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Photo Essay: Korean Adoption

Between delivery and placing them with a foster family, babies usually spend their first few weeks in the adoption agency’s nursery. The nurseries are usually crowded with a handful of caregivers to look after them.

A foster mother releases her foster child to her adoptive mother. After caring for these babies for the first months of their lives, it can be difficult, especially for first time foster mothers, to let them go.

One week after her delivery, Sae-Rong, 18, put her baby girl up for adoption. She was unaware of her pregnancy until 7 months in, when she noticed she had gained weight. With strong objections from her family to keep the baby and no support from her boyfriend’s family, she made the decision, like many Korean unwed mothers, to put her baby up for adoption.

While staying at a home for unwed mothers, she wrote a letter to her baby, saying ” When we were sending you off, I wanted to keep you in my arms. How could I be giving up my own flesh and blood? Please don’t forget about me and please look for me.”

After escaping North Korea and living in China for the past five years, Keum-Joo, 30, made it to South Korea. There she delivered a baby at an unwed mother’s home in Pyeongtaek. With no family and little support, she chose to place her baby boy for adoption so that he might have a better life than she could provide.

Nick Breedlove stares out the window as he awaits the arrival of his adopted sister from S.Korea.

Laura and Paul Breedlove decided to adopt their first child, Nick, after they were unsuccessful conceiving their own children. Soon after, they applied to adopt their daughter Lily.

Laura arrives at Baltimore/Washington International airport with Lily. Laura spent two weeks visiting Korea before flying back home with her new daughter.

Korean adoptee, Jocelyn Schulken (far right) and her friends pose for a picture at their neighborhood playground.

Two dolls, one asian and one caucasian, lay on Jocelyn’s bed.

The Schulken family make sure to talk about adoption and learn about Korean culture. Jocelyn is currently enrolled in Korean Culture Camp.

Jocelyn speaks on the phone to her grandmother as her mom stands by.

Allen Majors, an adoptee from Illinois, was one of the first babies adopted out of South Korea through the Holt International Adoption agency. On his visit to Seoul he continued searching for any birth family. Due to the lack of records and information he has had no luck.

Maria Hermann (right) is a bi-racial adoptee living in Massachusetts. On her first visit back to Korea, Maria visited the Pearl Buck International museum, one of the only agencies that found adoptive families for children of mixed race.

Daniel Gray is the creator of Seoul Eats, a popular food blog dedicated to Korean cuisine as well as the co-owner of O’ngo Food Communications, a culinary tourism company. Adopted when he was five, he returned to Korea to learn about his roots. He has successfully made his career and life in Korea.

Amy Ginther was adopted to New York in 1983. She has become increasingly involved in the expat theater community in the three years since she has lived in Seoul. She is also the creator and star of “Between“, a one woman show about her adoption and identity.

Jeanne Modderman is a freelance photographer based in the Washington, D.C. area. She is a graduate of the Corcoran College of Art and Design and holds a BFA in Photojournalism. She has photographed for many organizations and publications including National Geographic and Lockheed Martin. You can see more of her work here.




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