[Newsmaker] Adoptee readies for legal fight to be recognized as daughter of Korean father

1 July 2022

The life story of Eva Yoo Ri Brussaard, a Korean adoptee in the Netherlands, is heartbreaking, yet it is sadly familiar.

At age 2, she was abandoned by her biological father and was sent oversea with her blind sister to be adopted by a Dutch couple. The couple got divorced only three years later, her sister was sent to an orphanage, and she stayed with the Dutch mother, only to live in neglect.

“I always dreamt about my (birth) parents and thought that I could have a better life in Korea,” said Brussaard.

Like many adoptees did, she grew up with a feeling of being abandoned. “You feel insecure. You don’t feel connected to the world in some ways,” she said.

Now 42, Brussaard is in Seoul preparing for a legal fight to be recognized as the daughter of her birth father.

It is a journey to find her identity -- “an anchor” in life that she has never had, the Dutch national said in an interview with The Korea Herald.

Korea, in the aftermath of the devastating 1950-53 Korean War, started sending orphans for international adoptions and earned the disgrace of being titled “the world’s top orphan exporter.”

According to the Ministry of Health and Welfare, a total of 168,285 Korean children were adopted internationally between 1958 and 2021. Of the 415 children who were adopted last year, 189 adoptees were sent overseas.

“South Korea is a beautiful country which I am happy about. It feels more and more like home. But deep down in this country’s DNA, there’s a toxic tendency to look away and not accept the shameful things such as unwanted pregnancies and illegitimate children,” Brussaard said.

“My biological father cheated on my mom. Because of his new wife, my father took me and my sister from my mother and sent us overseas without the consent of my mother,” she said.

Brussaard is a single mother of an 18-year-old son. In 2018, she established a non-profit organization, Single SuperMom Foundation, with a vision of supporting mothers to “be strong enough to raise and keep their own children.”

“An adoption is not about just a moment. Adoption is a trauma that lasts for a lifetime,” she said.

Compared to many adoptees who struggle to find their birth parents, she is lucky to have found them 20 years ago. Both of them had their new partners and children. Even though Brussaard and her birth mother have been visiting each other in Seoul and Amsterdam, she wasn’t feeling belonged to either of the parents, she said.

Then in June 2020, a landmark ruling came out in Seoul, acknowledging an adoptee’s legal rights to be recognized as the child of their biological parents.

Emboldened by the Kara Bos case, Brussaard arrived in Seoul on June 21, determined to find a way to get her name onto the family registry of her birth father, who is now 76 years old.

She has since been having meetings with lawyers and the family members of both parents’ sides to ask them for cooperation in the legal process.

It looks like it’s going to be a long journey, she said.

Even though her father, who currently has Parkinson’s disease, agrees to the idea, his family opposes it. There are, of course, lengthy legal processes and language barriers.

If she wins the case, she will be entitled to split the father’s inheritance with her other siblings.