Sweden ramps up investigation on origins of South Korean adoptees

Sweden ramps up investigation on origins of South Korean adoptees

A Swedish legal expert investigating the country’s international adoption practices said South Korea is vital in her probe into alleged falsified origins of children adopted in the 1970s and 80s. 

Anna Singer will meet with officials from the government, and a Seoul-based agency that handled adoptions to Sweden to gather details on how South Korea procured and documented children for foreign adoptions on a week-long trip to Seoul.

Singer’s investigation is aimed at identifying irregularities in the way Swedish parties handled international adoptions that came from around 80 countries, including whether they were aware that child origins were being fabricated in sending nations.

“Our primary focus is the Swedish organisations and the Swedish actors — what did they do and what did they know?” said Singer, a law professor at Uppsala University, who the Swedish government appointed to lead the investigation in 2021. 

She said such findings would be vital in determining whether Sweden had effective safeguards or monitoring measures to ensure South Korean adoptees weren’t wrongfully taken from their biological parents.

Most South Korean adoptees were sent overseas during the 1970s and 1980s when Seoul was ruled by a succession of military governments that saw adoptions as a way to deepen ties with the democratic West, while reducing the number of mouths to feed.

South Korea sent around 200,000 children to the West for adoption in the past six decades, with more than half of them placed in the US. 

Along with France and Denmark, Sweden was a major European destination for South Korean children, adopting nearly 10,000 of them since the 1960s.

Former adoption workers and experts say most Western adoption agencies likely knew that their South Korean partners were manipulating paperwork to send more children faster.

Sweden’s investigation follows similar inquiries by Switzerland, Denmark, Belgium and the Netherlands.

A number of European countries have begun investigating how they’ve conducted international adoptions, in the face of growing concerns that children were being wrongfully removed from their biological families.


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