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2008/05/09 15:59 KST
Domestic adoptions of Koreans surpass overseas ones for first time

   SEOUL, May 9 (Yonhap) -- The number of South Korean children adopted domestically surpassed that of ones adopted overseas last year, the South Korean government said Friday.

   According to the statistics released by the Ministry of Health and Welfare, the number of those adopted within the country was 1,388, equivalent to 52.3 percent of the 2,652 adoptees in 2007.

   There were also 1,264 children adopted from South Korea last year, or 47.7 percent of the total.

   The rate of the domestic adoption grew steadily, following 41 percent in 2005 and 41.2 percent in 2006.

   The total number of both domestic and overseas adoptees has been declining since 2001, when the number was 4,206.

   The increase in domestic adoption is presumed to have resulted from easing restrictions on adoption and promoting domestic adoption before overseas adoption. Since last year, the South Korean government has allowed unmarried adults to adopt a child and raised the maximum age limit for adoptive parents from 50 to 60.

   Adoptions of Korean overseas began in the aftermath of the Korean War, peaking in the mid-1980s when over 8,000 children a year were sent abroad, mostly to the United States, to join their new families. Since the 1990s, many of the adoptees have been children of single mothers.

   In recent years, South Korea, which was labeled as a "baby-exporting" country by western media around the time that it hosted the 1988 Olympics, has been making efforts to encourage domestic adoptions.

   However, along with China, Russia and Ethiopia, it is still one of major "sending" countries in terms of U.S. adoptions, according to the annual U.S. State Department report on "orphan" visas.