By Debbie Gregory.
The international adoption of Korean children began in 1953. Comprised mostly of mixed race children, some 200,000 Korean children were surrendered to orphanages, with more than 50% of those adoptees being sent to the United States. Most of the mixed race children were born to Korean women and American or UN soldiers.
Now the non-profit 325 Kamra is on a mission to build a DNA database to help South Korean adoptees find their birth parents, including U.S. military veterans, by offering free DNA kits to all veterans and their descendants.
Many of these children were the product of a thriving sex industry both during the 1950-53 Korean War and after it ended while fulfilling peace-keeping duties.
The mixed-race children were shunned by society and denied Korean citizenship, which could only be passed on by the fathers.
Sarah Savidakis, the president of 325 Kamra, tested her DNA through a commercial genealogy service and identified a first cousin, once removed. The relative helped her identify and connect with a half-brother and half-sister. She learned that her father — who was of Scottish and Irish descent — had passed away in 2014.
Savidakis and the other mixed-race co-founders of 325 Kamra seek to collect DNA, medical histories and genealogical information from potential birth families; to provide kits to adoptees; and to help them reunite.
DNA testing kits are free to all Korean adoptees and every military veteran who served on the divided peninsula or their descendants.
Kits have been donated by Thomas Park Clement, a mixed-race adoptee and founder and president of medical device company Mectra Labs. Clement has pledged to provide $1 million worth of DNA kits to the Korean adoptee community. As part of his efforts, he has provided kits to Korean adoptees in the United States as well as to U.S. veterans of the Korean War.
The popularity of over-the-counter DNA testing kits sold by by Ancestry.com and 23andMe have been instrumental in the success of the program.
Veterans who wish to receive a DNA kit may contact 325Kamra via their website at www.325kamra.org or email the following information to firstname.lastname@example.org:
Name and mailing address (no PO boxes)
Name of servicemember
Branch of service of servicemember
Dates servicemember was in Korea
Rank of servicemember
Unit servicemember was attached to in Korea
Photo of servicemember in uniform if possible
If the servicemember is unavailable to test, siblings and children may test on their behalf