Couple give up child adopted 7 years ago

PUBLISHED : Sunday, 09 December, 2007, 12:00am
UPDATED : Sunday, 09 December, 2007, 12:00am

Diplomat and wife turn out girl, 8

A high-ranking diplomat and his wife have given up to Hong Kong authorities the daughter they adopted seven years ago in Korea when she was just four months old.

The diplomat and his wife handed the girl over to the Social Welfare Department last year.

The case has prompted appeals to find new parents for the child among the Korean community in Hong Kong, and comes amid international debate about families adopting children from other cultures.

An Irish couple caused a furore when they returned a child to an Indonesian orphanage in 2005, saying the adoption did not work out. Recently, a French charity sparked controversy with plans to take 103 children from Chad in central Africa to France for adoption.

The Korean girl has been in foster care with an expatriate family since being handed over to social workers in Hong Kong. The diplomat and his wife gave her up after having two children of their own and the Social Welfare Department has been working to find her a new permanent home.

The South Korean consulate says she was not naturalised as a citizen of her adoptive parents' country and is not a Hong Kong resident. This leaves her residency status in the city in doubt. The girl is attending school and speaks Cantonese and English, but not Korean.

The diplomat, who has a senior management role at a European consulate in the city, yesterday said the child had been adopted by his family while he was based at his country's embassy in South Korea. The adoption had gone wrong, he said.

The diplomat said the family was trying 'hard to deal with it' and had consulted experts. His wife was seeking therapy following the decision to give up the child.

'It's just a very terrible trauma that everyone's experiencing,' he said. 'I don't have anything to say to the public. It is something we have to live with.

'My Foreign Ministry knows about my situation. I have also been in touch with the Hong Kong government and they have been very helpful to me and so has my own employer.'

The diplomat declined to say whether his family was in touch with the child.

'We are doing everything with the Hong Kong government and Social Welfare Department to find a solution,' he said. 'That's as much as I can tell you. We are trying our best.'

A Korean magazine has twice published appeals to Hong Kong-based Koreans to find the girl a home.

'She was adopted by a ... couple in January 2000, who were living in Korea at that time,' the magazine said, citing the Social Welfare Department.

'Her adoptive mother, who had been thought to be sterile, has since had her own two children so they gave her up for adoption.'

The South Korean consulate confirmed it was aware of the situation and said it had been flooded with offers of help.

Many in the community have expressed anger and bewilderment at the treatment of the girl.

Inn Hae Morgan, who has been in touch with the Social Welfare Department, said the concern centred on the welfare of the child.

'We have been told she is well and happy,' she said.

'It's hard to understand what the circumstances would be that a child who has been with a family for so many years would be abandoned.'

Social welfare sector legislator Fernando Cheung Chiu-hung said there would be issues with the child's nationality and she might have to return to Korea before she could find a new family.

A spokesman for the Social Welfare Department said it would comment on the case later.

Korean law does not permit adoptive parents to return their children. There is no similar law in Hong Kong.

The Sunday Morning Post is not naming the family to protect the interests of the girl.