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More benefits for couples who adopt disabled children

A 50-year-old office worker, Jun Soon-geol, and his wife Shin Joo-ryeon, also 50, adopted two baby girls 11 years ago.

They soon discovered that the younger child, Ah-young, was suffering from cerebral palsy but have never regretted their decision.

“Government subsidies have helped a lot for raising our daughter. But we hope that more support is given for essential but expensive medical equipment like a wheelchair,” said the couple who also have a biological son, Hae-chan, 21.

The couple is among the few Koreans who adopt handicapped children, of whom more than 90 percent are sent abroad.

Along with the nation’s long emphasis on blood ties, the prejudice toward disabled people has made it difficult for the children to find a home in Korea.

As part of the plan to promote domestic adoption, the Ministry of Health and Welfare said Thursday that more benefits will be given to adoptive families of disabled children from this year.

Child care subsidies will be increased from the current 570,000 won to 627,000 won ($510 to $560) per month, while annual medical support will be raised from 2.52 million won to 2.6 million won.

Korea is still the fourth-largest “baby-exporting country” to the U.S. after China, Ethiopia and Rwanda, with nearly half the children adopted finding home abroad.

Of the 1,462 children adopted domestically last year, only 3.2 percent were children with a disability, the ministry said.

“Considering that 92.5 percent of handicapped children are sent abroad for adoption, I’ll try to offer more realistic help to the adoptive family,” said Health and Welfare Minister Chin Soo-hee when she visited an adoption agency in southern Seoul on Thursday.

Saying that 90 percent of adoptive children are born to single mothers, she also emphasized support measures for birth mothers to take care of the children themselves.

The ministry also plans to increase the amount of adoption commission given to related organizations, which had been paid by the adoptive family previously but has been supported by the government since 2007.

By Lee Ji-yoon (