An adoptee on the Board of Directors was a milestone, and a step closer to formal national acknowledgment and reconciliation of adoption history, and recognition of adoptees’ human rights, needs, and services. 
 
Upon the discovery no seat on the National Center for the Rights of Children (NCRC), Board of Directors would be reserved for an Adoptee, is a step further away from what Adoptees achieved. As a result of this situation, the lack and withholding of information as well as lack of transparency from the Ministry of Health and Welfare, the only recourse I am left with as a Representative is to change my vote to against the dissolution of Korea Adoption Services (KAS); therefore, I am not providing my Seal Certificate.
 
Sincerely,
 
John K. Compton (오명석), Member
Board of Directors, Korea Adoption Services
 

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Pressian Article, in response to press release.

A reporter from the Pressian released a story regarding the press release:

http://www.pressian.com/news/article/?no=246632

(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."

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Korea Adoption Services & the newly formed child services organization.

Good Afternoon:

As many of you are aware, I currently am a sitting Board Member for the Korea Adoption Services. This seat on the Board of Directors is one of the most important voices for the Adoptee Community. As you may be aware, the Korea Adoption Service will be dissolved July 16, 2019, in which its services will be transferred to the newly formed child care services. On Wednesday, June 19, 2019 at 1100 hours, Korea Adoption Services had its last Board Meeting. As I did not hear anything about the procurement the new Board Members for child care services, I inquired when this announcement would be made. To my disbelief, I was informed, those individuals had already been chosen. The names of this new board was not given at this meeting and I was informed, I could not have this information. It is apparent, Overseas Adoptees will lose their representation within this newly formed child care services organization. 

In response to the press release below a reporter from the Pressian released a short story, you can read the article in English here.

Below you can find my official statement for release (KO, EN, FR):


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FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE:



MB정권에서도 챙겼던 국외입양인 지원 정책이 문재인 정권에서는 후퇴하는 것인가?


정부의 성인 국외입양인 지원 정책이 후퇴하고 있다는 지적이 잇따르고 있다. 최근 정부는 아동보호정책 강화를 위해 정부가 위탁사업 형태로 여러 민간기관에서 운영 중이던 아동 보호 관련 기능을 아동권리보장원, 한 개의 기관으로 통합하여 아동 보호 정책을 일원화하여 아동의 권리를 보장하는 방향으로 정책을 추진 중이다.정부에 아동의 권리를 적극 보장하겠다는 취지로 각 계에서 많은 기대를 하고 있는 정책으로 받아들여지고있다. 아동권리보장원은 내달 7월 개원할 것으로 알려져있다.

 하지만 일각에서는 기관 통합으로 인해  국외입양인의 지원 정책이 매우 후퇴하고 있다는 지적이 일고 있다. 전후 우리나라 정부의 입양 정책은 홀트아동복지회나 동방사회복지회 등의 민간  기관에 온전히 의지해왔고 이에따른 각 종 부작용이 다양하게 있어오고있다.(미국에 2만명 이상의 국적 미확인 입양인 발생 및 무국적 국외입양인 추방 등) 이에 2000년대 후반 국외입양인들의 적극적인 운동과 국제기구(유엔아동권리위원회) 등의 지속적권고로 우리나라 정부는 2011년 입양특례법을 제정하였고 이를 근거로 2012년 중앙입양원(Korea Adoption Services) 을 설립했다. 중앙입양원은 2012년 설립된 이 후에 입양기관 등의 견제를 받아왔고 입양 그리고 입양인을위한 제대로 된 역할을 하는지에 대한 꾸준한 문제 제기 또한 받아왔다. 하지만 입양과  입양인을 위해 사후서비스를 해 줄 수 있는 유일한 법정기관(공직유관단체)으로 입양인을 이사회에 포함 시키고 증가하고 있는 추방입양인을 적극 지원하는 등 입양인의 권익을 보호하기 위해 점점 그 역할을 확대해 나아가고 있었다.

(2013년 예산 규모 약 20억원, 2019년 예산 규모 약 40억원)

문제는 보건복지부의 정책 추진 방법에 있다. 현 정부의 공약으로 아동권리를 보장하기 위한 기관을 신설해야하는데기관을 온전히 신설하는 데에는 기획재정부 등의 관계 부처를 설득하는 작업이 어려우니 현재 아동 관련유일한 법정 법인인 중앙입양원의 이름과 기능 직제 등을 변경해 기관을 통합하려는 방법을 통해 진행하려는 것으로 확인 됐다. 문제는 이 과정에서 온전히 입양만을 위해 일 해오던 중앙입양원 임직원의 정원이 약 30명인데, 입양 관련 부서의 직원은 10명 대로 대폭 감소하고 오히려 기관의 운영(경영) 인력을 대폭 증가 시키려는 것으로 알려졌다. 또한 그 간 이사회에 있었던 국외입양인을 대표하는 1명의 자리도 새로 생기는 아동권리보장에서는 제외된 것으로 알려졌다.

