"An Orphan for You": The Rise of Korean Adoption in the 1970s and 80s

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David Brower Center

2150 Allston Way

Berkeley, CA 94704

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Join us at “An Orphan for You”: The Rise of Korean Adoption in the 1970s and 80s, a free conference in Berkeley and Oakland, CA.

About this Event

ONLINE REGISTRATION IS NOW CLOSED. Please email us at conference@meandkorea.org with any questions!


In cooperation with Mu Films, Asian American and Asian Diaspora Studies (U.C. Berkeley), and the Oakland Asian Cultural Center, Me & Korea is pleased to announce it will co-host “An Orphan for You”: The Rise of Korean Adoption in the 1970s and 80s, a free conference in Berkeley and Oakland, CA. The conference will take place over two days, from February 22-23, 2020.


During the 1970s and 80s, South Korea sent the largest number of children overseas for adoption – over 112,000 out of an estimated 200,000 globally – leading some to refer to the country as “the land of orphans.” But many Korean children, perhaps the majority, who were sent overseas for adoption were social orphans who had at least one living parent and, in some cases, an intact family.

What were the factors in South Korea that resulted in so many children being sent overseas at a time of rapid industrialization and rising wealth? What fueled interest in adopting Korean children among parents in the U.S.?

This conference will explore how Korean adoption, which began primarily as a rescue operation for mixed race children immediately following the Korean War, radically expanded in the 1970s and 80s. The goal is to shed light on some of the powerful economic, social and cultural forces that led to children being separated from their birth families and relinquished for adoption by families in the West.



Attendance to the conference on both days is free. However, if you wish to enjoy our catered lunch and refreshments on-site each day, please be sure to purchase our add-on lunch option when you register. Purchasing the lunch add-on is optional, and not required to attend.

Optional lunch cost: $20/day (includes lunch, refreshments throughout the day, and reception)

Register for tickets

Click the green REGISTER button above, and select your ticket choice.

  • Two Day Admission: free admission for both Saturday and Sunday events
  • Saturday Only: free admission for Saturday events ONLY, at David Brower Center
  • Sunday Only: free admission for Sunday events ONLY, at Oakland Asian Cultural Center
  • Add-Ons: Lunch add-on — choose Saturday, Sunday, or add both.


  • Saturday, Feb. 22, 2020, 9am-6pm (David Brower Center)
  • Sunday, Feb. 23, 2020, 9:30-4:00 (Oakland Asian Cultural Center)


  • Saturday: David Brower Center, Berkeley (MAP)
  • Sunday: Oakland Asian Cultural Center (MAP)

The schedule below is tentative, and subject to change.

Saturday, Feb. 22

9:00-9:30 Registration

9:30-12:35 Morning session

11:55-12:50 Lunch

12:50-6:00 Afternoon session

Session panels will include:

  • Kim Park Nelson, American Multicultural Studies, Minnesota State University “Multiculturalism in the Late Cold War: Korean Transracial Adoption in the United States in the 1970s and 1980s”
  • Eleana Kim, University of California, Irvine and Kim Park Nelson “Natural-born Alien Children: Transnational adoption and US immigration law”
  • Sandy White Hawk, Executive Director, First Nations Repatriation Institute “Truth Healing Reconciliation in Indian Child Welfare”
  • Seungsook Moon, Sociology, Vassar College “The politics of population control & its implications for transnational adoption in South Korea during the 1970s and 1980s”
  • Eunyoung Song, Institute for East Asian Studies at Sungkonghoe University “Urban Development of Seoul in the 1960s~1970s and Impact on Families and Children ”
  • Mihyun Jang, Visiting scholar, PAAS (Pacific and Asian Studies), University of Victoria, Canada "The Experience and Social Situation of Female Workers in the 1970s-1980s: the Co-relationship between Unstable Labor and Child-Rearing"
  • Panel discussion: three mothers forced to relinquish children for adoption share their experiences

Special guest: Jonghwan Choi; Mayor of Paju, "Development of Omma Poom park"

MC: Deann Borshay Liem, Director/Producer, Mu Films

Display Exhibit:

  • Population control campaign – posters and postage stamps (1950s-2000s)
  • Urban Development in Seoul (1960s-80s)
  • Female factory workers in Korea (1970s-1980s)
  • Development of Omma Poom Park in Paju


Sunday, Feb. 23

9:30-11:30 Informal group session with guest speakers

11:30-12:30 Lunch & break

12:30-2:00 Film screening: Geographies of Kinship.

2:00-3:00 Adoptee Panel: HyunJu Chappell, Tommy Gentzel, Bella Dalton

3:00-4:00 Reception


Look for flights into Oakland (OAK) or San Francisco International Airport (SFO). OAK is the closest hub to the Oakland Marriott, David Brower Center, and Oakland Asian Cultural Center.


Hotel Accommodations

Oakland Marriott City Center

1001 Broadway, Oakland, CA 94607




We have booked a block of rooms at the Oakland Marriott City Center, from Friday, Feb. 21-Sunday, Feb. 23, 2020. Please click here to book your room with our group rate online. To secure the group rate, you must book your room by Friday, January 24, 2020.


Other Lodging Options

If you would like to coordinate shared lodging with friends, we also recommend searching for Airbnbs in Berkeley, CA. The Saturday portion of the conference will take place near UC Berkeley’s campus, at the David Brower Center.

Please email us at conference@meandkorea.org with any questions.

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David Brower Center

2150 Allston Way

Berkeley, CA 94704

View Map

Refund Policy

No Refunds

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