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Adoptees from Korea to attend Winter Olympics - and advocate for abandoned children

Courtney Langenburg is headed to South Korea to visit with her birth mother, 30 years after she flew to the U.S. as an adoptee on Feb. 9, 1988. She first met her birth family back in 2011. (SBG)

EUGENE, Ore. - Courtney Langenburg is headed to South Korea to visit with her birth mother, 30 years after she flew to the U.S. as an adoptee on Feb. 9, 1988.

She first met her birth family back in 2011.

"I'll be back over this date, and it's a date she thinks about me every year," Langenburg said of her birth mohter. "I certainly think about her, so it will be good to see each other."

Langenburg is one of 18 people born in Korea but adopted by families in the United States who will travel to South Korea to attend the Winter Olympics - and meet with lawmakers there about possible changes to the country's laws.

The delegation, along with staff from Eugene-based adoption advocates Holt International, leaves for South Korea on Saturday.

"There are 18 adults adoptees who will be going back, and we're from all over the country," said Susan Soonkeum Cox, Vice President of Policy & External Affairs at Holt International.

Of particular concern to the delegation: a 2014 change to Korean law affecting both domestic and international adoptions.

The law requires mothers who give up a child for adoption to sign a registry, in anticipation of an adopted child one day wanting to contact his or her blood relations.

"And because of the stigma, the very negative stigma about unwed mothers, they are unwilling to do that because they are afraid they will be discovered," Cox said.

Critics contend the registry is pushing unwed mothers who want to avoid the stigma to instead abandon their babies - and abandoned babies can't be adopted.

"So the consequence is they go into orphanages where they stay until they age out at age 18," Cox said.

The delegates hope to urge lawmakers to consider changes allowing adoption as an alternative to an orphanage - or new measures to support birth mothers in keeping their children.

"I think it's important for people to know that we're not advocating for adoption," Cox added. "We're advocating for these children to have families."

"But we don't support the idea that these children have no choice and no viable future."

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