Family Helper > Post-adoption > Korea info

Korea: Online Adoption Info

By Jennifer Smart

An online source of information for adoptive families who have adopted from Korea, including Korean culture, homeland tour (see below), interesting related Internet links.

Feb. 18, 1997: Canadian-Korean adoptions remain closed-- Korea remains closed for Canadians wishing to adopt Korean children. Negotiations between the National Adoption Desk and the Social Welfare Society in Seoul continue.

Korean bronze statue to help raise funds

By Linda Inkster,
The Korean adoption agency, the Social Welfare Society, is planning to build a guest house/hotel where adopted people and their families can stay while visiting SWS. It will be located in KangNam-Ku, Seoul. The seven-floor building will take 1-1/2 years to build, at a cost of US$1.7 million.

We are helping to raise funds to build the SWS guest house by selling bronze statues by the famous sculptor Chang Hwan Suh, for US$100.

The statue depicts a mother dressed in the Korean traditional costume, the han bok, and a child. I have several of these statues available. Please support this effort -- call me at 613-837-3532 or send e-mail to

SWS provides adoption services, family relief services and a sponsorship program. Its post-adoption service meets the needs of all members of the adoption triangle and helps adoptees develop into wholesome adults. The post-adoption service, charged on an hourly basis, includes translation and delivery of letters, exchange of updated information, arranging reunions and gathering background information. Social Welfare Society, 718-35, Yeoksam-dong, Kangnam-ku, Seoul, Korea (130-080), 567-8891.

In December 1996 Reverend Myung Woo Kim visited families in Ottawa with Korean children, many of whom belong to our support group, the Open Door Society of Ottawa. He is director of Social Welfare Society (SWS), the child welfare agency set up by the Korean government in 1954. His visit went very well.

The Korean adoption program with Canada is currently closed, and the government of Korea is not anxious to re-open it because it wishes to limit the number of international adoptions. Two babies were placed with Montreal-area families in the fall of 1996 through the Quebec agency Enfants d'Orient, but Rev. Kim worked very hard to make that possible.
--Lynda Inkster (Open Door Society support group, Box 9141, Stn. T, Ottawa, Ont. K1G 3T8, 613-837-3352,

Korean Homeland Tour, June 28 - July 9, 1992

"Homeland tour" a great experience

By Jennifer Smart

On June 28, 1992, we flew from Toronto to Seoul, Korea on a Homeland Tour designed to give us an understanding of Korean culture and an incredible opportunity to meet Korean families who had offered to billet us in their homes for a couple days. I would like to share some of our insights with other adoptive families who might be contemplating such a homeland tour.

Our tour was organized by Donna Wolsey, founder of Canadopt in London, Ont. -- she had organized a similar homeland trip to Bangladesh several years ago. We had a large group: 84 people including 31 families with 36 children ranging in age from 4 to 27 -- our son Ben was the four-year-old. Most of the children were 8 to 12.

I had been over to Korea once, to bring Ben home, and had not seen much of the country. My husband Sam had never been there and had planned to go for the second adoption, which didn't happen since Korea closed -- then Sarah miraculously arrived from Ontario. We had a lot of questions about Korean culture and were curious about the country, and so, with a chance to see Korea with families like ourselves, we signed up!

We had about four months to prepare for the trip and used this time to learn more of the language from our Korean friends. We got to know the other Korean families in town; in fact, sharing the anticipation of the trip, having our friends help us prepare and then sharing the experience when we got back has been very special. The trip has not been an isolated event and will be a part of our growing friendships at home with our Korean-Canadian neighbours.

We were also fortunate to attend a Korean Culture Day put on for us by the Korean Community in Toronto. Learning about the food, music, traditional dress and some basic language was a great help in understanding what we were seeing when we were in Korea. Our group had learned a well known and sentimental Korean folk song called Airirang. We sang it in Korean as a thank you at the many receptions given to us.

Arriving at Seoul airport we were met by a group of children singing to us, representing the Social Welfare Society (the agency which placed Korean children with Canadian families), Canadian Embassy officials and the Jaycees (the group in Seoul which gave us two tour buses and guided us through the country). We were all exhausted by the time change (13 hours) and were glad to head off to bed.

The first day we toured the city and attended a welcoming banquet where we had our first taste of Korean food. The next day we visited the National Cemetery, drove down to Pusan and saw the famous beach, and then were taken to the youth hostel for another reception. We were given traditional hanboks for the children, beautiful lacquer music boxes (which coincidentally played Airirang!) and lovely fans. This was so touching as none of us had expected so many gifts. It was at this point I wanted to say that I had received the greatest gift of all when I was given the chance to love and parent my son. We saw the trip as a thank you to Korea, a chance for them to see just how much our kids are loved and just how well they are doing.

The following day we visited an orphanage where three of the children on the trip had lived. This was an emotional time for those families as well as making us think about the many children who had lived there. This orphanage now cares for 81 handicapped children. That night we stayed in a family-style hotel where they had ondol floors in the bedroom area. These are heated floors on which you sleep without the comfort of a bed!

On our return to Seoul we stayed with Korean families who had volunteered to be our hosts for two days. They were members of the Worldwide Marriage Encounter (Korea) and were very loving and generous people. This was a highlight of the trip and for many families a chance to make lasting friendships with Korean families. For some of the older adoptees it also proved to be a special connection with Korea that they had hoped and longed for because of the impossibility of finding birthfamily members. Donna had wanted us to have this chance to meet people and not just sightsee. It was extremely important to us all and highly successful. Each family had a different story to tell as we gathered at the Cathedral two days later for a church service in our honour and another reception.

Our busy schedule included tours of the Pohang steel plant, a historic museum in Kyongju, sunrise on a mountaintop, and the border between North and South Korea. We visited the Korean Folk Village, where life from the past is depicted by people in traditional costumes and the buildings are replicas of old styles. The group got to see the wedding ceremony, the Farmer's dance with loud drumming and interesting hats and headpieces with whirling streamers and eat at the "Market Place" (where I managed my only glass of rice wine!).

The Social Welfare Society (SWS) hosted the group for two days and helped the families meet foster mothers, understand adoption in Korea and visit a foster home. SWS arranged visits for families to the places where their children were found or had lived. SWS placed 1,400 children with Canadian families; only 30 had been back to Korea and had contacted them.

I was very impressed with their progressive beliefs about adoption. They now have the birthmothers prepare a letter for the birthchild (as is done regularly in Ontario) and they do have open adoptions in Korea. They gave us copies of two of these letters to show our children when they ask. SWS will work with adoptees and birthparents on reunions although they said it takes a lot of time to prepare each person. We all came to understand more about the culture and why the children came in need of adoption. It was good to know they are ready to help us if and when we need more information or support. We will never forget the warmth and friendliness of the Korean people we met.

Was it worth taking a four-year-old on a homeland tour? You bet! I have a son who experienced loving and caring Korean people, saw firsthand what Korea is all about and who now wants to learn more Korean for his next trip. He can tell others about his trip to Korea and has many souvenirs to remind him of the friends he made and the place he was born. Most importantly, he is really proud to be Korean -- it doesn't appear to be confusing to him and he has the confidence and knowledge to answer some of the questions asked of him. As well, we have had many of our wonderings clarified and are much better able to provide him with the support he needs.

Above all we had a great time and are planning a return trip with Sarah too! (Ben's stipulation.) Next time we'll take it slower, see some of the countryside, coastline and mountains, and research more of Ben's personal history. I know my music box is working on my heart making me want to visit Korea once more ... I can hardly wait!

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Updated July 12, 2006

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