사실 중앙입양원이 설립된 이후, 그 역할과 일을 추진하는 방법에서 국외입양인들을 위해 제대로 일하고 있는가에 대한 의구심을 많이 갖게 했었다. 지는 2013년 국책연구기관인 보건사회연구원이 펴낸 국외입양인 백서를보면 국외입양인들 중 중앙입양원의 존재를 아는 국외입양인은 약 30% 수준(확인 필요)이었고, 그 이후의 통계는 없었지만 많은 증가는 없었을 것으로 다수의 국외입양인들은 이야기하고 있다. 하지만 이제 설립한 지 7년 된기관으로 우리나라 법정기관 중 유일하게 기관명에서 ‘입양(adoption)’를 갖고 있었던 기관이어서 그나마 많은 국외입양인들이 그래도 대한민국 정부가 우리를 버리지 않았구나라는 마음을 들게 했었던 기관이었다. 겨우 7년이 되면서 전 세계 각지에 흩어져있는 국외입양인들에게 자신들을 위해 일 하는 기관이라는 것이 알려지던 차에, 기관이 없어지고 기관 명이 바뀌면 전 세계에 있는 20만명의 국외 입양인들은 또 다시 부모 찾기 등의 사후서비스를 이용하는 데에는 불보듯 뻔한 일이 될 것이라는 것이 다수 국외입양인들의 설명이다. 거기에다 새로 통합신설되는 기관에서 국외입양인을 위한 서비스를 담당하는 직원의 숫자도 대폭 줄어들 것으로 확인되어 국외입양인들은 과연 현 정부가 입양인의 권리와 인권을 존중하는지 매우 우려하고 있는 것으로 알려져있다. 한 입양인은 “인권 존중을 기반으로 한 문재인 정부에서 국외입양인을 위해 좀 더 나은 일이 있을 것으로 예상했는데,현재 진행되는 일련의 상황들을 보면 오히려 중앙입양원이 설립됐던 MB 정부때보다도 퇴보하고 있는거 아니냐”라며 자조섞인 목소리로 이야기 했다.

 

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There are concerns that the government-led policy of supporting adult adoptees is deteriorating under the current Moon Jae-in administration. In order to strengthen child protection policy, recently the government has implemented policies to guarantee children’s rights by unifying various functions regarding child protection run by several NGOs and consolidate them into one single institution. This highly anticipated policy is important for the government to ensure the rights of the child. The Agency for the Protection of Children’s Rights is set to open next month in July.
 
However, some criticism has been that the integration of such institutions will cause the policy for the support of adult adoptees to decline. During the post-war period, the Korean Government’s adoption policy was completely dependent on private institutions such as Holt Children’s Services and Eastern Social Welfare Society, with the consequence of several negative side effects (more than 20,000 adoptees in the United States are living without citizenship, and are in effect stateless and at risk of deportation). In the late 2000s, the Korean Government enacted the Special Adoption Act of 2011 and based on this, Korea Adoption Services was established in 2012. Since its Establishment in 2012, KAS has been under the control of adoption agencies and has therefore been constantly scrutinized regarding the organization’s proper role with adoption and adoptees. However, as the only existing legal public service-oriented institute providing post-adoption services, KAS has gradually expanded its role to protect the rights and interests of adoptees by including them as members of the board of directors and actively supporting the increasing number of deported adoptees.
 
(Approximately 2 billion won budget for 2013 and 4 billion won budget for 2019)
 
The problem lies in the way the Ministry of Health and Welfare implements its policies. Under the current government’s commitments, it is difficult to persuade related ministries such as the Ministry of Strategy and Finance to establish a new institution to guarantee children’s rights. Therefore, it has been confirmed that the government intends to absorb KAS by changing the name and function of the institution, which is currently the only legal entity related to children. The problem is that the number of executives and employees at KAS - which had been working exclusively on adoption matters - will be cut down from 30 employees to 10, while the number of employees in administration will drastically increase. Furthermore, the representative seat reserved for an internationally adopted person on the board of directors will be excluded from the new children’s rights guarantee.
 
In fact, since KAS was founded, there have been many doubts about whether the organization is fulfilling its role properly for overseas adoptees in the way it carries out its work. According to a paper published by a national research institute in 2013- the Korean Institute for Health and Social Affairs – only about 30% of overseas adoptees were aware of the existence of KAS (needs to be double-checked), and many adoptees believe that there has been no change in statistics since then. However, since its establishment 7 years ago, KAS has remained the only governmental institution that has “adoption” in its name, which makes many adoptees feel that the Korean government has not abandoned them. In just 7 years, overseas adoptees all over the world have come to know the work that the institution is doing in regards to adoption. If the institution is removed and the name is changed, then 200,000 overseas adoptees worldwide will have to start the search for post-adoption services, such as birth search, all over again. In addition, the number of employees working on adoption issues will be dramatically reduced, which makes adoptees very concerned about whether the current government cares about the rights of adoptees or even human rights in general. One adoptee stated that, “we expected the current Moon Jae In-led government to be based on respect for human rights of overseas adoptees. However, the situation appears as if it has not improved from the time of Lee Myung Bak’s administration, which was when KAS was founded.”

