G.O.A.'L closes its doors: What can Korea's Ministry of Health and Welfare be thinking?

I was shocked to learn yesterday that G.O.A.'L, the Global Overseas Adoptees' Link, who for over ten years has given Korean adoptees a voice and support in Korea and around the world, will be sharply reducing its services, even closing its doors.

The reason? Funding.  The South Korean Ministry of Health and Welfare has decided to cease its support for several of G.O.A.’L's key program areas, in my opinion the most important ones: operating costs that provide G.O.A.’L with a presence in Korea - and first family search.

The government will, however, continue to fund travel programs and special events. From G.O.A.’L's announcement announcement:

Recently the Ministry of Health and Welfare has decided to no longer support G.O.A.’L in certain areas like Birth Family Search, staff wages and certain programs and services. Unlike other organizations, G.O.A.’L does not have a consistent source of revenue to provide for its staff and operating costs. G.O.A.’L requires sufficient planning and notice to prepare for such changes but cannot continue to operate without this year’s subsidy. This was explained to the Ministry of Health and Welfare many times but they claim they cannot continue to support G.O.A.’L in these areas. Ironically funding and support will continue for things like events and program-based services.

I have long had the feeling that the South Korean government's attitude toward adoptees can be viewed this way:
  1. Send them away when they're babies and children, when their presence makes Korea's failure to deal with the social issues that prevent them from growing up in Korea - like poverty and social stigma against unmarried motherhood and adoption - public.
  2. Invite them back at 18, providing free travel and scholarships that demonstrate how generous and charitable Korea is.

This is, of course, a harsh oversimplification of attitudes that are much more complicated, not to mention that South Korea is as affected by the global economic downturn as any other country.  But I believe there's a fair sized kernel of truth in what I say here, and that witholding funding from G.O.A.’L is a symptom of Korea's dismissive and marginalizing attitudes toward adoption, adoptees and their mothers.

Read the lists below and think about which services will continue and which will end.  As an adoptive parent, it's not heartening to me in the least to see that the Korean government is willing to subsidize travel to Korea for my kids, but not their efforts to find their families. At the end of the day it's my job as an adoptive parent to provide my children with opportunities to learn the Korean language and travel to Korea. My kids don't, however, have many options for seeking and finding their first families.  G.O.A.’L was an important one, and South Korea's government should continue to provide them with the support to allow much-needed search services to continue.

It's particularly egregious in light of the fact that the South Korean government has the dollars to spend on promoting domestic adoption in Korea - two examples are here and here. When considered  from the perspective of the numbers of Korean children sent overseas for adoption, promoting domestic adoption can be viewed positively. I don't, however, seen anything positive in reducing funding to adoptees. They should be getting the lion's share.

It's very disheartening to say the least.  If you have resources or ideas that might keep G.O.A.’L working, please contact them at sg@goal.or.kr.

Overview of future services from the G.O.A.’L announcement:
  • G.O.A.’L NO LONGER receives support for staff from the Ministry of Health and Welfare.
  • G.O.A.’L NO LONGER receives support for the Birth Family Search Department.
  • G.O.A.’L does NOT receive government funding for operation costs.
  • G.O.A.’L will continue to receive funding for program-based services like Living in Korea and Counseling, First Trip Home and special events.
  • G.O.A.’L receives LESS government subsidies compared to other organizations.
  • G.O.A.’L lacks consistent revenue and income to maintain its cost of operation and staff.
  • The G.O.A.’L office will continue to exist in some capacity until further notice.
  • Secretary General will continue to maintain G.O.A.’Ls existence and work to serve the community.
G.O.A.’L's Operations, Programs and Services 
  • G.O.A.’L will reduce its current services and temporarily close its doors until further notice.
  • G.O.A.’L Korean Language Scholarships will continue until further notice.
  • No new G.O.A.’L Korean Language Tutoring requests will be taken.
  • Annual programs like the G.O.A.’L First Trip Home, Annual G.O.A.’L Conference and Christmas Fundraiser will still be planned.
  • Volunteers for translation and interpretation will be limited.
  • Birth Family Search services will be limited.
  • Response to emails, phone calls and faxes will be limited.
  • Program-based services will continue.
  • Daily services like F4 Visa, Dual Citizenship, etc. will be limited.


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