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25 Factors to Consider When Adopting from South Korea

 Also available in a printable version.

Current as of November, 2013. This information is subject to change; therefore, check with an agency that places from this country for the most current information.


Parental Age

Parents must be between 25 and 42 years old, with no more than 10 years between husband and wife.   Parents that are part of the Korean Heritage Program may be between 25 and 47 years old.

Length of Marriage

3 years


1 divorce for each parent.

Children in Family

Up to 4 biological or adopted children in home

Single Applicant

South Korea does not place with singles

Sexual Orientation

Does not place with homosexuals.

Children Available

Healthy toddlers (20-26 months), special needs children up to 4, both boys and girls, but there are more boys than girls.




Boys and girls; families that are part of the Korean Heritage Program or families adopting a waiting child might be able to request gender, depending on the adoption agency.

Adopting More Than One Unrelated Child at Same Time

Not allowed

Travel in Country

Two trips, each approximately one week, are required.  Both parents are required for the first trip, while one or both parents may travel for second trip.

Referral Method


Wait For Referral (after paperwork submitted)

4-6 months.  There is a shorter wait for Korean Heritage families or families adopting a waiting child.

Wait After Referral

13-18+ months.  The average length of the complete adoption is 19-28 months.

Approximate Cost

$31,000 – $35,000 (includes travel)

Youngest Age Upon Arrival Home

20 months

Orphanage/Foster Care

Foster care.  Every IA doctor I interviewed rated the care after birth to be the best.

How Children Enter Government Care

Relinquishment due to social stigma and lack of support for unwed mothers. 

Prevalence of FAS

Birth mothers are usually interviewed thoroughly, and according to agency and IA doctor interviews, approximately 30-35% say that they drank some alcohol while pregnant.  Details are usually included on the type of alcohol, frequency of consumption, and timing during the pregnancy. IA doctors report that they are not generally seeing neurological impacts, which may mean that the type, quantity, and timing of consumption were not of the nature to cause FASD, or it could mean that impairments are subtle and will not be detected until the child reaches school age.  If this is a concern with your referral, consult an IA doctor.

Adequacy of Medical Reports

Every IA doctor interviewed rated the Korean medical reports as the best.  There is usually fairly detailed information on birth family medical, background information and prenatal history.  There is also excellent medical care for the child after birth.  Updates on child’s development usually given to families while they wait.  Additional information and medical testing is readily available.



Stable, but in transition.  With the new law and court process implementation, Korean adoptions are going through a period of transition and families need to be flexible and patient as we learn this process together.

Number of Children Placed in the US in 2012



Declining.  Korea has a policy to phasing out international adoptions; therefore, they reduce slightly the number of children they will place abroad each year.

Post Adoption Reports

Not required by Korean government, but may be required at 1, 3 and 6 months by some Korean placing agencies, and will be required by your state for several months in order to finalize the adoption.

Hague Treaty

No.  In June 2013, South Korea signed the Hague Convention, but it has not been implemented yet.

Additional Information

  • Children are generally healthy.  Children are usually of average birth weight and head circumference and arrive with no developmental delays unless classified as special needs.
  • Most IA doctors said that the Korean program is the model for the world in health of the child, post natal care and providing accurate medical and developmental information.
  • Adoptions must be finalized in the US.
  • Korea specifies which agencies may place in each state. To find an agency that places children in your state, visit Adopting From Korea's index of adoption agencies.  If your state is not listed, call one of the agencies listed and ask who has partnered to place in your state.
  • Due to the quota system limiting the numbers of children placed for international adoption, there may be a delay in travel to pick up the child in the fall of the year when quotas have been filled. Ask your agency.
  • Families where at least one parent is of Korean descent qualify for the Korean Heritage Adoption Program, which has shorter wait time for referrals and might enable parents to request a gender.  Ask your agency if you think your family qualifies.
  • Korea requires that perspective parents be no more than 30% overweight and have a BMI of no more than 35.
  • Korea expects families to have an income higher than the national average and $30,000 is often cited as a minimum.
  • It may be possible for your child to search for and meet his birthparents.
  • Your agency will require proof that adoption was finalized in the US and your child has US citizenship.
  • There is currently a 5-month wait period before the child is eligible for intercountry adoption to ensure that the child cannot be placed through domestic adoption.

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