My last blogs were about the boy sent back to Russia and in which jurisdiction the abandonment occurred. (You can click here if you missed last week’s update .) I learned from his adoption agency’s website that children adopted from Russia to the U.S. have dual citizenship in both countries.
This was news to me. Adopting from Korea, we were advised to inform our agency when the adoption was finalized so that they could sent a request to South Korea to remove her from the Korean citizenship rolls. This was especially important because all male citizens in South Korea serve in the South Korean military for two years. There was a case a few years ago involving a Korean-American who went to teach English in South Korea for a year. Apparently his parents were unaware that his grandfather had enrolled him as a South Korean citizen. The position of the Korean government at the time was, they had no problem acknowledging that he was an American citizen with certain rights, but from their point of view he was also a South Korean citizen with rights—and duties.
You can imagine how this would seem to a young adult raised in the U.S. who never knew that he was a South Korean citizen. I imagine it would seem like kidnapping and being sentenced to two years’ labor—especially for youth from countries which have an all-volunteer military and never imagined themselves serving in it.
Although my Korean-born children are girls, I figure you never know which countries will draft women in the future. Many adopted Koreans are now choosing to live in Korea as young adults, at least for a while, so I can easily see this issue arising.
Now, some of these adults adopted from Korea are pressing Korea to grant them dual citizenship. I wonder what they think of the draft requirement for Korean males—are they hoping to get an exemption, something for nothing?
Some young adults feel that Korea owes them something after having sent them away. Korea care well for its children. Babies and toddlers, at least, are in foster homes rather than orphanages. I think adoptees are owed medical records and the opportunity to make contact and correspond with their birth family if they wish, either directly or through an intermediary. I think the Korean agencies are correct that their role includes finding translators and interpreters as well as performing records searches.
But, I am not convinced that South Korea owes them citizenship. The agencies in South Korea were very diligent in finding the right adoptive families for each child.
Adam Pertman, Executive Director of the Evan B. Donaldson Adoption Institute, was quoted on television after the Russian child was sent back last month. He said,
“Adoption is not child rental.”
I couldn’t agree more. Sending countries have sometimes made a great show of “welcoming adoptees home” and touting the role they can play as a bridge between countries and cultures. I don’t think this is their role. Sending countries have not rented out their children anymore than adoptive parents rent children. There is full and complete transfer of sovereignty in adoption—to the adoptive parents and to their new country.
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