Why South Korea??

We chose to adopt from South Korea for several reasons. The first, and possibly the simplest, is that it was one of only a handful of countries that we met the requirements for. Each country that participates in international adoption has requirements, and they include adoptive parents' ages, health status, income, mental health, and sometimes, your physical size. Yep, you read that correctly! South Korea actually has a requirement for adoptive parent's BMI, or Body Mass Index. It is reasonable, and actually lots of agencies in South Korea are moving away from that requirement. It will likely be phased out soon as a requirement for adoption. Countries that are very popular that we considered adopting from included China, Guatemala, Russia, Kazakhstan, and South Korea. These countries have been popular with families for various reasons, including stability, likelihood of receiving a child of a certain age or gender, and shorter wait times (apart from China). We started looking into Guatemala, however the country closed to international adoptions early last year. There were poor practices taking place, and the country is "overhauling" their regulations in order to benefit the children. So, Guatemala is out.  My next favorite was China, because it is a stable program and we know several families who have adopted from China. After looking into the requirements, we did not meet the basic country criteria because I am too young. Both adoptive parents must be 30 years old at the time of application, and I just turned 27! In addition, the wait for a referral from China is now somewhere around 4 years. So, China is out. We never really looked into Russia all that deeply, I just think we both knew that our child was not in Russia. That is something i cannot explain, but neither of us felt driven to explore that option. We did explore Kazakhstan, and actually began the application process for that country. When we started the program, we knew that we would have one long trip to Kazakhstan, for about 6 weeks, and at the end of that trip we would come home with our child. We would not receive a referral, instead an invitation to travel, and when we arrived in country we would be brought to an orphanage and would meet children. Then we would have to decide which child we felt was our child (um....can you say difficult??) and attend the court proceedings and then travel home with the child. As we got further into the process, and were about to begin compiling our mound of paperwork, all the rules of the game changed. We were told that we would have to make 3 trips to Kazakhstan, and that we may get there and there would not be an available child for us, so we would have to continue traveling back and forth, with no guarantee of a child. We quickly began researching other options, and found the South Korea program!! It has not changed in 50 years, the children are typically less than one year at homecoming, and are very healthy and raised in foster families until homecoming. Their medical records and healthcare are impeccable, and it is a fairly straightforward process, as straightforward as adoption can be. So, South Korea it is!!!!

South Korea

About South Korea

Korea's population is one of the most ethnically and linguistically homogenous in the world. Except for a small Chinese community (about 20,000), virtually all Koreans share a common cultural and linguistic heritage. With 48.38 million people, South Korea has one of the world's highest population densities. Major population centers are located in the northwest, southeast, and in the plains south of the Seoul-Incheon area.
Korea has experienced one of the largest rates of emigration, with ethnic Koreans residing primarily in China (2.4 million), the United States (2.1 million), Japan (600,000), and the countries of the former Soviet Union (532,000).

The Korean language is related to Japanese and Mongolian. Although it differs grammatically from Chinese and does not use tones, a large number of Chinese cognates exist in Korean. Chinese ideograms are believed to have been brought into Korea sometime before the second century BC. The learned class spoke Korean, but read and wrote Chinese. A phonetic writing system ("hangul") was invented in the 15th century by King Sejong to provide a writing system for commoners who could not read classical Chinese. Modern Korean uses hangul almost exclusively with Chinese characters in limited use for word clarification. Approximately 1,300 Chinese characters are used in modern Korean. English is taught as a second language in most primary and secondary schools. Chinese and Japanese are widely taught at secondary schools.

Half of the population actively practices religion. Among this group, Christianity (49%) and Buddhism (47%) comprise Korea's two dominant religions. Though only 3% identified themselves as Confucianists, Korean society remains highly imbued with Confucian values and beliefs. The remaining 1% of the population practice Shamanism (traditional spirit worship) and Chondogyo ("Heavenly Way"), a traditional religion..

Taken from U.S. Department of State website

South Korean Traditions

Baek-Il - 100th Day Celebration

In the past, due to a lack of medical information, Korea's seasonal temperature differences, and many childhood related diseases, the death rate for children was extremely high. Many children died before their first birthday. After the age of one year, the survival rate steeply increased, making this milestone a very happy one for the child's parents. It has also been a custom to celebrate a child's 100 day birthday (baek-il) , but in most areas this birthday is less important than the Tol and any celebrations are smaller in scale.

On the 100th day after a child's birth, a small feast is prepared to celebrate the child's having survived this difficult period. If the child is sick at this time, the family passes the day with neither announcement nor party, for to do otherwise is considered bad luck for the infant.

