A Korean-Australian woman has found out that she was the subject of an illegal adoption in which her parents were tricked into giving her up, Australia’s Special Broadcasting Service reported last Tuesday.
The 24-year-old “Emily Will,” whose real name was withheld to protect her privacy, said the search for her biological parents revealed the shocking truth that she had been wrongly declared dead at birth and was taken away by a midwife who sought adoption fees.
When Will was born in 1988 in a small maternity home in Geoje, South Gyeongsang Province, her biological parents were told that the baby was stillborn. They mistakenly signed papers that would thereby forfeit their custody to the baby.
While Will was being brought up by her new parents, she was told that her biological parents gave her up because they were unmarried, which was frowned upon in traditional Korean society.
But when she became a mother herself, Will grew concerned about her medical history, fearing that she might pass on some unknown genetic disease to her children.
After searching for her biological parents for three years, she was finally reunited with them last year at her adoption agency, Eastern Social Welfare Society.
The reunion came with a stunning revelation that her parents were a happily married couple and the adoption had been falsified.
“Why would someone do that?” she asked. “Her decision changed my life.”
She said her biological parents and adoptive parents alike were dumbfounded upon hearing the news.
“My birth mother can’t really talk about it without crying. My adoptive parents are just shattered,” she said.
Will has requested that the Australian Attorney General department investigate her case, but the spokesperson from the department said it will face limitations in probing an inter-country adoption case that took place in the 1980s.
The illegal adoption is believed to have been motivated by a huge sum of money.
Jane Jeong Trenka, the president of Truth and Reconciliation for the Adoption Community, said in an interview with SBS that the scale of inter-country adoptions is so big that it is “in fact, an industry.” She pointed out that while Korea has a very developed adoption system, the country’s domestic social welfare system is nearly non-existent.
According to recent data by Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development, Korea ranks at the very bottom of public spending on family benefits among OECD countries.
The poor government subsidies coupled with rampant international adoption has earned Korea a reputation as a “baby-exporting country.”
Will said that adoption should not be regarded as an industry.
“We’re (adoptees) human beings. We’re not products. We’re not for sale. You can’t put a price on a human life,” she said.
By Yoon Min-sik and news reports
<관련 한글 기사>
“아기 죽었다”고 속여서 부모와 생이별시켜
호주 TV가 이른바 '영아 매매'를 통해 입양된 한국계 호주 여성의 기구한 사연을 소개했다.
호주의 민영방송사 SBS는 지난 18일 경남 거제시의 한 조산원에서 태어나 호주로 입양된 한국계 호주 여성 에밀리 윌(가명•24)의 이야기를 보도했다.
SBS에 따르면 1988년 윌이 태어났을 때 조산원 측은 돈을 벌기 위해 '출산 중 아기가 죽었다'고 부모에게 거짓말을 한 뒤 입양 수수료를 받고 호주로 입양시켰다.
윌은 이 같은 사실을 전혀 모른 채 양부모 밑에서 자라다가 최근 결혼해 딸을 출산하면서 자신의 '뿌리'를 찾고 싶은 생각이 들어 자신의 입양 과정과 친부모의 존재를 파헤치기 시작했다.
이 과정에서 윌은 자신이 출산 도중 죽은 것처럼 위장돼 호주로 강제입양됐다는 사실을 알게 됐고 거제까지 찾아가 만나게 된 친부모 역시 윌이 출산 과정에서 죽은 줄로만 알고 있었다는 사실을 전해듣고 큰 충격을 받았다.
윌은 "모든 것이 조산원 측에서 돈을 벌기 위해 벌인 일이었다"며 "나의 인생은 어떻게 보상받아야 하느냐"고 흐느꼈다.
죽은 줄로만 알았던 딸과 24년만에 만난 친부모는 아무 말도 못하고 울기만 했고 윌도 친부모와 대면한 순간 머릿속이 텅 비는 듯한 느낌이었다고 말했다.
윌은 뒤늦게 자신의 강제입양 사실을 호주 법무부에 신고했고 법무부는 조사에 착수했지만 너무 오래 전 일인 데다 조산원 측 담당자들이 대부분 바뀐 상태여서 조 사에 어려움을 겪고 있다.
호주 법무부 대변인은 "윌의 경우와 같은 사례가 호주에서 신고된 것은 이번이 처음"이라며 "호주 정부로서는 입양 상대국에 영아 강제매매와 같은 사례가 없게 해 달라고 요청하고 있지만 한계가 있다"고 말했다.
한국은 수많은 고아를 양산했던 한국전쟁 이후 호주로 입양아를 수출하는 주요국 중 하나였지만 2006년 이후 그 숫자가 급격히 줄었다고 SBS는 전했다.