Private Adoption by Non-Koreans in Korea

We’ve published a new article on a private adoption under the most recently amended Korean law.  Please check here.

[Disclaimer: Please note that recently there has been an amendment of the laws and regulations regarding the adoption in Korea. The amended laws will be effective soon. That said, the below article has not yet been updated pursuant to the new laws. Therefore, anyone who plans a private adoption in Korea is highly recommended to contact lawyers in advance with respect to the new laws and regulations. 2012/03/22]

Recently our office took an international adoption case in which U.S. parents living in the states want to adopt Korean kids here in South Korea. That was a private adoption case. After completing the adoption successfully, I wrote a short article on private adoption under Korean law to be published in a foreign magazine. I hope this to be of help to anyone interested in Korean adoption.

[Comments in Korean: 아래 글은 외국인이 한국에 거주하는 한국 아동을 입양하는 것에 관한 글입니다. 주지하다시피 우리나라 법상 입양은 원칙적으로 민법에 의하는 것으로 되어 있고, 예외적으로 시설(고아원 등)에서 보호되고 있는 아동(요보호아동)의 입양에 대하여는 “입양촉진및절차에관한특례법”이 적용되고 있습니다. 아래 글은 이 중 민법에 의한 입양(즉, 사적입양. 특례법에 다른 요보호아동의 입양은 ‘시설입양’이라고 하겠음)에 대한 것입니다. 민법은 양부모의 요건을 “한국인”으로 한정하고 있지 않고, 외국인에게도 동일하게 적용됩니다. 즉, 요보호아동이 아니라면 민법에 의한 해외 입양이 가능하다는 것이지요. 아래 글은 저희 사무소에서 한국인 부모가 사적입양방식으로 아이를 미국으로 입양시킨 사례에 바탕을 두었습니다. 아무쪼록 아래 글이 해외입양을 생각하는 아이 엄마, 아빠들과 입양을 간절히 원하는 외국인 부모들에게 유익한 정보가 되기를 기원해 봅니다(2008년 2월)] 

Private Adoption under Korean Law: Overview

There are two kinds of adoptions available under Korean law: an orphanage adoption (or institutional adoption) and a private adoption. The orphanage adoption process is better known to many foreign citizens who want to adopt Korean children. It is literally adopting an orphan accommodated in public assistance facilities or any authorized adoption organization. The Act on Special Cases Concerning the Promotion and Procedures of Adoption (the “ASCCPPA”) regulates the orphanage adoption in Korea. The ASCCPPA, however, requires some strict criteria for being adoptive parents, and this often hinders many foreigners from adopting Korean children. In such a case, the private adoption should seriously be considered. The private adoption is basically adopting non-orphan child in Korea under the Civil Act of Korea. In this article, authors will briefly discuss the private adoption procedure and requirements under the Civil Act of Korea. It should be noted that this article will not discuss with the further U.S. immigration requirements that must be undertaken to obtain relevant visa for the adopted child.

Under the Civil Act, any person can adopt a child by: (a) entering into an adoption agreement with the child and his parents; and (b) reporting the adoption to the relevant public office. If the child to be adopted is under fifteen years of age, his or her parents must assent to the adoption on his or her behalf.

This same requirement applies to any foreigner who wants to adopt a Korean child regardless of his or her nationality and whether he or she is living in Korea. Furthermore, the eligibility requirements under the Civil Act are less strict than those of orphanage adoption. The adoptive person is just required to be over 20 years of age and older than the child to be adopted. Also, single mother or father can adopt a child.

As mentioned above, there are two steps that need to be completed for the private adoption in Korea. One is entering into an adoption agreement with the child and his/her parents; and the other step is reporting the adoption to the Korean local public office.

The adoption agreement must clearly state that the adoption is made voluntarily and with no undue influence or coercion. And it is highly recommended to address the matter of post-contact between the child and biological parents.

