Wednesday evening, I met up with Gayoung for samgyupsal and soju. Delicious, as meals always are with my sister, and sometime around our second bottle of soju, our conversation turned to the international adoption industry in Korea. A favorite topic of mine. It’s so interesting how little is revealed to the Korean general public about the processes and operations involved in sending its children abroad. Gayoung was shocked to hear that the adoption agencies here in Korea are run like a business, that 2/3 of the pregnant/single mother support homes are run by adoption agencies where women are coerced into relinquishing their children. She asked me a number of times, “You’re talking about now, today? Not thirty years ago?” Yes, little sister. Now, today. In a country that has one of the lowest birth rates in the world, over a thousand children are sent away each year, pulling in a revenue of 15-20 million dollars annually.
I am reminded of something Pastor Kim said the other night, as we chatted seated around the kitchen table at Koroot: Korea’s economic success is built on the bodies of its people, Construction workers and low-skill laborers toiled long and hard remodeling Seoul into a major metropolitan center. Factory workers worked long hours producing products for the international market. Domestic laborers migrated internationally for work in richer countries in order to send money back to the motherland. Yet the bodies that bore the brunt of the cost of modernization were those of Korea’s women and children. And we continue to bear the costs; we have the scars to prove it.