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article imageSeoul court names birth father in landmark adoptee ruling

By Claire LEE (AFP)     Jun 12, 2020 in World

A Seoul court on Friday officially recognised a Korean-born adoptee as the daughter of her biological father in a landmark ruling that she described as "momentous".

Kara Bos, 38, broke down in tears after the Seoul Family Court delivered its ruling entering her in the man's family registry, a move that could set a legal precedent.

His relatives had wanted nothing to do with her despite an online DNA match.

Bos -- who was abandoned at the age of two and adopted by an American family -- embarked on the legal battle to discover her birth mother's identity, and her lawyers say she will now be able to access official records on her father's family.

"This day is momentous for all of us adoptees just to have a right finally," she told reporters, visibly emotional.

"The struggles we faced with not having any rights whatsoever to be able to contact our family... and I hope this can change in Korea."

South Korea was once among the biggest sources for international adoption, having sent at least 167,000 children abroad since the 1950s.

But accessing records for returning adoptees is notoriously difficult due to laws prioritising birth parents' privacy over adoptees' rights -- the issue has long been shrouded in secrecy and linked to stigma.

Neither the man nor any of his relatives were present at the hearing.

- 'Please come' -

Inclusion in the family registry gives Bos a legal entitlement to an inheritance
Inclusion in the family registry gives Bos a legal entitlement to an inheritance
Jung Yeon-je, AFP

Growing up in Michigan, Bos, whose Korean name is Kang Mee Sook, rarely thought about her birth family, but when her own daughter turned two she started thinking about what her separation must have meant for her biological mother and decided to try to track her down.

After her initial efforts to trace her through adoption records and distributing leaflets proved fruitless, she submitted a DNA sample to an online genealogy platform in 2016 and found she was related to a young Korean man studying abroad.

With the match she was able to locate her half-sisters -- the young man's mother and aunt -- but they wanted nothing to do with her, barring her from meeting her father, the only person who could tell her who her mother was.

One of them called police when she begged on her knees at her door.

In November she filed a paternity suit -- according to her lawyers she is the first Korean-born overseas adoptee to have done so -- and a court-ordered DNA test showed there was a 99.987 percent probability he was her father.

Inclusion in the family registry gives Bos a legal entitlement to an inheritance, but she said all she wanted was to find out about her mother and the truth.

"If secrecy... hadn't shrouded my adoption story then maybe this could have all been resolved with my birth father's family with a five-minute phone call," she told AFP.

Bos said she plans to meet her father next week, and hopes he will finally reveal her origins.

"I hope... with this media attention, if my mother is watching, that she will step out and be an example of someone who can have courage just like I did to fight this fight," she told reporters outside the court.

"Omma, I want to meet you," she told the cameras in basic Korean. "Really, don't be sorry. Please just come."

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