After entering adoption agreement, both the child and the adoptive parents must file the adoption report with a competent public local office. In most private adoptions where the adoptive parents are foreigners, the adoption reports are filed with the local Korean office called “Si(Gu)/Eup/Myeon” office located in the adopted child’s permanent domicile location within Korea. It should also be noted that when the adopted child is under 15 years old, the adoption report must be filed by both his legal representative and the adoptive parents, meaning the report can be filed with the Si(Gu)/Eup/Myeon office located in the legal representative’s place of abode or present address.

At this stage, the public office requires certain documents to receive the report. Specifically, the public office will ask foreign adoptive parents to submit some kind of document issued by the government or court of their country that proves their eligibility of adoption under the laws of their country or state of residence. This document is very important and you have to contact your local government in advance. In recent private adoption case involving the adoptive parents who were U.S. citizens residing in Maryland, the adoptive parents submitted a document titled ‘letter of eligibility for international adoption – Korea’ issued by the Department of Health and Human Services located in Maryland, and this document was accepted without any problem by the Korean local public office.

It usually takes 1 or 2 weeks to confirm that the report is duly made and received by the public office. And it takes additional 1 week or so to get a certificate of adoption from the Korean court. By following these steps, the private adoption of Korean child has been completed.

As mentioned above, adoptive parents residing in the U.S. do not need to establish residency in Korea to adopt a Korean child living in Korea. Experienced Korean lawyer can provide prospective adopting parents in the U.S. with full legal services regarding private adoption including drafting and executing adoption agreement with biological parents, filing an adoption report and getting a certificate of adoption on behalf of them. By appointing a Korean lawyer as his/her attorney with regard to the adoption, foreign adoptive parents do not need to come out to Korea or show up at the Korean court to complete the adoption.

If you have any question about adoption in Korea or any other family law related issues, please visit our Legal Consultation center or send your inquiry email directly by clicking here. Our Korean licensed family lawyers, not a U.S. lawyer residing in Korea, will answer your inquiry.

Here are more articles on Korean adoption:

Chung & Partners Successfully Convinced Appellate Court to Reverse Lower Court’s Denial of U.S. Parents Adoption Petition

Korea Banned Foreign Adoption?

© Wonil Chung. All rights reserved.


  1. Hello
    I just want to ask what kind of papers my husband needs to adopt my son .. he wants to adopt him so that we can live here in korea with him ..

  2. Good day. My son, who is South African, has been married to a Korean lady for 5 years and has lived in South Korea since 2007. He wants to adopt his 13 year old step child. Are you able to give us advice on what information is needed and who to approach to go forward? The child is very happy for my son to become her legal father and we will be thrilled to welcome her into our family. Thank you

  3. I am a Korean American female with Korean immigrant parents who are now American citizens and my dad has a special visa. I don’t know what kind it is but I think it might be the one that labels him as an Overseas Korean.

    I am married to an American and I can trace my family registration. My Korean parents live with us and I am fluent in Korean. Can my husband and I adopt as a national? If so, would that be considered private or institutional adoption?

    And how much would it cost to do private adoption once we find a child?

    I tried posting earlier and it didn’t show up so I am posting this.

  4. Hi!

    I was wondering if you could answer some questions for me.

    I am full Korean woman born and raised in America by Korean immigrants and my father has a special visa with Korea. I think he is considered an Overseas Korean visa. I am married to an American and we want to do adopt from Korea. My Korean parents live with us. I am also fluent in Korean.

    Would I qualify to adopt in Korea as a Korean nationality and if that is the case, would it be considered a private adoption or orphanage adoption?

  5. Hello,

    As Australian expats living overseas we are looking to do a private or ‘independent’ adoption overseas as adoption in this country we reside in can be difficult due to not so many children becoming available annually. I was wondering about our options with processing a private adoption in Korea? How long is the legal process once a child has been identified? Can you assist us in how to help locate available children – e.g. are there certain orphanages/centres that deal with foreigners and are familiar with private adoptions. I look forward to your reply.

  6. Hi I am in the U.S army stationed here in Korea for the next three years, my wife and I are very interested in adopting. Where would we go or who would we talk to to get started with the adoption process.

    Thank you!

