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Korean adoptees in Canada visit homeland

About 30 Korean children adopted by Canadian parents are visiting Korea for two weeks to learn about Korean culture and history, according to Korean Canadian Children’s Association.

The children, who arrived in Seoul on Sunday, are to visit some of the most famous tourist spots in the country with their adoptive parents, including the Demilitarized Zone, Bulguksa Temple in Gyeongju, Jagalchi Fish Market in Busan, and scenic beaches on Jejudo Island.

According to the Korean Canadian Children’s Association, a non-profit organization that supports Canadian adoptive families with Korean children, there are about 3,000 Korean-born children adopted to parents in Canada. An average of 100 Korean children are adopted to Canada every year, according to the organization.

Among those who applied for the visitation program, the priority was given to families who have never returned to Korea since the adoption of their children.

“There are many children who were adopted shortly after they were born, so they have no memories of Korea,” Kang Dae-ha, the president of organization, was quoted as saying. “We hope this visit will give the children’s parents an opportunity to show their kids what Korean culture is like.”

Aside from visiting the famous sites nationwide, the children and family will be given an opportunity to learn about Korean food and how to cook it, and attend a K-pop concert. They are also scheduled to visit Samsung Electronics’ Suwon Digital City and Hyundai Motor Company’s factory in Ulsan.

South Korea has the world’s oldest overseas adoption program, having sent some 220,000 children abroad since the end of the Korean War (1950-1953). In 2010, the country accounted for 13 percent of all overseas adoptions worldwide.

Although overseas adoptions were a way for children to escape poverty in war-torn Korea in the 1950s, the majority of today’s adoptees are from unwed mothers, who are often forced to give up their child as out-of-wedlock pregnancy is severely stigmatized in the country. According to the Ministry of Health and Welfare, 90 percent of adoptees in 2012 were from single mothers.

Founded in 1991, the Korean Canadian Children’s Association has been offering programs for Canadian adoptive families with Korean children, such as taekwondo lessons, scholarships for adoptees, and Korean language and cooking classes.

By Claire Lee (