Country Update: South Korea



South Korea is OPEN to intercountry adoption.



The Ministry of Health and Social Affairs authorizes the adoption agencies and establish the criteria for selecting adoptive parents. Even though these criteria are administrative policy guidelines, not legal requirements, local adoption agencies generally follow them. The South Korean courts grant legal custody to the prospective adoptive parents. Before gaining custody, prospective adoptive parents must complete various procedures (i.e., home visits, complete reports) before permission to adopt is granted.


South Korea has the longest running international adoption program and has sent the most children overseas for adoption than any other country in the world to date – 150,944 children between 1953 and 2006 according to official statistics from the Korean Ministry of Health and Welfare. Of this total, 104,319 were adopted by American citizens constituting approximately one out of every ten Korean-Americans. In 1996 the South Korean government revised its adoption law stipulating an annual decrease of international adoptions by 3 to 5 percent, with an eventual phasing out by 2015. Since then, the number of Korean children sent overseas for adoption has hovered around 2,000 children annually. In 2006, the government rolled out a five-year welfare strategy to tackle the country’s low birth rates. It includes financial incentives to adults who choose to adopt and give birth. And as of January 2007, children available for adoption must wait at least five months for a possible domestic placement before being considered for intercountry adoption.


Despite these efforts, of the 9,420 children available for adoption in 2005, only 1,461 were adopted domestically while 2,101 children were allowed to be adopted overseas. In addition, the number of children entering orphanages has risen from 17,675 in 2004 to 19,000 in 2007 with about 800 to 900 18-year-olds every year aging out of the system with little housing, educational, or vocational support.



May 28, 2013 Adoption Notice: The Republic of Korea Signs the Hague Adoption Convention

January 25, 2013 Notice: Korea Begins Implementing Special Adoption Act




All of the information listed below is from the following source:

South Korea Web Page, U.S. Department of State, Office of Children's Issues

Number of Adoptions to the U.S.

Fiscal Year Number
FY 2013 138
FY 2012 627
FY 2011 736
FY 2010 865
FY 2009 1079
FY 2008 1064
FY 2007 938
FY 2006 1373
FY 2005 1628
FY 2004 1713

Hague Country: No

Adoption Authority: Ministry of Health and Social Welfare



In addition to these U.S. requirements for adoptive parents, South Korea also has the following requirements for adoptive parents:


Residency Requirements: There are no residency requirements for South Korean intercountry adoptions.

Age Requirements: Prospective adoptive parents must be between 25 and 44 years old. Korean authorities usually require both prospective intercountry adoptive parents be younger than 45 years old. The age difference between the couple can be no more than 15 years. Some considerations in waiving the age requirements are at least one parent is under 45 years old, the prospective adoptive parents have previously adopted a Korean child, and are willing to adopt an orphan with serious medical problems.

Marriage Requirements: Married couples must have been married at least three years. Single individuals are not eligible to adopt a child from South Korea.

Income Requirements: The prospective adoptive parents must have an income higher than the U.S. national average and be sufficient to support the adoptive child.

Other Requirements: The prospective adoptive parents cannot have more than five children, including the child(ren) to be adopted.


Prospective adoptive parents are required to work with an adoption agency approved by the South Korean Government. Approved agencies are: Eastern Social Welfare Society, Inc., Holt International Children Services, Korea Social Service, Social Welfare Society Inc.