Flemish goes to court in Seoul: 'South Korea lied about our adoption'

14 September 2021

Nearly three hundred Korean adoptees abroad, including eleven from Belgium, are going to court in Seoul. They are suing that their adoption was fraudulently committed.

Sixteen years ago, Yung Fierens (46) met her first parents, two sisters and a brother, while visiting South Korea. 'I knocked on the door of the adoption service and was shown my original file,' she says. 'It contained all the information about my origin. Surprising, because my adoption file in Belgium didn't contain them.'

Later, when she requested a copy, Fierens was lied to that the original file did not exist. 'I was one of the first to search. Last month I was in Seoul again, this time with a friend who wants to find her first mother. We're sure the Korean government kept that record, it did in almost all cases. But she doesn't want to release them anymore. She let almost all the children leave under the guise of being orphaned or abandoned.'

'Accidentally discovered that there are also images of our suffering'

Nearly 300 Korean adoptees from around the world yesterday filed a complaint with the Seoul Reconciliation and Truth Commission over past fraudulent adoption practices. Among them also Fierens and ten other Belgians. The initiative comes from Danish fellow sufferers.

'Denmark has proportionally the largest number of Korean adoptees', says Fierens. 'There are nine thousand living there, out of a population of five million. In Belgium, with 3,600, we are the second largest group after those adopted from India. Worldwide, we are the largest group with 200,000 to 250,000 adoptees. On Monday, our indictment was big news in Seoul.'

"The Korean government let almost all children leave under the guise that they were orphans or abandoned"

Yung Fierens

The question to the conciliation committee is to open up the original files, or 'shadow files'. 'It's about our identity, about who we really are', says Fierens. The verdict is expected in two months. On Monday, the Danish-Korean delegation also announced that it will collectively go to court in Seoul to denounce the adoption fraud.


The plaintiffs also question the current adoption practices from South Korea: 300 to 400 children still go abroad every year. Many of them move to American families. 'Belgian adoption services no longer work with South Korea, but the US, Canada, the Scandinavian countries, Luxembourg and Australia still do. Under the impulse of Christian-evangelical organizations from the US, foundling drawers have now even been set up. Unacceptable, because South Korea is the tenth largest economy in the world. The quality of life is so much better than, for example, in Italy. And the birth rate is very low there.'

Fierens recently discovered two old documentaries that the Humanist Association once made about adoptions from Korea. This shows that people already knew about the misappropriation of origin information, says Fierens. The documentaries will soon be shown in Bruges.

Correction September 14: An earlier version stated that South Korea is the only OECD country that still allows children to leave for adoption abroad. That is not correct, Hungary and Portugal are also allowing children to leave.