HONG KONG — Hong Kong authorities are searching for a new home for a 7-year-old South Korean girl after the Dutch couple who adopted her just months after she was born changed their minds, officials said Tuesday.
The Dutch diplomat and his wife adopted the girl seven years ago when they were living in Seoul, South Korea, but struggled to integrate her into their lives, a South Korean consulate official in Hong Kong told The Associated Press.
The diplomat — who has not been identified — handed the girl over to welfare authorities in Hong Kong last May, saying she was having trouble adapting to their culture, including their food, the official said, speaking on condition of anonymity because he is not authorized to comment on the matter.
“That’s the reason they disclosed as to why they are meeting authorities. It is the reason they gave for why they want to discontinue the relationship,” he said.
“It’s bizarre. I don’t think it has anything to do with cultural shock,” said Law Chi-kwong, an associate professor at the University of Hong Kong’s Social Work department.
“The child grew up with them. They adopted her when she was a baby; they are responsible for shaping the child’s mind and culture. How can you say the child cannot adapt to the culture in which she was raised? This is just ridiculous.”
Media reports at the weekend suggested that the couple adopted the girl because they thought they could not have their own natural children, but then decided to give her up when the wife got pregnant.
The official at the South Korean consulate, however, said the family had two other children, a 14-year-old-boy, and a second son, born after the girl was adopted.
The girl is in foster care, but the Dutch couple will remain her legal parents until she is found a new home, the official at the South Korean consulate said.
“Our concern is that she can find a new home, whether it is in Hong Kong, Korea or another country. She’s been in Hong Kong for almost three years … so it’s better for her to stay in Hong Kong.”
The girl speaks Chinese and English but not Korean, he added.
Mark Choi, a spokesman for the Korean Residents Association in Hong Kong, said there was a lot of anger in the Korean community as they could not understand how the family could give up the girl after seven years.
“Several families have come forward to offer to adopt or foster the girl,” he said, adding that he did not know who the girl was living with right now.
Hong Kong’s Sociaal Welfare Department said it was working with the adoptive parents and relevant parties on the future care of the girl. It refused to disclose any other details.
Peter Mollema, spokesman for the Dutch foreign ministry in The Hague, said there was no official statement.
“These are personal, private matters not shared with everybody at the ministry,” Mollema said. “Right now, we’re trying to get the facts straight.”
The South China Morning Post, in a report Sunday, quoted the unnamed Dutch diplomat as saying that the adoption had gone wrong.
“It’s just a very terrible trauma that everyone’s experiencing,” he said. “I don’t have anything to say to the public. It is something we have to live with.”