Update 2: Tobias Hübinette and Jane Trenka offered additional comments via Facebook. You can see their replies at the end of this post.
Update 1: Tobias Hübinette offered a very thoughtful response via Facebook. You can see it and my reply to him at the end of this post.
In “I’m a dick: Part 1,” I asked Susan Cox of Holt some facetious questions. For Part 2, I’m changing the tone.
Let’s begin again, shall we?
Dear Jane Trenka, Tammy Ko Robinson, Kim Stoker, and Tobias Hübinette:
Unfortunately for all of us, we adoptees exist in a fractured community. As a result, sometimes there’s a level of distrust toward other adoptees, questions about motivations, etc. Considering the fact that I once promoted the business of adoption and attempted to marginalize folks like you at the same time, I absolutely understand when individuals look at me with skeptical eyes. I bear that burden, which I brought upon myself.
In light of this, I want to say for the record here at Land of Gazillion Adoptees that this post is NOT an attack piece. I have genuine respect for all of you and what you’ve accomplished throughout your careers; I’m with you ideologically. Like the vast majority of KADs who don’t have the drive, resources, and know how, I frankly want all of you to tell me, as a member of your constituency, what I should know about all things Korean adoption, including the most recent legislation.
You’ve been very proactive in sharing information about “The Special Act Relating to Adoption” (Bill#1812414). Nevertheless, like many KADs who’ve been following your efforts, I’m a bit foggy on a few details. So, I would like to ask you the following clarification questions.
Doesn’t it strike you odd that agencies, such as Holt International, Bethany Christian Services, Dillon International, and Children’s Home Society & Family Services (CHSFS), haven’t publicly made statements about the Korean adoption legislation? Go take a look at their websites. None of them say anything about the legislation; they’re all acting like it’s business as usual. Trust me. As someone who once worked in the industry, this is highly unusual behavior for agencies. If you recall, when the Russian adoption fiasco happened a year back, many agencies, afraid that the situation would lead to the closing of the Russian intercountry adoption door, went berserk and talked with whomever they thought would listen. Here in Minnesota, CHSFS even held a press conference with Senator Amy Klobuchar and two well known parents in the Minnesota Russian adoption community.
As I mentioned in “I’m a dick: Part 1,” I have my theories in regards to this question, but they are only theories. Thus, I would really like to hear why you think that these agencies remain silent. If the Korean adoption legislation works as many of us understand it, referrals of children to be placed for adoption will go down significantly for these agencies, which, as businesses, have a vested interest in their bottom line (less referrals = less money).
Are you comfortable with the idea that Korean adoption legislation, which, in your words, helps “bring Korea up to international standards as per the Hague Adoption Convention,” (source) legitimizes intercountry adoption? To paraphrase the words of a former JCICS Board Member, standardizing and bringing transparency to intercountry adoption was the main theme that came out of the Hague Adoption Convention. The Hague is “pro-system.” It recognizes intercountry adoption, and all of its key players. It makes sure that the system works efficiently. As an example, I point you to the US State Department’s (the central entity that oversees intercountry adoption here in the States) website. As you’ll see, the language isn’t written for adoptees or first families. Rather, the website is geared toward agency professionals and adoptive parents, two of the major players who drive the adoption market.
I’ve read some of your past thoughts and perspectives on intercountry adoption: the movement of children from the “have not countries” to “have countries”; what this exchange of children symbolizes; and the role that the business of adoption plays. So, how does the “pro-system” Hague Adoption Convention, which as you know DOES NOT have anything to do with domestic adoptions in any country, jive with the way you understand the world? Bringing “Korea up to the international standards as per the Hague Adoption Convention” is incongruent with your past efforts, right…or am I missing something?
Please don’t get me wrong. I fully believe that the new Korean adoption legislation is progressive. There’s a lot there that protects the rights of adoptees and unwed parents. Nevertheless, the Hague influenced legislation is a part of a much larger geopolitical system that participates in a market driven by forces that thrive on/need the worldwide sending and receiving of children. So, again, I’d like to hear your take because I believe that many of us Korean adoptees, as members of your constituency, want to hear your nuanced thoughts. Beyond us, individuals adopted from other countries are looking to you as well. You are setting a monumental precedent that other communities will certainly use as a major touch point.
Jane, Tammy, Kim, and Tobias, per my earlier statement, my motivations and questions are genuine. At your earliest convenience, I would greatly appreciate if one of you took the time to answer my questions via e-mail, in the comment section, or in whatever manner you find appropriate. When you do, I’ll be happy to share your thoughts with other members of the broad adoption community.
Thank you, thank you, thank you for all that you do.
Tobias’ Facebook Response: “My take on the Hague Convention is that I am fully aware that it is pro-(world) system (pro-West) and pro-(transnational) adoption, but it is better for all parties involved to go with it than to go without it, and as long as adoption from the non-West to the West continues (which it will also in the coming future, although to a smaller extent), it is therefore better to advocate for its standards than to accept the unregulated market that is usually the norm in non-Hague Convention states.”
My reply: “Thanks, Tobias. This actually clarifies things for me quite a bit. So, if you’re accepting of Hague’s tenants, then you must be accepting of Hague compliance realities and how they impact countries like S. Korea:
- Western control: Countries like the US use – as a system of control – the threat of “noncompliance”/”non-Hague Convention process” against “sending countries.” All hail Western hegemony!
- The reality of “Non-Hague” status for S. Korea: In all practical purpose, S. Korea doesn’t need the “Hague Convention” label or participate in the Hague standards. It already has a smooth adoption process that favors adoptive parents and adoption agencies. The Korean agencies have longstanding relationships with agencies like Holt, Dillon, etc. The “Hague Convention” for Korea is merely a label to help justify the exchange of children (for money) between Korea and receiving countries like the US. In other words, unfortunately your advocacy for implementing the Hague standards in S. Korea is, in reality, a moot point.
- The Hague doesn’t impact domestic social welfare systems: The Hague doesn’t care about us adoptees and how Korea interacts with us. The Hague doesn’t care about unwed families and how countries interact with them. So, if you truly believe that Korean government is ready to advocate for adoptees, unwed families, and a strong social welfare system, then I’m elated. Just don’t let anyone tell you that the Hague has anything to do with this.