Implications: The South Korean government is increasingly mindful of protecting individuals’ legal status in non-traditional family structures. This is reflected in the careful sequencing of legislation. Earlier this year, the government announced plans to allow mothers to pass down their last names to their children. By promulgating these new policies in that order, the government ensured that single mothers and their children, including adoptees, do not fall into a legal gap. This is consistent with the Korean government’s broader intent to expand the definition of “family” in the country.
Context: While the new bill opens the path for more people to adopt children, adoption is currently very uncommon in Korea. Domestic adoption makes up only 4% of total adoptions. Many observers attribute the adoption hesitancy to traditional emphasis on blood lineage. This social attitude leaves nearly 30,000 children to grow up in the welfare system, and many struggle to adjust as adults when they graduate from orphanages. With the number of international adoptions a fraction of what they were in the 1990s, the welfare system is stretched to support these children. Given these existing cultural headwinds, the effectiveness of the recent bills remains in doubt.
This briefing comes from Korea View, a weekly newsletter published by the Korea Economic Institute. Korea View aims to cover developments that reveal trends on the Korean Peninsula but receive little attention in the United States. If you would like to sign up, please find the online form here.
Korea View was edited by Yong Kwon with the help of Marina Dickson, Yubin Huh, and Janet Hong. Picture from the Wikimedia account of Carmine.shot