South Korea signed the Hague Convention in May 2013, and is currently working towards ratifying the Convention. Despite not having fully ratified the Convention, Australia considers that South Korea’s processes and procedures meet the Hague Convention standards and principles.
Hague convention information
Consistent with Hague Convention principles, South Korea is committed to attempting to place a child with a family in South Korea before determining a child is eligible for intercountry adoption.
Eastern Social Welfare Society (ESWS) is the South Korean agency responsible for facilitating intercountry adoptions to Australia.
ESWS provides an annual quota for the number of applications that can be sent to South Korea nationally. The quota allocated for 2017 is 20 applications. Please contact the central authority in your state or territory to discuss the individual quota for your state or territory.
The South Korean Government is committed to finding local families to reduce the number of children in need of intercountry adoption.
The current waiting time for allocation of a child is approximately 12 to 18 months from the time your file is accepted by South Korea. Due to the exit permit process for children adopted through intercountry adoption, you may have to wait up to two years, following allocation for an exit permit enabling the child to travel to Australia.
Who can adopt?
To adopt from South Korea you must first be found eligible to adopt according to your state or territory’s eligibility requirements for intercountry adoption.
In addition to these Australian requirements, South Korea has the following requirements:
- Applicants must have been married for three years.
- Single applicants, de facto couples and same-sex couples are not eligible.
- Applicants must be at least 20 years older than the child.
- The maximum age for both applicants is 44 years and 11 months (age at the time the file is submitted to Eastern Social Welfare Society). This maximum age limit applies to all applicants, both first-time and subsequent applicants, except those who meet the conditions for ‘special permission’ set out below. The age limit can only be waived in exceptional circumstances (e.g. when a family is adopting the sibling of a child they have already adopted) and will require approval from the Korean Ministry of Health and Welfare (MOHW) prior to the application being accepted.
- The Korean MOHW will grant special permission to adopt to people who are over 45 but less than 50 years old at the time their home study is finalised, if they meet one of the below requirements:
- Either or both applicants are of Korean descent, or
- Either or both applicants are adoptees (regardless of where they were born or adopted), or
- The applicants have already adopted a child from Korea (applicants can be of any descent).
- At least one applicant must be an Australian citizen
- Applicants must meet strict health criteria to adopt from South Korea. These include vision, hearing and maximum weight requirements as well as restrictions on some medical conditions.
- Applicants must be tested by a licensed psychologist. At least two tests must be done: one objective assessment and one projective assessment.
- Applicants must not have any of the following conditions:
- Diabetes, unless under control with no vital organ complications requiring ongoing medical attention. If an applicant has diabetes, ESWS requires the latest HbA1c test and information about obesity, hypertension or dyslipidaemia.
- Epilepsy, unless a seizure has not occurred within the last five years.
- Inflammatory bowel disease (Crohn’s disease, ulcerative colitis), unless the condition is stable and has not resulted in hospitalisation for at least five years.
- Arthritis or chronic back, neck, muscular or joint pain, unless analgesics are not regularly required and there is no physical disability. The conditions must not have required hospitalisation in the last five years.
- Cancer, unless cancer treatment was completed over five years ago, without relapse, and there is no residual physical disability.
- Hearing or vision impairment, unless this does not impact on everyday routine (with or without hearing aids or corrective lenses). Applicants with severe hearing impairment, social blindness or inability to drive due to vision impairment are not eligible.
- Mental illness, unless the applicant has held the same job for 2–3 years and never attempted suicide. ESWS requires a letter from the treating physician who must have been treating the applicant for at least 2 years. Psychological testing may be required, and special requirements exist for the following conditions:
- Applicants with Schizophrenia will not be accepted.
- Applicants with severe depression will not be accepted unless it has not resulted in hospitalisation, and has been under control for five years.
- Applicants with bipolar disorder will be considered if the condition is mild and well controlled with or without medication, and physician’s directives are strictly followed.
- Systemic lupus erythematosus, unless mild with no vital organ involvement. ESWS requires a letter from the applicant’s treating physician.
- Coronary artery disease, hypertension, dyslipidemia, unless under control, a sensible diet and exercise regime is followed, the applicant does not smoke and their physician’s directives are followed.
- Hepatitis B and C, unless the applicant has a normal liver function test.
- Obesity. Applicants must weigh less than the “30% overweight” figure for their height.
- Applicants who are HIV Ab Positive, are post-transplantation (kidney, liver, lung, or heart), or have myasthenia gravis, chronic liver disease, neurofibromatosis or multiple sclerosis will not be accepted.
- Other medical conditions will be considered on a case by case basis. Applicants with more than two mild to moderate medical conditions will not be accepted.
- No specific requirement.
- To be eligible, applicants must be prepared to allow an adopted child ‘religious freedom’.
- Jehovah’s Witness applicants are not accepted unless they are prepared to allow a blood transfusion for the child if required.
Number of children in family
- Applicant’s family size should not exceed five dependent children, including the child to be adopted.
- No specific requirement.
- A criminal record check must be provided
- As part of the home study for families interested to adopt from South Korea, three written references from neighbours, co-workers, or friends of the applicants are required. The references must include the date, name and signature of the referee and must be notarised. These references replace the previously required unannounced home visit requested in April 2014 by the Ministry of Health and Welfare.
Characteristics of children in need of adoption
The majority of South Korean children in need of intercountry adoption are male and aged up to 12 months. However, applicants must be prepared to accept a child of either gender.
Approximately one-third of South Korean children who cannot stay with their birth families have, in some form, a more complex medical background.
For allocations from 1 January 2014, the total fee payable to ESWS is USD$19,500. This does not include travel and accommodation costs, immigration fees, Australian Government fees or incidentals.
It is strongly recommended that you make two trips to Korea: one for the initial court hearing; and one for the final court hearing. As the time between the two hearings may be around four weeks and up to seven weeks, it is preferred that families return to Australia after the first hearing, and then travel to Korea a second time after the final court decision has been made.
It is only after the final court decision has been made that you will be able to take custody of the child.
Finalisation and post-adoption
Adoptions from South Korea are automatically recognised in Australia.
State and Territory central authorities, in accordance with the agreement with ESWS, conduct post-adoption supervision for a year according to Korea’s Special Adoption Act.
Applicants must also fulfil any post-placement reporting requirements in their home state or territory.
ESWS provides a post-adoption service to facilitate ongoing (non-identifying) exchange between adoptees and their birth families. ESWS will retain information sent by adoptive parents about their child in the event that birth families seek that information. ESWS has requested that all birth family searching and homeland visits be arranged through the adoptees’ state or territory central authority.
The Australian Government is working to improve post-adoption support for newly formed families. For more information, visit Post adoption and support.
Immigration and citizenship
Children adopted from South Korea have two pathways available to enter Australia.
- apply for Australian citizenship in Korea and enter Australia using an Australian passport, or
- apply for an Adoption (subclass 102) visa and travel using a South Korean passport, applying for Australian citizenship once the child arrives in Australia.
For more information about South Korea, including the land, people, history, government, political conditions, economy, and foreign relations, please visit the Department of Foreign Affairs ‘South Korea’ page.