Susanne is a South Korean adoptee in Sweden who published the following text in the Korea Herald on 17 December 2003 calling for an immediate end to international adoption from South Korea.
Please stop sending Korean babies for adoption to Sweden and other countries. Why? From my point of view as an adoptee, I want to emphasize several reasons.
The first is racism and discrimination against Korean women which, as an adult woman with an East Asian appearance, I and other Asian women face on a daily basis.
From Sweden, and other Western countries, there is a flourishing sex tourism to East and Southeast Asia. Some travel agencies have specialized in these kinds of tours and the horrifying business is affecting the adoptees. We become victims of this tragic sex tourism, as we are perceived and treated as prostitutes in Swedish society. Many Korean adopted women have been assaulted by words such as “whore, go home to your country,” and some adoptees have even been attacked physically by Swedish people. The racism among Swedes toward Asians is very strong. This affects our lives and is a big burden on our sense of happiness and quality of life.
Secondly, there is racism against Korean men. The majority of Korean males are also victims of racism as most Asian adopted males in Sweden are not married. Racism in Sweden includes an unwillingness to share their lives with a spouse with a foreign appearance and Korean men suffer tremendously in not finding a wife. As Koreans they are also shorter and they have black hair and brown eyes. In Sweden the ideal is still the Swedish appearance of tall males with lots of muscles and a Swedish blond, blue-eyed appearance.
For the first time in Sweden, results of scientific research have also shown that the rate of suicide among adoptees is five times higher than among Swedes, and the adoptees are also more often treated at psychiatric clinics.
There is also racism in the labour market. According to the latest research, 50 percent of adoptees were unemployed during the past year. It is well known that immigrants from Africa and the Middle East are rejected on the labour market.
The bond between adoptees and their Swedish adoptive family seems to become more fragile and full of conflict over the years. Maybe the lack of a blood connection and our Asian appearance remind them of not having a biological child. A lot of adoptive parents withdraw themselves from the relationship with the adopted child when they grow up, especially in those families where they already have their own biological children.
I have talked with many adoptees who have severed their contact with their adoptive family because of mistreatment and abuse. It is a great strain for them to take the decision to break up with their families. We adoptees try to support each other but that is not enough. We want Korea to stop sending more babies to the West. We do not want more Korean children to come to Western societies just to suffer as much as we have suffered and are still doing.
The only service adoption agencies in Korea provide that I think is adequate is helping adult adoptees to find their biological parents or roots. In my view, adoption agencies should, instead of sending babies to the West, help children in their own country and help single mothers provide for their existence.
I am pleased to hear that Korea is slowly changing its attitude regarding single motherhood, but I am sad and angry that adoption agencies still visit hospitals in order to persuade pregnant mothers to leave their babies for adoption.
As long as there exists strong racism in the receiving countries, where we adoptees face discrimination in our daily lives, and as long as there are no adequate resources in the recipient countries to meet adoptees special needs, I and other adoptees want to stop international adoption altogether.
How many more suicides among adoptees will there be before Korea stops adoption to the West? The suffering we are doomed to, as lifelong outsiders and as a discriminated group in Swedish society, is larger and deeper than
the suffering we would have faced growing up in Korea. The hardships would, in that case, only be there during adolescence, but as adults we would be married, living an ordinary life as good citizens helping Korea in its development.
Korea is no longer a poor country, but a highly developed and successful nation. There is no longer any economic reason for Korea to send babies to the West. Korea needs its own babies who will grow up and help the country
in every area of the society. It is a loss for Korea to send its beautiful and talented babies to the West to a life of huge suffering and with a high suicide rate.
I would myself have preferred to stay in Korea instead of being adopted and doomed to a lifelong status as an outsider, becoming a lifelong object of racism and discrimination. Many other Korean adoptees share my point of view.
By Susanne Brink
The writer studies theology in Uppsala, Sweden.