Is a Private Adoption Legal in South Korea?

The answer is yes, private adoption is legal in South Korea.  There are two types of adoption under the Korean legal system.  One is a private adoption and the other one is a foster care/institutional adoption.  Private adoption is an adoption that is initiated by a private placement from the birth parent without the involvement of any adoption agency.    The most important distinction of private adoption is that it is regulated by the Civil Code and it cannot be executed for a child in foster care or an orphanage.  Any child who is in foster care or an orphanage (“Child Under Social Protection”) should be adopted through the government-approved adoption agency.  This foster care adoption is regulated not by the Civil Code but by the Act on Special Case Concerning Adoption.

Although the two adoptions are regulated by totally different legal systems, many people often confuse these two.  As a foster care adoption must be taken care of by an adoption agency, non-foster care adoption, i.e. a private adoption, must be taken care of by the non-adoption agency.  This means the adoption agencies are barred from being engaged in a private adoption.  They cannot make a placement for private adoption.  That is illegal.  The child to be adopted privately should be located by the persons themselves.

You Should Not Take the Child out of Foster Care to Do a Private Adoption

One frequently asked question is if anyone can adopt a Child Under Social Protection once he can get the child out of the institution.  The answer is No.  That is to circumvent the rules and process of foster care adoption and could result in a criminal accusation.  There was a case where a U.S. attorney doing business in Korea tried to arrange a private adoption of a child who was taken care of by foster care.  The U.S. attorney simply thought a private adoption would be legally possible if the child was taken out of the care of the institution.  The U.S. adoptive parents trusted the U.S. attorney’s advice.  But it turned out that the adoption could not be processed as a private adoption.  The child was returned to the institution and the U.S. adoptive parents never saw the child again.  The Korean court also ordered the termination of the parental rights of the Korean birth mother. 

What You Should Do to Adopt a Child Privately in South Korea

Private adoption is quite widely used in Korea.  Basically, the adoptive parents should file a petition with the Korean Family Court to get court permission.  Unlike a foster care adoption, the requirements for a private adoption is relatively simple, i.e. a genuine agreement and consent for the adoption.  Unlike a foster care adoption, a single parent can do a private simple adoption.

This does not mean anyone can do a private adoption freely.  The court has a wide range of discretion in granting or denying the private adoption application.  The judge will review whether the adoption would work for the best interest of the child.  It should be noted that when the child to be adopted is very young, the court has a tenancy to review the case more thoroughly.  That is because the court would not tolerate that private adoption is used to circumvent the rules and process of foster care adoption.  If there is any special personal tie between the adoptive parent and the child, the chance to get court permission would become higher.

If you have any questions regarding this article or you are in a similar case/situation, please visit our Legal Consultation center or send your inquiry email by clicking here.  Our Korean qualified lawyer will answer your inquiry.

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