Seoul to ratify Hague Adoption Convention as early as 2025

Posted on : 2023-04-14 16:54 KST Modified on : 2023-04-14 16:54 KST
S. Korea to shutter private adoption system in favor of government oversight in hopes of shedding its reputation as an “exporter” of children
Graphic by PixaBay
Graphic by PixaBay

South Korea is expected to ratify the Hague Adoption Convention as early as 2025. The ratification would guarantee, to the greatest extent possible, the right of children born in South Korea to grow up in their original families and force the state to take responsibility in the case of inevitable overseas adoptions.

Although South Korea signed the convention 10 years ago, it has been putting off establishing the necessary systems and amending laws needed in order for the convention, known officially as the Hague Convention on Protection of Children and Co-operation in Respect of Intercountry Adoption, to be properly implemented.

Adequate implementation would result in the state or local governments taking charge of selecting and protecting children up for adoption, screening prospective adoptive parents, and post-adoption management work.

Until now, these tasks have been largely entrusted to the private sector. The National Assembly has also been unable to finalize the ratification of the convention. If ratified, however, the convention would have the same effect as domestic law.

On Thursday, the government held the 17th Child Policy Coordination Committee meeting presided over by Prime Minister Han Duck-soo. At the meeting, officials discussed and determined the direction of the Yoon Suk-yeol government’s policies concerning children.

“We expect that the laws [necessary to implement the Hague Adoption Convention] will pass the plenary session of the National Assembly within the first half of this year,” an official from the Ministry of Health and Welfare said.

“If we prepare a system in line with the implementation of the laws, we will be able to ratify the agreement in two years,” the official explained.

On Dec. 9, 2022, the National Assembly’s Health and Welfare Committee proposed a bill related to international adoption, a revision to the Act on Special Cases Concerning Adoption, and a revision to the Child Welfare Act to prepare an adoption system for domestic and overseas adoptions that meet the requirements stated in the Hague Adoption Convention.

Subsequently, an agreement between the ruling and opposition parties on the three bills was prepared and submitted to the Legislation and Judiciary Committee.

As such, an alternative was presented at the level of the Health and Welfare Committee as the ruling and opposition parties were able to narrow their differences in opinion.

“There was a different view raised by the National Court Administration at the Legislation and Judiciary Committee, but, as of now, we have almost reached an agreement,” an official from Democratic Party lawmaker Nam In-soon’s office said. “We expect [the bills] to pass the Legislation and Judiciary Committee in the course of this month, at the earliest,” the official added.

In order to ratify the convention, the government has decided to reorganize the adoption system to enable public organizations to select and safeguard children up for adoption and to check the suitability of adoptive parents, tasks which are currently headed by private adoption agencies.

The plan is to create a child-centered adoption system where experts decide which adoptive parents are chosen, as is the norm in other developed countries.

There has long been criticism that adoption in South Korea is not based on the rights and interests of children in need of protection, but is instead centered on the preferences of adoptive parents.

According to the Hague Adoption Convention, international adoption is a last resort to protect children\'s rights and interests when the original family is unable to do so and domestic adoption is not possible. In other words, it is necessary to establish a system at the national level that protects children and helps ensure, to the greatest extent possible, that a child can grow up in their original families before being put up for adoption.

While South Korea has earned the label of “child exporting country” in the international community, the number of international adoptions of Korean children is expected to significantly decrease with the introduction of a properly functioning national child protection system along with the ratification of the Hague Adoption Convention.

Such steps are all the more necessary considering that, despite the extremely low birth rate, 189 children born in South Korea were adopted abroad in 2021.

The government has also moved to promote a better registration system for children born in the country, following similar plans proposed under the previous government.

The new system would notify the authorities of cities, counties, and towns of information related to children born in local hospitals while also assigning birth registration numbers to immigrant and other foreign national children born in the country to ensure there are no children without official records.

By Kim Yoon-ju, staff reporter; Park Hyun-jung, staff reporter; Cheon Ho-sung, staff reporter

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