A Korean-Australian woman has found out that she was the subject of an illegal adoption in which her parents were tricked into giving her up, Australia's Special Broadcasting Service reported last Tuesday.
The 24-year-old "Emily Will," whose real name was withheld to protect her privacy, said the search for her biological parents revealed the shocking truth that she had been wrongly declared dead at birth and was taken away by a midwife who sought adoption fees.
When Will was born in 1988 in a small maternity home in Geoje, South Gyeongsang Province, her biological parents were told that the baby was stillborn. They mistakenly signed papers that would thereby forfeit their custody to the baby.
While Will was being brought up by her new parents, she was told that her biological parents gave her up because they were unmarried, which was frowned upon in traditional Korean society.
But when she became a mother herself, Will grew concerned about her medical history, fearing that she might pass on some unknown genetic disease to her children.
After searching for her biological parents for three years, she was finally reunited with them last year at her adoption agency, Eastern Social Welfare Society.
The reunion came with a stunning revelation that her parents were a happily married couple and the adoption had been falsified.
"Why would someone do that?" she asked. "Her decision changed my life."
She said her biological parents and adoptive parents alike were dumbfounded upon hearing the news.
"My birth mother can't really talk about it without crying. My adoptive parents are just shattered," she said.
Will has requested that the Australian Attorney General department investigate her case, but the spokesperson from the department said it will face limitations in probing an inter-country adoption case that took place in the 1980s.
The illegal adoption is believed to have been motivated by a huge sum of money.
Jane Jeong Trenka, the president of Truth and Reconciliation for the Adoption Community, said in an interview with SBS that the scale of inter-country adoptions is so big that it is "in fact, an industry." She pointed out that while Korea has a very developed adoption system, the country's domestic social welfare system is nearly non-existent.
According to recent data by Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development, Korea ranks at the very bottom of public spending on family benefits among OECD countries.
The poor government subsidies coupled with rampant international adoption has earned Korea a reputation as a "baby-exporting country."
Will said that adoption should not be regarded as an industry.
"We're (adoptees) human beings. We're not products. We're not for sale. You can't put a price on a human life," she said.