2017-06-05 18:31 Korean adoptee finding families for more children

Susan Soon-keum Cox, right, poses with other Korean adoptees in front of a “baby box” in Seoul where unwanted babies are given up for adoption. / Courtesy of Susan Soon-keum Cox

By You Soo-sun

A Korean adoptee wants to make international adoption a more viable option for orphans.


Every year, Susan Soon-keum Cox visits Korea to change negative perspectives about the adoption practice and push policymakers to ease regulations that make the work of adoption agencies extremely difficult.

A couple from Oregon adopted Cox in 1956. She was among the first Koreans to be adopted abroad and grew up as the only Korean and adoptee in her community. She found her birth parents in 1993 with the support of her adoptive mother who raised her. To her, international adoption was what gave her a loving family.

“International adoption is not about placing children from one country to another,” she said. “It’s about giving them a family.”

As vice president of policy at Holt International, a leading international adoption agency in America, Cox is well aware of the arguments against international adoption. But she believes it is better for a child to find a family abroad than to stay in an institution, which is the case of most adoptees in Korea.

“I know there are negative perspectives on international adoption, but if it is the only possibility, then it is a priority over institution,” she said.

While the number of children in institutions has risen, that of adoptions have declined ? domestically and internationally, Cox said. This means most children grow up without having a family. Cox hopes to see this changed.

One major policy barrier of international adoption is that unregistered children are forbidden to be adopted abroad. Biological parents often choose not to sign the registry when giving away the baby, fearing it would be revealed to their employers or other family members.

Domestically, cultural barriers against adoption remain strong.

“Koreans don’t really see adoption as something they are willing to do,” Cox said. “It doesn’t have to do with prosperity ? it has to do with culture. I hope it will change.”

The main motivation for Cox’s advocacy work is clear ? finding families for children, even if it means going to a different country.

“Every time I visit Korea, I meet people around my age, in their 50s and 60s,” she said. “They are now adults with gray hair, who never had the benefit of a family, even now.

“And I think about how different our lives have been ? not because I lived in the U.S., but because I grew up with a family and they did not.”