By Kang Shin-who
The United States Forces Korea (USFK) has turned a blind eye to allegations that U.S. base personnel have adopted Korean children who wish to attend American schools in army bases in exchange for money and other irregularities.
Following a Korea Times report on Dec. 8, the USFK had said it would look into the abuse of adoption by Americans working at military bases here.
Asked whether it plans to investigate the allegations, Dave Palmer, chief of the USFK's public affairs office, said, ``We have physically no role in the process over somebody doing an adoption. We don't know if there is anything wrong.
``The adoptions are approved by your nation and our nation. Far above you and me. If the adoptions are approved then they are fit to enter school.''
The U.S. Army Criminal Investigation Command (CID) has not yet decided whether it will investigate the accusation, saying it doesn't have enough manpower in Korea.
According to some parents and school staff, there have been complaints related to their inability to get ``legitimate'' children into Department of Defense (DoD) Dependent Schools due to them being overcrowded with Korean students.
Asked about the number of adopted Korean students, the Seoul American High School, one of the DoD schools, said the information was protected by the Privacy Act, which is a U.S. Federal Law that limits the amount of information the U.S. government can release from official records regarding an individual without their permission.
``Adoption is a very sensitive issue and we do not keep demographic data files on students who have been adopted. Students who meet the registration requirements for admission are not treated differently because of their race, religion, ethnic background or birth status,'' said Robert E. Sennett, principal of Seoul American High School.
According to a broker, a female working at the U.S. camp in Yongsan garrison was willing to adopt a Korean child for 200 million won ($146,000). She recently adopted her nephew to ensure his education at a DoD school. The broker did the documentation work as an agent during that adoption.
The adopted children can obtain a Green Card and then U.S. citizenship, normally in three years. It is already widely known that many Korean parents send their children to the United States for adoption because they can then get an American education cheaper and avoid obligatory military duty in the case of males.
Established in 1946, DoD schools are supposed to provide education for the children of American military and DoD employees stationed overseas. There are a total of eight DoD schools in Korea, across Seoul, Daegu, Osan, Pyongtaek and Jinhae.
Command-sponsored dependents of U.S. military and DoD civilians with orders to Korea have priority for enrollment in the schools, which charge some $20,000 per year in tuition. Command-sponsored dependents and DoD civilians and non-command sponsored dependents of U.S. military personnel attend free of charge.
The Korean government sets aside a large amount of taxpayers' money to maintain U.S. troops here, and this year plans to provide about 760 billion won to the USFK.