    1. You have two paths. One is an orphan adoption. There are many institutions which will guide you the whole process. The other one is a private adoption. Current Korean Civil act requires a court’s permission both for domestic and foreign private adoption. Please note there is no legitimate agency or adoption institution which can arrange a private adoption. You must find the child by yourself using your personal network. If an agency or institution gets involved, the private adoption can become illegal. Korean Lawyer can assist you to prepare an adoption agreement and represent you in the Family Court. But, they cannot help you find the child.

      1. Dear W. Chung could you kindly provide us with more information on the private adoption? Could you kindly email me. Thank you!

  7. Hello

    I read with great interest your article and the comments and answers, and would like to ask if the new laws on adoption have changed your views on the matter of private adoption or even institutional adoption. I am a Singaporean married to an American and we currently live in Seoul, and would be here for at least another 2 and a half years. We have been looking into adoption here, and the adoption agencies, as also experienced by others in their comments, have not been helpful at all. We are both over 45 years old, and that seem to stop the conversation right there for the agencies. Yet I note that under the new law, there are several sections that indicate some flexibility on the age requirement:

    Article 2: Adoption Requirements

    S10 SS1: Adoptive parents must meet all the requirements noted in this section:
    1. Adoptive parents must have adequate assets
    2. Must have freedom of religion, and must be able to educate children to function in the society
    3. Must not have history of abuses related to children, spouse, sexual, drug, alcohol, and criminal in nature
    4. Domestic and Intercountry Adoption
    For domestic adoption – An adoptive parent must be at least 25 years old and the age difference between the child and a parent must be less than 60 years.
    Intercountry adoption – Foreigners must meet the qualifications of being adoptive parents expressed through the laws of their respective countries. For foreigners, an adoptive parent must be at least 25 years old but less than 45 years old. However, if an agency determines that a family has a favorable and healthy environment to raise a child, there can be an exception.
    5. An adoptive parent must possess the requirements established by the MOHW to provide and care for a child.

    S19 SS2: Intercountry adoption while residing in Korea – Must work with the agencies to start the adoption process

    Unless I am wrong in interpreting it, the above seem to indicate that if I can demonstrate a favorable home environment, an exception can be made for my self and my husband with regards to age. It also seems to indicate that while we are living in Seoul, we can work with agencies to start the process. Some agencies have told us that we need to be living in our home countries to be able to adopt a child from Korea. It seems to me to make so much sense that since we are actually living here, we can be assessed directly by the relevant agencies and government departments.

    I guess my questions are:
    – can I still do a private adoption under the new law, regardless of my age and my husband’s age, if we can find a child willing to be adopted? What are the chances of the courts approving it?
    – what do you think are our chances of going through the institutional adoption route, if we can prove we can provide a good home regardless of our age, and if we adopt a child who is older and whose chances of being placed domestically and abroad, are very slim.

    Appreciate your time reading this and look forward to your views.

    Thank you

    1. Hello
      The new law on the private adoption does not put an age qualification for the adoptive parents even though they are foreigners.
      As for the institutional adoption, as you understand correctly, there is an age qualification. But that qualification can be waived by MOHW in certain circumstances.

  8. I am a single pakistani man now korean passport holder namely lee wooseong aged 30 years old presently stay in pakistan under a visit visa and want to adopt a child

  9. I am a single australia women aged 29 who has lived in Korea for 6 years. I would like to adopt in Korea.I would like to know if I am eligible to adopt in Korea. Any advice you could give me would be appreciated

  10. My husband and I are American and are interested in adopting a infant boy while stationed in Korea. I’ve heard that the laws changed and there are now agencies who match unwed pregnant mothers with to be parents. Is this true? If so, where can I find one. Any other information on finding a birth mother would be wonderful. We live in Uijeongbu.

  11. “The adoption agreement must clearly state that the adoption is made voluntarily and with no undue influence or coercion.”

    Can this be a typed note and then signed by the parents that are giving the child up for private adoption or is the adoption agreement a specific form that must be obtained?

