Report the adoption to the police

19 May 2023

FOUND PARENTS: According to her adoption papers, Uma Feed was abandoned on the streets by her biological parents. Now she has come into contact with her biological mother, who tells a completely different story.


Several adoptees from South Korea, who are listed as orphans in the adoption papers, have discovered that they were adopted against their parents' will.

South Korea's Truth and Reconciliation Commission (TRC) investigates the cases of people who have been adopted to, among others, Norway, Denmark and the Netherlands from the 1960s to the early 1990s, as of today 334 cases.

There are approximately 6,500 adoptees from South Korea in Norway.

Uma Feed was born in South Korea in 1982, and was adopted by a Norwegian couple when she was five months old. The adoption papers state that she was found abandoned on the street, and that the parents are unknown.

When she was in South Korea at the end of April, she provided a DNA sample to South Korean authorities, who have launched a major process to reunite foreign adoptees with their biological family.

A couple of weeks later, she received a phone call from South Korea. The sample showed a 99.9 percent match with one woman and one man.

- I found out that this is my mother and father. They had been looking for me since I disappeared, says Uma Feed.

Given away by grandmother

Feed is an artist and spokesperson for the Norwegian Korean Rights Group, which works to investigate adoptions abroad. She provided the DNA sample mostly out of principle.

Now she has examined her own adoption papers and found that the last name she is listed with, Um, does not exist. The street she is supposed to have been found in does not exist. Now she knows that her last name is really Son. According to her biological mother, with whom she is now in contact, her parents would never give her away.

- I was taken by my grandmother, who gave me away. My mother was unaware of it, says Feed.

In a letter she received from her biological mother, which Klassekampen has seen, her mother says that she had Feed and her older brother 11 months apart. Because the parents were teenagers and poor, it was the father's parents who took care of Feed's older brother, until the couple got married. When the mother got tuberculosis, it was the grandmother who took care of Feed. Mora claims she gave Feed away because she reacted strongly to her daughter's extramarital affairs.

Ten days after giving away the baby, the grandmother dies of a heart attack, and according to the letter, the young parents never manage to find out where Feed has become.

- At the time, there were a lot of agents for orphanages and adoption agencies who were out looking for children. The demand was greater than there were actually children to adopt, says Feed.

Melancholy victory

Last weekend VG told the stories of seven adoptees from South Korea. They are similar to the story of Uma Feed. All were listed as orphans, or of unknown origin, in the adoption documents that accompanied them to Norway. In adulthood, they have found out that their biological parents never approved the adoption. Several say they have been looking for their children for years.

The South Korean adoption agency Holt Children's Service began as early as 1955 with the adoption of orphaned children after the Korean War. It is assumed that more than 200,000 children have been adopted from South Korea to Western countries. According to VG, around 6,500 South Korean children have been adopted to Norway.

A number of children who were adopted from South Korea in the period 1970 to 1990 have made strong accusations against Holt and the South Korean state for systematically falsifying and covering up the children's backgrounds. This has resulted in South Korea now establishing a reconciliation and truth commission which investigates a number of adoption cases, including Norwegian ones.

PHOTO: Adrian Øhrn Johansen

Klassekampen interviewed Feed about this commission when it was launched last December. Then Feed said that she did not have high expectations of what this could mean for her own case. On the other hand, she expected that foreign adoptees as a group would be able to hold both South Korea and their own governments accountable for any human rights violations.

- What do you think now that you have learned the truth about your own case?

- It is a melancholic victory, says Feed.

She adds that there is a lot to take in, and that it is an enormous existential grief that, after forty years, suddenly has to be processed.

- It is also a shock to finally get proof that I have actually been kidnapped and trafficked, says Feed.

Went to the police

In Norway, the organization Verdens Barn mediates adoptions from South Korea. In an interview with VG on Saturday, general manager Young K. Kim admitted that it has been common to omit the names of single mothers in the adoption documents. According to Kim, it must have been because they wanted to spare them the stigma of having a child out of wedlock.

In VG's cases it also emerges that the Ministry of Children and Families was already aware in 2002 of systematic and deliberate misinformation in adoption papers from South Korea. Feed reacts strongly to this.

- I have now reported Verdens Barn and the Norwegian state to the Ministry of Children and Families for forgery of documents, human trafficking and violations of human rights and the Convention on the Rights of the Child, she says.

VG mentioned the review yesterday. On Facebook, Feed encourages others with the same story to follow her example.

Klasskampen has contacted Young K. Kim, general manager of Verdens Barn, but he does not want to comment on the matter.

Asking Norway to clean up

Feed has also contacted the people most responsible for foreign adoptions in Norway: the Directorate of Children and Families and the Ministry of Children and Families under Minister Kjersti Toppe (Sp).

To Toppe, she writes in an e-mail that she has proof that her adoption is illegal, and asks that it be annulled. She demands new identity papers with the correct date of birth and name, as well as financial support for her return journey and arrangements for reunification with her biological family.

Feed demands that Norway halt adoptions with immediate effect. This year alone, Norway has received eight adopted children via Verdens Barn from South Korea.

- South Korea is the world's tenth largest economy, which is struggling with low birth rates, even more than Norway in fact. When adopting from South Korea, it is not because there are many poor or orphaned children who are left on the streets. You can no longer say that if you stop the adoption, these mothers or these children will suffer, says Feed.

She asks Norway to clean up.

- Norway has had plenty of time to investigate whether everything has gone right, but Norway has not done that yet. It doesn't work, and there must be consequences.

Kjersti Toppe: "Shaking"

Minister for Children and Families Kjersti Toppe did not have the opportunity to be interviewed, but writes in an email that the Ministry of Children and Families is not aware of Feed's report other than through Klassekampen, but that they are taking it into account.

Toppe calls what Feed has found out about own adoption "serious and shocking".

"I fully understand her reactions and that she is now making demands," Toppe writes. She confirms that the inquiry from Uma Feed has recently been received, and that she has received a preliminary reply. The matter is followed up further in the ministry.

After VG's case that the ministry has known for several years that South Korean adoption practices violated Norwegian law, Toppe called it "an unforgivable practice". She has promised that an investigation will be launched in the autumn, and is now writing to Klassekampen that the appointment of an external, public committee and the mandate for this work will soon be completed.

"There have been several cases in the media over the past six months, which show that an external investigation of adoptions abroad is absolutely necessary. The previous government thought it was not necessary, I think it is very necessary, and am happy that it will happen externally. South Korea will be one of the individual countries that will be included in the investigation," Toppe writes.

- Do you want to introduce a temporary halt in foreign adoptions until the investigation is finished?

"The investigation is extensive and will take place under external auspices, and will include adoptions not only from South Korea. I have not been advised to stop foreign adoptions until now. If the external investigation receives information that can speak for it, or if new information about the adoption system comes to light today, it will be reassessed," writes the minister.

She emphasizes that regulations and practice today are stricter than before, and that Bufdir has not notified the ministry of concerns about today's adoptions.

- Will you support Korean adoptees who want to travel to South Korea and take a DNA test, and help with the work being done there with the truth commission?

" South Korea is now starting an investigation, and South Korea is the closest to investigating regulations, practices and illegalities in the country. I am aware that many adoptees have not received or are receiving the follow-up they need. In the state budget for 2023, the government has prioritized funds for assistance for A better post-adoption offer , this includes a strengthened service for assistance in searching for biological origin," Toppe writes.