Korean adoption makes a movie about the pain of mother-child separation

Soul – Bringing the camera to an unmarried mother’s house on Jeju Island, South Korea, Sun Hee Engelstoft expected a powerful story about a young woman having a baby.

Instead, she is ashamed that deeply conservative sexual culture, loose birth registration laws, and mostly privatized adoption systems pressure single mothers to abandon their children for adoption. It became a live and uneasy documentary about how to keep going.

The shock and sadness of mother-child separation captured in Waslenagusa, and the intense fear of social stigma, causes thousands of Korean adoptions to reunite with their silent mother decades after flying west. Provides insight into why you are hindering.

Adoptions, including Engelstoft, also blamed these cuts due to restricted access to records, counterfeit documents hiding their true origins, and the lack of accountability demonstrated by adoption agencies and the South Korean government. ..


“Every time I started chasing women (at home), they strongly told me they wanted to have a child, and that wasn’t what happened,” Engelstoft said in a recent interview with The Associated Press. It was. “I was completely scared of the result.”

“Waslenagusa,” which was unveiled at a Korean theater this month, began when the filmmaker tried to personally understand the Korean mother who lost Engrestft at the age of 19.

In 1982, when Engelstoft arrived in Denmark, more than 6,400 Korean children were sent abroad. Over the last 60 years, a total of about 200,000 Koreans have been adopted abroad, mainly to white parents in the United States and Europe.

Filmed at Jeju’s Aceowon Shelter in 2013 and 2014, Waslenagusa begins with the facility’s director reading a document signed by Engelstoft’s mother. It shows that Engelstoft was abandoned the same day he was born and his mother promised to never look for her.


The paper was stored in an orphanage in Busan, where Engelstoft stayed before the adoption agency Holt Childrens Service matched her with Danish parents.

Engelstoft believes that her mother is one of many women who have been asked by adoption agencies to sign abandonment before the child is born. Holt denied this, saying that Engelstoft was taken from an orphanage rather than his mother.

Despite having known relatives, the child was often abandoned or listed as an orphan.

“I’m very uncomfortable with the adoption parents paying me for the sale and purchase by the adoption agency. I want to reverse that,” Engelstoft said. It was.

The film then follows Aeseowon’s young mother, whose face and voice are hidden for privacy. They do chores, share stories about childbirth pain with their bad boyfriends, pet ultrasound pictures, and giggle through pregnancy photography.


They sometimes look like other teens. However, their lives are clouded by debates about whether to keep babies or place them for adoption. This is by no means their decision.

A 17-year-old child collapses emotionally after insisting on keeping the child for months and then succumbing to his parents. Parents see the baby as a shameful sign of premarital sex. As soon as her mother pressured her to sign an adoption agreement, Holt workers took her child to the airport in Jeju.

Another 17-year-old depression after parents abused the country’s loose birth registration system makes it easy to list their child as their own, as the newborn does not have to be automatically enrolled in the hospital. You can operate it.

“How did you become a brother?” She asks while roaming the streets. “It’s my baby.”

Engelstoft lowers the camera and hugs her when a 16-year-old screams in an empty room after giving her child to her adoptive parents in the parking lot.


“The moment was like a breakpoint for me,” she said.

“I was trying to understand Korean culture, and I was also trying to understand the universality that parents want to do their best for their children. They believe they are the best. — My parents in the movie, my adoptive parents, and the women in the shelter. “

“I always remembered that I didn’t belong there,” said Engelstoft, who grew up in a white Danish community. Locals often touched her hair and tried to ask who her “real” parents were.

Her Danish parents upheld her desire to reconnect with her roots. They visited South Korea for the first time in 2002 and said Engelstoft felt like a “moon landing.”

The visit turned into pain when they failed to find Engelstoft’s birth mother. Holt had little information.

Busan police have found three women who share their mother’s name and age, including a woman who gave birth to an adoption before marriage and now has a child five years younger than Engelstoft. Engelstoft was devastated after the woman chose not to see her.


For Engelstoft, shooting felt like time travel. She saw Aeseowon women as different versions of her Korean mother, and they saw her as an adult version of their baby. She was adopted and struggled for an answer when asked if her life was better.

“I didn’t mean to rock them in the direction of having a baby or giving up. I was keenly aware of that,” she said. For my mother, I’m going back to Korea to explore my side that I’m anxious for. “

South Korea has been demanding adoption to pass the family court since 2013, but screening and monitoring remain weak. The death of a 16-month-old girl in October following abuse by her imprisoned adoptive parents prompted a soul quest in a country where single mothers had long discouraged raising children.

“My mother probably thinks about this every day and makes that decision every day not to contact me,” Engelstoft said. “I can understand how painful it must be.”

Copyright 2021 Associated Press. all rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed without permission.

Korean adoption makes a movie about the pain of mother-child separation

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