  12. I am the U.S. citizen and my wife is Korean citizen. We already know a child to be adopted (private adoption) and we really want to bring this child to the U.S. as fast as possible. Can my wife adopt this child in Korea and bring him to the U.S. and complete adoption process in the U.S. with I-130 after 2 years? Thanks i advance for you help.

  13. Hello,
    My husband & I have been waiting for a S. Korean adoption for almost 3 1/2 years. Our home studies are complete, physicals, background checks & we are still waiting and starting to loose hope.
    I really don’t know where or who to approach for private adoption.
    We live in the U.S. but would be thrilled to finally have our family.
    Any advice would be truly appreciated.

    1. Dear Maria. Please refer to my reply to Nisha Kim Coffey below. The legal process of private adoption is simple but finding birth parents who want a private adoption with foreigners is too difficult.

  14. I’m an American woman with a Korean citizen husband. I have an F-5 visa and we plan to live in Korea long term and possibly never return to the US for more than vacations.
    Recently, we have just begun looking into adoption. We visited Eastern Welfare Society and a Catholic Orphanage and they have been unwilling to help us citing the paperwork would be too difficult for them. The Catholic Orphanage said they would be willing to adopt to us but not willing give us advice or help with the appropriate paperwork. They didn’t even want to contact the government agency to find out which papers would be required or what steps we should take. They even implied they didn’t want to try because in the past international couples have been rejected. Eastern Services denied us because I do not have a Korean Ho-juk and didn’t want to find out if it was even possible. Both seemed more intent on shooing us out the door than anything else. Holt was the most agreeable but they don’t have any children within our desired age range.

    We’ve spoken to the appropriate government agency and they have stated that it is possible for us to adopt in Korea according to Korean law. I would have to get extra paperwork from the US but as long as the child was Korean there would be no problems.

    Is there anyway to pursuade these unwilling adoption agencys to help us? Or should we keep looking?

    1. Dear Nate, as those are not private adoption issues I’m sorry I cannot help you. I can assist you in checking out the paperwork process of institutional adoption. I cannot understand why the institution themselves are not good at that work, though.

  15. Dear Chung & Partners

    I am a single American and I have a 15 year old girl I would like to adopt. I have been caring for her for 10 months. How do I go about getting eligibility from the US to go through with the adoption in Korea. Also, do you have any advice on obtaining visa?

  16. My husband and I were interested in adopting a Korean child. We were planning to use an agency, as we were told we would obtain a referral for a child within 6 months. However, we were told it could take up a to a year for our child to be able to leave Korea, as the Korean government issued a limited number of exit papers per year. Our concern over this delay has made us interested in private adoption. I was wondering, however, if there would be the same delay when trying to remove a child from Korea when adopted privately or if this is a restriction placed only on international adoption agencies.

    Thank you for your help.

  17. Hi there,

    What are your recommendations for networking within Korea to find birth mothers who would be interested in doing a private adoption for their child to a U.S. couple? The Korean law sounds like it is the easiest part of the process. The hard part sounds like connecting with birth mothers in Korea. Is it alright to contact mother’s homes (agencies that help unwed mothers) or is that insensitive? Would your agency be able to help make a connection for us? We are a couple in our 30’s with one son (we would like to adopt a daughter). I am half Korean and half Caucasian and my husband is full Caucasian. We would be able to offer our adopted daughter Korean culture (food, language, etc.) as well as having family members who are Korean and who will look like her that she can easily identify with visually. I appreciate your help.

    1. Yes, you’re right. Connecting with birth mothers is the most difficult part in private adoption. I have dealt with many private adoption cases and they connect the children with the help of family members, friends and nieghbors. No agency in my cases.

      1. So, there are no certain lawyers or churches in South Korea that know of mothers who want to put their children up for adoptions? Are we literally to walk around with a sign that says “Who wants to put their child up for adoption?” 🙁 What is the BEST way to find a mother who wants to give their child up for adoption for a private adoption here in Korea?

        1. Dear Ally, It is a violation of law for lawyer and any entity to do that kind of child serch job as their businesses. I’m sorry I cannot help you any further.

