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The Origins of Korean Adoption

WPS 09-09: The Origins of Korean Adoption: Cold War Geopolitics and Intimate Diplomacy, by Eleana Kim, Ph.D. (October 2009). The adoption of children from South Korea to the West has been ongoing since the end of the Korean War in 1953. During the past half century, more than 200,000 children have been adopted into predominantly white families in Western Europe, North America, and Australia. In this paper, Eleana Kim, examines the origins of Korean adoption in the immediate postwar period, showing how the first adoptions of Korean boys by American servicemen gave way to the adoptions of mixed-race, and then full-Korean children into nuclear families. She elaborates on the little-known history of Korean transnational adoption to understand more fully how particular “technologies of intimacy,” including those related to legislation, transportation, communications, and especially mass media and financial sponsorships, facilitated the transfer of children from Korea to the U.S., and how these technologies were informed by and reproduced paternalistic relations between Americans and Koreans in the context of the Cold War.