Victims of Denmark adoption scandal demand answers


“I don’t even know when I was born.”

So says May-Britt Koed, a restaurant owner from Copenhagen and one of the quarter of a million South Korean babies who have been sent overseas for adoption since the 1950s.

Koed’s adoption file contains two birth dates months apart, and she suspects it may be because she was swapped with another baby who did not survive.

Meanwhile, experts have also said that the baby photo of a chubby little Coed that was sent to her Danish adoptive parents at the time may not even be her.

All that the 47-year-old Koed knows for sure is that she arrived in Denmark on May 17, 1977.

However, her case is not unique. The scandal over falsified records is now spreading rapidly and has prompted an investigation by South Korea’s Truth and Reconciliation Commission.

This commission will soon look at hundreds of cases from the country’s so-called “baby farm” which in earlier years, when the country was still under dictatorship, led to the establishment of an enormous adoption sector.

According to Koed, her Danish-Korean legal team had hundreds of files with forged documents under their control. Many of the babies who finally arrived in Denmark had very different characteristics from those in the files. Some were, for example, 6 cm shorter than what was indicated on the documentation.

A report also found that some adoption agencies – run by the Danish government – knew full well that their South Korean partners had forged children’s identities in the 1970s and 1980s.

“What is even more worrying are letters from birth parents who wanted to know where their children are,” said Marya Akhtar, associated with the Danish Institute for Human Rights.

“These letters were allegedly apparently in the possession of authorities in Denmark. Why did nothing happen? We demand that a thorough investigation be carried out,” she added.

Scandal deepens

In addition to allegations that Danish adoption agencies were aware of what was going on, they are also accused of allegedly paying more than $7.9 million (over R153 million) to Korean orphanages and other institutions to facilitate adoptions.

These statements were made in investigative news reports in Denmark.

In January this year, Denmark suspended all international adoptions in light of serious concerns about babies also coming from other countries such as India and South Africa.

“It’s like opening a Pandora’s box,” said Koed.

“We are now at a point where we can clearly see that the Danish government was involved.”

Koed’s human rights group insists that a commission of inquiry be set up.

“Everyone deserves to know the truth – especially the adopted who are trying to piece together their own origins and history.

“I haven’t looked for my biological family yet, and I’m not sure if I will. I am doing this follow-up investigation on behalf of all of us – to reveal the truth about what happened to us and who is responsible.”

Koed says that those who are looking for their biological family are running out of time.

“Some have already learned that their birth parents are dead.”

Copenhagen’s halt in international adoptions follows after the last adoption agency in this city closed due to financial pressure and fraudulent activities regarding consent and approval – not only in South Korea, but also South Africa, India and Madagascar.

In many cases, relatives were separated and even sent to different countries for adoption.

“The risk of child trafficking and theft is just too great,” Pernille Rosenkrantz, Minister of Social Affairs in Denmark, said of the government’s decision.

Last year she promised to conduct an investigation into the history of international adoptions.