    2. One more thing. Just yesterday it is reported that Korean government is considering to change current private adoption process from just a reporting-required to requiring court’s permission.

  18. Hello! My boyfriend and I have been together for two years and are currently English Teachers in South Korea. We have been here for three years teaching and we plan to save money and teach for at least a couple more years. I am adopted and I have always wanted to adopt an international child and since being in Korea I have chosen to hopefully adopt a Korean child one day. It seems so expensive and in depth. I want to know more about the private adoption process. How much does it usually cost? It is usually as in depth as a non private adoption? For that, I mean homestudies and such. For example, we are not married yet. I see that adopting in Korea has a 44 year old cut off. I am 28 and he is 39. We don’t have a place of our own in America yet since we have been working here so how long should we have an established job in the USA the living situations?
    So basically, just more information and if its a lot easier than going through an agency and a lot cheaper and the details on how to further approach this.

      1. Hello again, Im not quite sure I understand what you said.
        Maybe read my post again. I am wanting to adopt in the future.I want more informtion! 🙂 Thanks

    1. Dear Ally. There are no age limit, nationality limit required, in private adoption under Korean law. Yes, it is quite easier, cheaper and much faster than orphanage adoptioin. I don’t understand how it could be so easy but the korean law says as such… Don’t forget you must be eligible for the adoption under the U.S. law in odrer to apply for a private adoption in Korea.

      1. And how do I make sure that I’m eligible for the adoption under the U.S law? I definitely want to make sure I do everything correct on the U.S. end as well so the child will be able to enter completely legally as a citizen

        1. Also, do you know the easiest way to start going about this? A certain lawyer I can come in contact with to start finding parents and a child…specifically a baby?

        2. The U.S. requires a home study, FBI fingerprinting, referrals, USCIS clearance, medical testing as well.

          We cleared all things with an A+ and we lost our adoption.
          U.S. agencies are looking only for money not loving homes for children.

          At this point I’m ready to relocate to S. Korea for 6 months and see if I can get a network and find an adoption that could make our family finally happen! : )

  19. My wife and I are trying to adopt a baby girl given birth by a 15 year old North Korean refugee in Seoul. Both the birth mother and father have relinquished parental rights and have selected my wife and I to raise the child. Can you help us make this dream come true?

  20. can you please send me more information on private adoption for a single korean-american woman living in the united states with a desire to adopt a korean baby/child.

  21. To whom it may concern. I am a US citzen married to a Korean and I am wondering if I can adopt domestically. I also wanted to know if there is a listing for private adoptions.

  22. i was wondering what documents i would need and also in australia does not permit private adoption how would i go about getting the required documents and would you know from where, thankyou

  23. Please provide requirements for adopting a child while being stationed in Korea at a U.S. post. Also, we prefer to adopt an older child (7-9 yrs. old) as opposed to an infant. Can we request that preference and are there different rules applicable to the older age group? Thank you.

  24. To whom it may concern:

    My husband and I are residing in Korea and we are interested in private adoption, but have heard that it is no longer an option. Is this true?

  25. Thanks for publishing this article, it is really infomative, especialy the part about single parents. I am a UK citizen living in Hong Kong and would like to know who to approach about a private adoption in Korea. Please could you email me with the details?

    Thank you!

  26. Hi,I am in the uk and would like to know if a private adoption from korea would be possible for me,what documents would I need from the government here and do you have any idea how I would go about finding a child?
    Many Thanks,H.

  27. Hi there,

    I am interested to know if South African citizens living in South Africa would be able to do a private adoption from Korea. I’ve contacted the Korean adoption authority a number of times, but have never heard back. How will we find a birthmother in Korea who wants to do a private adoption? Thank you for your time.

  28. Dear Sir,
    My husband and I are both US citizens and are to live in Korea for at least 4 years. We are interested in adapting in Korea. We are to visit US next month and were thinking of all the documents we need to gather together while we are there. Could you please help us out with this? If we are to adopt from the orphanage, would your firm be able to help us with this as well or you just deal with private adoptions? Thank you so much for your articles as they were very helpful.

