Just wanted to update everyone on how things have been going here in Korea and I have much to report! After finally demonstrating that I am a capable student and have an understanding of the situation of unwed mothers and women in Korea, I have been involved in many KUMSN activities and projects. Most recently, I developed a curriculum for KUMSN’s study group with research regarding “birth mother syndrome”, which is not actually a clinical term but encompasses all the long-term effects experienced by the birth mother as a result of relinquishing a child for adoption.
Because of the language challenges and the difficulty of reading research articles (especially for those not used to reading them), I created a comprehensive summary of the literature that I reviewed in English and provided to the study group members ahead of time. Topics include the working definition of “birth mother syndrome” as described by Merry Bloc Jones in her book Birthmothers,
various theories contributing to the issue, the “symptoms”, possible causes, the situation of birth mothers viewed through a human rights perspective, and how the experience of birth mothers relates to the issue and problem that unwed mothers face in Korea. The summary is still about 15 pages long and does not include all the research that I would have liked to include but for the sake of time and interest of the study group, I shortened it. Two themes that I found to be the most significant because they underlie every aspect of adoption are social constructionism and gender inequality through mostly a feminist perspective.
The study group will begin discussing the subject of “birth mother syndrome” beginning with the theories and symptoms or effects. The research topic was very interesting to me and I did not have any frustrations or impatience with the readings. I also learned a lot thanks to the work of others and was able to access a lot of material related to PTSD, trauma, and the effects of state/regional and national apologies for forced adoptions that occurred in Australia.
There are also national inquiries by Origins International in Canada, New Zealand, Scotland, and the United States.
I wonder when it will begin to catch on in South Korea because of it’s reputation as the #1 Baby Exporter and one of the leading supplying countries of intercountry adoptions. Actually, the majority of my research on birth mothers and the long term effects of relinquishing a child for adoption was based on the studies and narratives of those in other countries. I suspect that coercion and possibly even the use of prescription drugs in some rural areas is still prevalent in Korea given the strong stigma that still exists for out-of-wedlock pregnancies and domestic adoptions. Similarly, there still seems to be a great amount of shame, secrecy, and silence among birth mothers in Korea and I am not quite sure where or how this population could be accessed. If there are any studies or research on Korean birth mothers, they must be in Korean because I was not able to locate them in any of the U.S. databases that I am allowed access to.
If anyone has any information or insight about the experiences of Korean birth mothers and the absence of their voice, I would be very interested to learn and understand.