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Later, in the 1970s and 1980s, industrialization and urbanization brought changing social mores, including increased divorce rates and teen pregnancies. Unlike the period immediately following the Korean War when most adopted children were orphans or had been abandoned, the majority of the children sent for adoption during the 70s and 80s were infants from out-of-wedlock pregnancies. Arrangements for these adoptions typically began in obstetrical clinics where unwed, pregnant, young women (usually poor and working class) were provided pre- and post-natal care. While women were generally not paid for giving up their babies, they were often housed in unwed mothers' homes until the baby's birth and their medical expenses were covered by the adoption agencies. (There are four main adoption agencies in South Korea, all closely regulated by the government: Holt Children's Services, Eastern Child Welfare Society, Social Welfare Society, and Korea Social Service. The Ministry of Health and Social Welfare establishes annual quotas for the number of children that will be released for adoption by each agency. The total quota for 1999 was approximately 2,000. (Source: U.S. Department of State).

Meanwhile, in the U.S., legalized abortion, access to reliable birth control methods, greater social acceptance of single parenthood, and other socio-economic factors in the 1970s and 1980s dramatically altered the domestic adoption landscape. The availability of "normal" infants (non-disabled and White) began to decline significantly and the demand from prospective adoptive couples far exceeded the supply of available babies. At the same time, controversies over the adoption of Black children by White parents began to increase. The National Association of Black Social Workers issued a formal position (in the 1970s) opposed to transracial adoption, raising concerns about whether such placements compromised the child's racial and cultural identity and claiming that such adoptions amounted to cultural genocide (see Transracial Adoption Overview). These controversies increasingly led childless couples to look abroad. By this time, legal and administrative arrangements of international adoptions from South Korea had become extremely efficient, reliable, and reportedly free from corruption. These factors, combined with the changes in the domestic adoption market, soon made children from South Korea the most popular alternative to healthy, White American infants.

The year 1988 was a turning point in South Korea's adoption history. The Seoul International Olympics attracted the attention of journalists worldwide about many aspects of Korean culture, and much of this attention focused on Korea's primary export: its babies. Journalists like Bryant Gumbel of NBC commented that Korea's primary export commodity was its babies, and articles like "Babies for Export" (The New York Times) and "Babies for Sale: South Koreans Make Them, Americans Buy Them" (The Progressive), embarrassed the South Korean government. North Korea also criticized South Korea's adoption program, pointing out that selling its children to Western countries was the ultimate form of capitalism. As a result, the South Korean government delayed the scheduled departure of adopted children before and during the Olympics. And the number of Korean children adopted by American families began to decrease, from over 6,200 in 1986 to just over 1,700 in 1993.

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