At this time the 
samshin halmoni is honored with offerings of rice and soup in gratitude for having cared for the infant and the mother, and for having helped them live through a difficult period. The family, relatives and friends then celebrate with rice cakes, wine, and other delicacies such as red and black bean cakes sweetened with sugar or honey.

To prevent potential harm to the child and to bring him or her good luck and happiness, red bean cakes are customarily placed at the four compass points within the house. If the steamed rice cakes are shared with 100 people, it is believed that the child will have a long life. Therefore, rice cakes are usually sent to as many people as possible to help celebrate the happiness of the occasion. Those who receive rice cakes return the vessels with skeins of thread, expressing the hope of longevity, and rice and money, symbolizing future wealth.

Credit to: www.lifeinkorea.com and www.asianinfo.org

Tol (also written Dol)-The First Birthday!

Tol has two meanings in Korean. The most common meaning is a child's first birthday. It can also be used as a generic description for birthdays: Chut-tol (first birthday), Du-tol (second birthday), Seo-tol(third birthday), etc.
Traditionally, Koreans would pray to Sanshin (a mountain god) and Samshin (a birth god, also called Samshin-halmuni"grandmother") on certain days following a child's birth (birth, 3-7 days after birth, and 100 days after birth). They believed thatSamshin resided in the cloth surrounding a baby.

To prepare the praying table, the parents placed a bowl of steamed white rice, sea mustard soup (
miyeok-guk), and a bowl of pure water on the table. Next to the table they placedsamshin siru (layered red bean rice cake). This rice cake was not shared outside the family because they believed that sharing this particular item with people outside the family would bring bad luck to the child.

After the table was prepared, the child's mother or grandmother would pray with two hands together. Rubbing her palms together, she would ask for her child's longevity, wish luck to the mountain god, and and give thanks to the birth god. This was acomppanied by repeated bowing. Male family members were not allowed to join in thes ceremony. Only female family members were allowed to participate.

Seoulites perform this ceremony early in the morning on the child's birthday. Residents of some other areas do it the night before the birthday.
The clothes worn for the tol (tol-bok) are colorful, dressy clothes. They differ depending on the child's sex. Both boys and girls wear a long tol-ddi (a belt that wraps around the body twice) for longevity and a tol-jumuni (pouch) for luck. Silk cloth is used to make the tol-jumuni, folded at the top with a colorful thread pull-string to open and close. Buttons are not used. 

The parents prepare a special Tol table to celebrate the child's birthday. The main food includes ddeok (rice cakes) and fruits. Over 12 different kinds of ddeok are prepared, including paekseolgi (white steamed rice cakes), susu-kyongdan (rice cakes coated with rough red bean powder), chapsal-ddeok or chal-ddeokmujigae-ddeok (rainbow colored steamed rice cake), songp'yeon (half moon shaped rice cakes), injulmi (coated glutinous rice cakes), and gyep'i-ddeok (puffed air rice cakes). Among these, paekseolgi and susu-kyongdan are always included. Fruits can vary according to the season of the birthday. Different colors of seasonal fruits can be prepared and displayed in a row. Also, a bowl of rice, sea mustard soup, and many other various foods can be displayed.
Along with food, other items are needed for holding the 
Toljabee event. Items such as large bundle of thread, a brush, a Korean calligraphy set, pencil, book, money (10,000 won bills), bow and arrow (needle, scissors, and ruler for girls) are arranged on the table to predict the child's future. The birthday child will be placed at the table so that the other guests can face him or her. Parents often sit the child on the bolou (Korean traditional mattress) and several bangsuk (Korean cushions). Since the child is small, this allows for getting better pictures. For the background, a Korean traditional screen is used at the hotel or other banquet hall. In the toljabee event, the birthday child goes around the table and picks up items that attract him or her. The child's future is predicted according to the what he or she grabs. After placing the child in front of the table, the child's father becomes the guide for the child to go around the table and grab whatever he or she wants. The first and second items the child grabs are considered the most important. Usually Korean parents place the items that they want the child to choose near to the edge of the table. The child's future is predicted according to the items:

-bow and arrowthe child will become a warrior
needle and threadthe child will live long
jujubethe child will have many descendants
book, pencil, or related itemsthe child will become a successful scholar
rice or rice cakethe child will become rich (some resources say choosing a rice cake means the child is not smart)
ruler, needle, scissorsthe child will be talented with his/her hands
knifethe child will be a good cook

Credit to: www.lifeinkorea.com and www.asianinfo.org