Origins of the Declaration

In May 2017, Eleana Kim and James Kyung-Jin Lee organized a one-day conference at University of California, Irvine (UCI): The Ends of Adoption: A Symposium on Transnational Korean Adoption, to consider the world’s longest and largest transnational adoption program, at a moment when the fundamental premises of adoption are being challenged by scholars, members of the adoption triad/constellation, adoptee and birthmother activists, and practitioners. During this symposium, Reverend Do Hyun Kim (KoRoot) highlighted that South Korea’s recent regime change, with the election of President Moon Jae-in, offered an opportune moment to draft an official call to end Korean adoption. Since then, deported Korean adoptee Phillip Clay’s death has compelled urgent conversation surrounding the ethics of the current system of Korean adoption, and the conversation at the UCI conference developed into a transnational coalition that connected with adoptee activists on-the-ground in Korea who have been working tirelessly and in direct communication with the Korean National Assembly.

The collaborative document reflects the writing of the activists, scholars, and practitioners in which the collective includes. Shannon Doona Bae (University of California, Irvine), Reverend Do Hyun Kim, Eleana Kim, Mette A.E. Kim-Larsen (University of Copenhagen), and James Kyung-Jin Lee drafted the earliest iteration of the document. This initial draft was the working document that resulted in the declaration. Thank you to Kelly Condit-Shrestha (University of Minnesota) and Eleana Kim for their leadership in stewarding this declaration to fruition. Thank you also to Joy Alessi (Adoptee Rights Campaign), Kristin R. Pak (Adoptee Solidarity Korea), tammy ko robinson (Korean Adoptee Researchers’ Memory Archive) for their advice and language regarding citizenship and deportation language. Thank you to all other members of the collective: Adoptee Rights Campaign, Tammy Chu Tolle (Adoptee Solidarity Korea), Kim Soo-bok Cimaschi (Koreani Adopttivi Italiani Organizzati), Hanna Sofia Jung Johansson (Swedish Korean Adoptees’ Network), Amie Kim (Adoption Naturalization Deportation Research Project), Hosu Kim (College of Staten Island, The City University of New York), Julayne Lee (Adoptee Rights Campaign), kimura byol-nathalie lemoine (Adoptee Cultural Archives), Kimberly McKee (Grand Valley State University), Simone Eun Mi (KoRoot), Lene Myong (University of Stavanger).

While there are many stakeholders in the current (and past) system of transnational Korean adoption, we hope you will keep in mind that the audience for the petition was the South Korean government. Please note that the authors of this document were also not in consensus regarding more specific politics pertaining to adoptee deportation and citizenship rights, but included language to these points, in order to call attention to these urgent matters. It is our hope that different stakeholders will be more directly involved in follow-up conversations with the Korean government.

For those interested in learning more about Korean adoption we refer to the vast body of critical knowledge initiated by scholars, activists, artists and organizations affiliated with or allies to the Korean adoptee diaspora.

Adoptees and allies on their way to submit the declaration on July 12, 2017. The banner reads: “On July 12, 2017 overseas adoptees together with civil groups: Moon Jae In immediately stop overseas adoption.” Photo Credit: Kim Jongyoung