 

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Le gouvernement coréen s’engage à mettre en place une politique visant à garantir les droits de l’enfant en regroupant plusieurs services relatifs au sein d’un centre gouvernemental, intitulé « 아동권리보장원 » en coréen, littéralement traduit par « centre de protection des droits de l’enfant ».

L’inauguration du centre dans le cadre de cette politique est considérée comme une intention du gouvernement de garantir activement les droits de l’enfant. Il est prévu d’ouvrir ses portes en juillet prochain, suscitant de nombreuses attentes dans les divers secteurs.

Cependant, certains éléments donnent à penser que la politique de soutien des adoptés coréens à l’étranger est en train d'être supprimée à cause de cette «unification» institutionnelle. 

Après la guerre, les politiques d’adoption du gouvernement coréen dépendaient entièrement des organisations privées telles que Holt International ou Eastern Social Welfare Association, ce qui engendraient divers effets néfastes : aux Etats-Unis, plus de 20 000 adoptés dont les nationalités ne sont pas identifiées ont été repérés, et des adoptés apatrides ont été expulsés. 

Suite aux mouvements dynamiques des adoptés coréens à l’étranger à la fin des années 2000 et aux recommandations constantes d’organisations internationales, le Comité de l’Organisation des Nations Unies sur les droits de l'enfant (CRC) en particulier, le gouvernement coréen avait adopté, en 2011, la loi spéciale sur l’adoption à la base de laquelle avait été fondé, en 2012, le Korea Adoption Services (KAS).

Depuis sa création en 2012, le KAS s’est trouvé confronté aux agences d’adoption et a été régulièrement questionné sur son rôle et ses fonctions pour l’adoption ainsi pour les adoptés. Pourtant, en tant que seule institution accréditée capable de fournir l’ensemble des services auprès des adoptés, le KAS a bien assumé ses responsabilités de plus en plus grandes. Le centre réserve un siège du conseil d’administration pour un(e) représentant(e) des adoptés coréens à l’étranger et soutient activement le nombre croissant d’adoptés expulsés afin de protéger leurs droits et intérêts. (Estimation du budget en 2013 d’environ 2 milliards de won, soit 1,5 millions d’euro, celui en 2019 d’environ 4 milliards de won, soit 3 millions d’euro).

Le problème réside dans la manière dont le Ministère de la Santé et des Affaires Sociales réalise les politiques. Il est vrai qu’il est difficile de convaincre les ministères concernés, tels que le Ministère de la stratégie et des finances, afin de créer pleinement une nouvelle institution chargée des droits de l'enfant selon l'engagement pris par le gouvernement actuel. 

Le Ministère de la Santé, à cet égard, essaie d’en faire, avec une simple et légère retouche du KAS, le seul organisme compétent et accrédité pour le moment, en changeant son nom et en intégrant les fonctions des autres organisations à cette nouvelle structure. Il est à noter que le nombre actuel de cadres et d’employés du KAS qui se consacrent au service de l’adoption est d'une trentaine, chiffre qui va être considérablement réduit à environ dix, alors qu’ils veulent augmenter le personnel fonctionnel de l’organisme. 

En outre, le siège représentant les adoptés au conseil d’administration semble devoir être supprimé du nouveau centre.

Certes, depuis sa création, beaucoup se doutaient de son rôle et de sa méthode de travail, et s’ils correspondaient aux besoins réels des adoptés coréens à l’étranger. 

Selon le livre blanc sur les adoptés à l’étranger publié en 2013 par un institut de recherche national, Institut coréen pour la santé et les affaires sociales, seulement environ 30% des adoptés (vérification requise) sont au courant de l’existence du KAS. Il n’existe pas de statistiques plus récentes, mais de nombreux adoptés disent qu’il n’y aurait pas une grande différence par rapport à cette période. 

Néanmoins, puisque cela fait sept ans que le KAS a assumé ses responsabilités en tant qu’unique institution compétente en Corée à avoir le mot « adoption » dans son nom, de plus en plus d’adoptés avaient confiance en cette organisation et reconnaissaient les efforts du gouvernement coréen.

En clair, l’organisation a à peine commencé à se faire connaître pour son travail auprès des adoptés coréens dispersés dans le monde d’entier. Si elle n'était plus là ou changeait son nom, il est évident que les 200 000 adoptés à l’étranger auraient du mal pour les services de recherche des parents biologiques ou autres services concernés.

De plus, il a été confirmé que le nombre d'employés fournissant des services auprès des adoptés à l'étranger serait considérablement réduit dans la nouvelle institution. Il est normal que les adoptés soient très inquiets de savoir si le gouvernement actuel respecte les droits des adoptés voire les droits de l'homme en général.

Sur un ton sarcastique, un adopté a dit, « Au gouvernement MOON Jae-in, basé sur le respect des droits de l'homme, on s'attend à ce qu'il y ait une meilleure situation pour les adoptés coréens à l'étranger, pourtant, en tenant compte d’une série de circonstances actuelles, on murmure que la situation a empiré par rapport à la période du gouvernement LEE Myeong-bak, durant laquelle le KAS a été fondé».

 

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