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Our origins, our rights

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The need for a special investigation into Korean intercountry adoption 

A number of countries have recently undertaken special investigations into adoption abuses.

In December 2020, the Swiss Government acknowledged and recognized its role in failing to prevent the illegal adoptions of Sri Lanka children who had been either stolen or sold before arriving in Switzerland. The Government expressed its intention to conduct a broader analysis into past illegal adoptions in Switzerland.

In January 2021, the Irish Commission of Investigation into Mother and Baby Homes concluded its six-year investigation into maternity homes and found that widespread abuses led to the forced separation of babies from their mothers, coerced adoption, and the deaths of 9,000 children over several decades.

In February 2021, the Committee Investigating Intercountry Adoption in the Netherlands uncovered abuses in Dutch intercountry adoptions. This conclusion has led to the suspension of Netherland's intercountry adoption program. From the 1960s, the Dutch Government, despite being aware of adoption abuses, failed to intervene. Although the Committee's investigation focused on Bangladesh, Brazil, Colombia, Indonesia, and Sri Lanka, it also uncovered irregularities in 23 other countries of origin, which led the Committee to report that "The current system of intercountry adoption cannot be maintained."

While government responses to the conclusions of these investigations varied from official statements of regret to the temporary shut down of intercountry adoption, the circumstances and abuses surrounding these intercountry adoptions implicate other countries of origin, including Korea.

Furthermore, the recent deportations of Korean adoptees from the U.S. and the lack of confirmation over the citizenship status of 19,000 Korean adoptees indicate a need for a thorough investigation into what led to this absence of oversight. Such an investigation and historical analysis would coincide with the global trend of holding countries accountable for violating adopted people's rights. Furthermore, establishing such a fact-finding committee, whether it be a truth commission or another investigative body, would be a familiar development in Korea's history of truth-finding investigations.

Special investigation commissions are not new to Korea. From 2000 to 2004, the Presidential Truth Commission on Suspicious Deaths investigated the deaths of citizens between 1975 to 1987. A separate commission called the National Committee for Investigation of the Truth about Jeju 4.3 events was established around the same time. In 2005, the Truth and Reconciliation Commission was established to expand on investigations of the first truth commission by examining deaths and abuses that happened from the Japanese colonial period (1910) until the end of Korean military rule (1987).

Therefore, Human Rights Beyond Borders aims to undertake a campaign to lobby for an investigation into the adoption irregularities of Korea's adoption program. This entails collecting evidence to demonstrate the need for an investigation and conducting historical legal and policy research into Korea's adoption system.

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