By Nam Hyun-woo
Holt Children's Service being inspected for its practice of sending adoptees in and outside of Korea, after a 3-year-old sent to the U.S. through the agency was allegedly beaten to death by his adoptive father.
The Ministry of Health and Welfare said Wednesday that it has been inspecting the adoption agency since Monday over its adoption procedures, and the commission fees it receives from foster parents for adoption.
Holt authorities said that inspectors were looking into its financial statements.
"The toddler's death triggered the inspection. We will take corrective measures against Holt if any illegalities are found," a ministry official said. She declined to elaborate.
The boy, Hyunsu O'Callaghan, was born in Korea and adopted by Brian O'Callaghan, a Maryland-based high-ranking National Security Agency agent. Maryland Police said O'Callaghan brutally beat Hyunsu and the boy died of injuries on Feb. 3, some 100 days after he met his new father. The man was charged with first-degree murder and child abuse.
The ministry's inspection is reportedly focused on the agency's commissions. After the tragedy went public, civic groups here have claimed there is a loophole in the regulation of Korea's adoption agencies suggesting, "They sell babies to foreign countries for commissions which are higher than for domestic adoptions."
They pointed out adoption agencies sending babies to overseas parents have been unregulated in the setting of commission fees. In Hyunsu's case, Holt and Catholic Charities USA, a U.S.-based agency, received some $41,650.
That is because of the government's policy of promoting domestic adoptions. The Act on Adoption also states that agencies should pursue domestic adoption before they seek overseas parents.
The ministry set the maximum commission for a domestic adoption at 2.7 million won. And it provides the full amount to agencies to promote adoptions inside the country.
However, when it comes to sending a baby overseas, there is no rule about the maximum amount and the government does not offer any subsidies. Agencies are provided only with some 480,000 won per baby every month for fostering costs.
Kim Byung-soo at Holt said, "The money we receive for arranging an overseas adoption is aimed at making ends meet."
According to him, overseas adoption costs a lot more than domestic adoption because most such toddlers stay longer than two years at the agency.
"We have no option but to ask for help for foster parents," he said, adding the agency has been suffering chronic deficits.
"The inspection is an opportunity to clear Holt's tarnished reputation," he said.