  29. Thank you for your article. We are beginnig the process of researching adopting and are overwhelmed. U.S. citizens looking to adopt Korean infant. How does the average cost of private adoption compare with going through the orphanages? Also, how would I make connections with birth mothers or parents in Korea?

  30. Dear Sir,

    My husband and I have found a precious little girl in an orphanage. We visit her often and want to adopt her. Can you please help us with this process?


  31. Hi-

    I am a single Chinese female and have adopted from China before they stopped to single women. I have wanted to stay in the Asian culture and wondered how I could adopt privately.

    Are we able to adopt from orphanages? How do you get in contact with birth mothers or adopting young infants? Do you have access?



  32. Hi,
    Like several others who posted, we are a military couple (U.S. citizens) stationed in Seoul and would very much like to adopt a Korean child. We tried to go through a U.S. agency but none will work with us because of us living overseas so now we are interested in learning how to do a private adoption here. We will be here another 2.5 or possibly 3.5 years. Please e-mail me with information on how we can get started with this. We do not have a specific child in mind but we are looking to adopt a girl up to age three and we are also open to some special needs. Thank you for posting this article!! It has been so hard to find information like this.

  33. hi my friend is living korea with her sri linken wife and my friend is also from sri linka .her wife is pragenat and i want to adpape there babe by birhte and they are agree .i am also form sri linka and my wife is a korean

  34. dear sir i want to know how to make by private adaption by birth from non korean to korean family?and how to do

  35. hi i am benti male from india .my wife is a korean and she birth a child one week ago then how should i regester his name in korea and my country?

  36. hi i am a from india but living in korea and i have a korean wife and one year i ago submete my nationalty case in immgration for to be a korean weak ago my wife born a child then how should i inform to immgration?

  37. Hello mehar. As the child’s mother is a Korean, the mother shall report his birth to local ward office and he’ll get a Korean nationality. For more detail, please contact to your local ward office or immigration office.

  38. Dear Hasin. I understand you meant adoption which takes place in Korea. There is no different process required for Korean adoptive parents to adopt non Korean kid-mutual agreement and report to a ward office. However required documents are little bit different. If the adoptee is a foreigner, a document which certificates the kid’s eligibility for adoption under the laws of his or her country, such as a consent from his or her legal representative, shall be submitted.

  39. I have been trying to adopt a child while here in Korea, my husband is US active army, if anyone has any information they can provide on the best way to adopt while in Korea that would be fantastic.

  40. We are an active duty family currently stationed in Korean. We have been here for two years and have two more years to go. We agreed to the Korean assignment so that we could adopt, but when we arrived were told by our “family support center” that we could no longer adopt through an orphanage or a Korean adoption agency. We have looked into adopting from a state side agency but is it so expensive and we already live here and will be for at least two more years. We have had a friend here who has been able to adopt two children through private adoption. Our friends have been blessed to find their families through church groups and Korean friends, but we have had no such luck. We live out in the country so we don’t get all the connection and info from the bigger cities. I am wondering if there is any sites or agencies that help connect Korean families who want to do a private adoption with American families.
    Thanks for your time

    1. We tried to adopt through church organizations, private adoption as well as friends in the states that have the majority of their families in Korea. Sadly we made no progress. When the chaplin in US bases tell you to give up it’s heartbreaking.
      Sadly the US adoption agencies have become less than above board with many families. I wish you only luck and prayers.

  41. Could you forward the information about pursuing a private adoption while living in Korea to me as well?

  42. I’ve heard that adoptive parents who live in Korea must remain in Korea for two years after a private adoption. Is this true? If you have any additional info on how to pursue a private adoption while living in Korea, I’d appreciate it. We are SOFA status American citizens. 감사합니다

  43. What if you are working in South Korea under SOFA status (Government). What are the procedures?

  44. I’m the adoptive mother of two Korean children and an adoption reform activist. I would very much like to link to this post, as it provides information that prospective and current adoptive parents will find interesting. I hope that will be OK.

    Thank you for posting this, I cannot telll you how difficult it is for adoptees and adoptive parents to find information like this.

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