Korean truth commission to investigate hundreds of possibly fraudulent overseas adoptions

18 May 2023

Another 237 cases will be looked into by the commission, which had already begun a probe into 34 cases in December 2022

The Truth and Reconciliation Commission of South Korea plans to investigate the adoption process in 237 cases between the 1960s and 1990s involving South Korean children suspected of having been adopted overseas under false pretenses.

This second decision to initiate an investigation comes after a prior one made in December of last year. Among those whose adoptions are being investigated is the US citizen William Vorhees, whose story was shared in a recent Hankyoreh report on fraudulent adoptions.

According to the Hankyoreh’s investigation on Tuesday, the commission plans to make a decision as early as June on initiating a second investigation for possible human rights violations and abuses of public authority in the overseas adoptions of 237 South Korean children.

Between August and December 2022, 372 applicants and the organization Danish Korean Rights Group (DKRG), which is the world’s largest Korean adoptee community, submitted investigation requests to the Truth and Reconciliation Commission, which made an initial decision in December to investigate 34 of those cases.

The cases selected for this investigation include those suspected of having been falsely identified as “orphans” or put up for adoption under another person’s identity.

With the decision to conduct a second round of investigation made, the total number of adoptees whose cases are being investigated is set to increase to 271, or 70% of the 372 applicants.

Vorhees, who was included in the second group of cases to be investigated after being left out of the first, told the Hankyoreh that he was very happy over the decision, adding that he looked forward to the investigation being an opportunity to better understand himself.

He also expressed his hope that the truth behind the adoptions can be brought to light and that adoptees can be reunited with their biological families.

In 1976, Vorhees was around 7 years old when he was abducted by an unidentified individual from a Daejeon market and adopted by a man in the US. He believes that his adoption documents were falsified in the process.

As it continues with its first round of investigations, the truth commission plans to conduct an examination next month in Denmark, the country with the largest number of applicants.

The commission plans to acquire additional materials before initiating investigations into applications not included in the first and second rounds.

By Kwak Jin-san, staff reporter