Wednesday, May 3, 2006


So I was watching Oprah on Korean cable. Not something I do often, but the topic was interesting: Oprah was talking with reporters who had done in-depth stories on some dramatic or very touching issue. One of those was about a very abusive set of foster parents who had earned $150,000 from their state (not sure where—see, I really wasn't watching it that closely—but it has palm trees...could be Florida because they looked like palmettos), while physically endangering these children, including putting them in a type of cage and submerging them in water, making the children think they woudl drown.

The entire program, of course, is subtitled, and the word 양부모 (yangbumo) was being used to describe these two evil foster parents.

The thing is that the word yangbumo is also used for adoptive parents. This is, I think, a very telling thing when it comes to the debate in Korea over international adoptions. There are a number of reasons given by those opposed to allowing/sending Koreans abroad for adoption, but I submit most or all of these reasons are founded on misunderstandings if not outright disinformation.

One example of the latter was the notion that Americans were adopting children from Korea because of the money they would get from the government if they adopt. When I first heard this it became apparent that the overseas adoption opponent was not describing adoptive parents, but foster parents.

Of course, these are two entirely different things, but to many Korean speakers, the difference is not apparent. Sadly, this misunderstanding is not properly countered in the media, but so far the proponents of the children—that is to say, the people who think that giving children a good home is more important than nationalist reasons for keeping children in orphanages just to keep them from being sent abroad—have won out.

1 comment:

  1. It is unfortunate that inaccurate translation and a lack of understanding about the difference between adoption and foster care may perpetuate misunderstandings about international adoptions. Let's hope Korean viewers haven't forgotten the touching story of Brian Bauman.


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