Mother begged the Norwegian authorities: "Please help me"
25 May 2023

She fainted from shock when she learned that her son had been adopted to Norway, the South Korean woman wrote to the Ministry of Children and Families. When she did not get an answer, she traveled to Norway.

It was in 2005 that the woman wrote an email to the ministry:

"Please let me - a poor woman living in a life full of tears and regrets - live."

In the email, the 45-year-old woman told how she was forced to divorce her husband.

She thought she was doing the best for her son, by letting him live with his biological father and his family, she writes.

Being a single mother in South Korea is difficult.

But when, many years later, the woman sought out the village to see her son again, he was not there. A neighbor said that the son had been adopted abroad.

It came like lightning from the blue, she says in the letter.

She fainted from the shock, writes the woman.

- Very, very serious

VG has exposed illegal adoptions in a number of articles.

Seven adoptees from South Korea are among those who have shared their stories.

In adulthood, they learned that their biological parents never approved the adoption - and had been looking for them for years.

- It is very, very serious , said Minister for Children and Families Kjersti Toppe about what came to light.

According to the Hague Convention to which Norway has committed itself, all adoptions must be voluntary.

Adoptions from South Korea to Norway will now be scrutinized.

"I hope to see my son (...), the woman wrote in the e-mail to the Ministry of Children and Families in 2005.

She had then been to the adoption agency Holt Children's Services in South Korea and received the adoption number for her son.

The woman also wrote an e-mail to the Norwegian adoption association Verdens Barn.

VG has been given access to all the documents in the case.

They show how the woman struggled for several years to get in touch with her son and adoptive parents.

She also traveled to Norway and asked for help.

But none of the documents show that the Ministry of Children and Families or Bufdir investigated how the son could have been adopted to Norway.

- They should have done that, says Kirsten Sandberg.

She is a professor of children's law at the University of Oslo and has chaired the UN Children's Committee.

- I understand very well that this case was not easy for the authorities. But here the ministry and Bufdir receive a serious warning. This could be an illegal adoption. Thus, it should have been investigated how this adoption had gone about, says Sandberg.


In the e-mail to the ministry, the woman wrote that she wanted to meet her son and the adoptive parents. She wanted to express her gratitude to those who had cared for him all these years.

"Please make way for me," she begged.

The ministry forwarded her email to Bufdir – and asked them to respond.

But none of the documents VG has seen show that Bufdir answered the woman.

Still, she didn't give up hope.

"The loss is enormous"

First, the woman turned up at the Norwegian embassy in Seoul. So, she traveled to Norway.

Together with her sister and an interpreter, the woman turned up unannounced at Bufdir in Oslo. She had with her the email she had sent a year earlier, but to which she had not received a reply.

In the minutes of the meeting that Bufdir writes, it says:

"She seemed very distressed."

But Bufdir cannot help her. It is explained to her that it is against Norwegian law to contact her son and the adoptive parents.

The woman still does not give up.

Back in South Korea, she wrote to Bufdir that she respects Norwegian laws. Nevertheless, she encloses a letter to her son that she asks him to have.

"I want to hear from my son, the loss is enormous."

Three months later, Bufdir responds.

Last contact

In the letter, the woman is assured that the letter has been included with her son's adoption documents.

If he wishes, he can see these after he turns 18.

This is the last contact between the woman and the Norwegian authorities, according to the documents VG has seen.

Today, department director in Bufdir, Kristin Ugstad Steinrem, comments on the matter as follows:

- Unfortunately, it took too long before the inquiry in this case was answered in writing, without it being possible for us so long afterwards to give any further explanation as to why it happened. Due to confidentiality, we are not allowed to go into more detail about the facts in this particular case, she says.

VG does not know whether the son, who is now over 18, has seen the woman's letter.

Or if he has met his biological mother.

To VG's question about why Bufdir did not investigate whether the woman notified of a possible illegal adoption, Ugstad Steinrem answers the following:

- The mother's primary wish was to establish contact with her son. The case was dealt with based on this and in line with the practice then in force.

- Not familiar with the matter

VG has contacted the Ministry of Children and Families, which states that it is Bufdir that has the overall responsibility for ensuring satisfactory case management and thus should handle the woman's inquiry.

When asked why they did not investigate the notice to the South Korean woman, communications manager Line Torvik replies:

- On a general basis, the ministry expects Bufdir to handle inquiries they receive in a responsible manner.

The association Verdens Barn says that no one who works in the association today is aware of this case and points out that it is Bufdir who is responsible for such inquiries.

In 2018, the law was changed so that adoptees who have reached the age of 18 are notified if there are inquiries from the biological family.