Support & South Korea’s “Terminated Youths”


Here is a Korean adoption story that was mentioned in a Washington Post article, titled “Adoption Korea’s Disquieting Problem” that we came across not too long ago.

Chun Kyung Soo, anthropology professor specializing in studies pertaining to the adoption of South Korean babies, “talked about a story in which said that when a friend of his, a businessman with a master’s degree from a U.S. university, planned to adopt a child, the man’s wife pretended to be pregnant, stuffing towels under her dress to appear to be carrying a child. After nine months of the charade, the couple adopted an infant that they portrayed to friends as their natural offspring.

According to adoption officials, such scenarios are frequent. In the case of Chun’s acquaintance, the story did not have a happy ending. Neighbors of the couple figured out the baby was adopted, and the shamed couple, Chun said, reluctantly sold their apartment and moved.”

Its very sad but common to hear about these types of stories in Korea. Because of the adoption taboo that Korea holds, many if not most parents are still hesitant about adopting.


Here are some alarming facts that we came across as we did more research about the Orphan/Adoption situation in Korea.

  • An estimate in 2014 suggests that a total of 13,437 orphans lived in 242 orphanages that are spread in different regions and cities across South Korea.
  • Domestic adoption is low and unpopular with South Korean families due to cultural factors, which include neo-Confucian emphasis on familial lineage, purity of bloodlines, nuclear family, women’s chastity, and collectivism.
  • Children above the age of 14 are ineligible for adoption.
  • In 2012 the government passed a Special Adoption Act which goal was to prevent baby abandonment and encourage domestic adoptions by increasing the transparency of the adoption process. It seems that this act has been a game changer of sorts to the whole adoption/orphan situation there and internationally. Also, we have to note another goal of the act was to limit international adoption by setting up quotas.
  • The 2012 act also stated that only officially registered orphans can be put up for international adoption.
  • The Special Adoption Act has three important requirements in the adoption process that birthparents must abide by before they can consent to placing their child up for adoption. First, birthparents must wait seven days after the birth of the child before committing to adoption. Second, birthparents must receive information and counseling on the various resources that would be available to them if they decide against the adoption and commit to raising the child themselves. Third, birthparents must go to a family court in order to formally consent to placing their child up for adoption.
  • In 2018, we see that South Korea is now ultimately in a situation where “they (an orphanage in South Korea) used to have two babies abandoned a month before the law came into existence and now they have 25 a month.
  • “The new legislation was enacted as part of government’s efforts to shed what some refer to as a reputation as an “orphan exporter” and give more rights to adoptive children. The question of adoption continues to be controversial in Korea with supporters of one side of the issue concerned that more children will be sent to orphanages or temporary shelters as a result of the measure while others rejoice that Korean children will remain in the country of their birth, learning their own culture and language, and protected from potential abuse and rejection overseas.” 1
  • “Children who are not adopted will remain in government care (institutions or foster care) until the age of 18. They face limited job and social opportunities as a result of their status.” 2
  • The youths that have been phased out of orphan care at the age of 18 are known to be called “Terminated Youths”
  • Some studies show that many of these terminated youths face many difficulties. upon leaving the orphanages. Some facts from an article we found:


“The study showed that while most terminated youths do not have an immediate solution to satisfy their current needs–sufficient living expenses. On top of the need to pay for their own rent and meals, terminated youths also face difficulties getting subsidy for their university education. This difficulty seemingly arises from a mix of legal and social impediments.”
“Terminated youths share an anxiety in having to navigate an unfamiliar situation of legal paperwork and cost considerations with limited moral and physical support. Approximately 70% of the respondents added that they knew little about assess housing conditions, such as functioning heaters, lights, toilets, safety of the house’s surroundings. Bearing the responsibilities of managing limited personal finances and caring for personal needs often came too abruptly for them, and many cite stress, confusion and loneliness right after termination (from the orphanage). “
“Terminated Youths struggle to build social relationships with their peers as well. When questioned, these terminated youths posit a fear of stigmatization should others get to know them too well. In fact, many terminated youths in Korea harbor strong aversion toward being identified as orphans or “terminated youths.”
“Most of them believe tha tthe negative connotations associated with being labelled as a ‘terminated youth’ are a burden to their future and livelihood. In some cases, it was found that an orphan’s status as an ‘orphan; or ‘terminated youth’ constituted one of the main reasons for which his/her job application was rejected. “
(Chong, Carmen Ilyna, Tan Ziyin. “Terminated Youths: Orphans Emerging Into Adulthood In South Korea.” Research Report, Underwood International College, 2018.)



Its been a humbling 5 months since we began our adoption journey and all we can say at this point is that we have not only become adoption advocates in general but very specifically for those that are a part of the orphan system in Korea (and all those affected by the system). The extent of this issue is so large and sometimes so hard to comprehend but yet, it is a very hard and common reality thats not only felt by us as 2nd generation Korean Americans that want to adopt a child, but also those that are directly affected whether it be the child themselves or the biological parent(s) that ultimately gave up their beloved child for adoption/orphan care.

Anyways, we know that God is bringing us into these issues and guiding us to learn more about them. It is honestly so heart breaking to know that a lot of these issues not only have  negative impacts felt by so many but a lot of the times, it is thought of as a shameful topic and people want to be very hush hush about them. So many times we find ourselves torn and crying at all the injustices that exists. One such issue that we haven’t talked about is abortion in Korea.  Please watch The Baby Box, which is a documentary that sheds some light on this issue (the film follows Pastor Lee and his church that created a baby box for abandoned babies).


We know that we want to dig deeper and expose more so that not only our child that we bring home and our family can live with more understanding and freedom, but so that we can also live with more of a sense of purpose and God willing, offer a greater aid to those in need.

If anyone wants more information about anything that was discussed here, let us know and we could send over some very good articles and journals to read.

And also if you desire to,

we have started a fundraising through shirts/sweaters that we have designed (the link will be below). We tried to have the design reflect our passion for this issue by having the phrase “입양하세요” (“Eebyanghasaeyo” which means “please adopt”) on the shirt and also through the Korean traditional geometric pattern on the shirts and sweaters. Please follow along with us as we continue to journey towards bringing our son home and also to bring more awareness to these issues.

Thank you everyone and God bless!



Screen Shot 2019-03-11 at 12.29.27 PM

4 thoughts on “Support & South Korea’s “Terminated Youths”

  1. I love what you two are doing! Maybe I missed it, but how did the 2012 Act end up increasing abandoned babies when it’s intent was to prevent abandonment. Am I misreading?

  2. Hey Tai! I’m not sure how it directly is a contributing factor but all the articles seem to find a correlation because the Korean government is making birth mothers list their babies in their family registry and also go through family court in order to formally consent to placing their child up for adoption. I think this is where the Drop Box situation comes in and we’re seeing a lot more babies show up in these types of situations…

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s