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Nearly 300 demand South Korea probe their adoptions abroad

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Nearly 300 demand South Korea probe their adoptions abroad

SEOUL, South Korea (AP) — For 40 years, Louise Kwang thought she was an orphan baby found on the streets of the South Korean port city of Busan before her adoption by Danish parents in 1976.

She felt her entire sense of identity collapse in 2016 when her South Korean agency matter-of-factly acknowledged that her origin story was fiction aimed at ensuring her adoptability.

“(The English file) says you were transferred from Namkwang Children’s Home in Pusan (Busan) to KSS for international adoption. In fact, it was just made up for adoption procedure,” Kyeong Suk Lee, a social worker at the Korea Social Service, wrote in a letter to Kwang after she requested her original Korean-language file.

The agency turned out to know about Kwang’s biological parents, including her father whom she later met. There’s no indication Kwang was ever in Busan, which is several hours’ drive from the country’s capital, Seoul, where her father had been living in 1976.

“I was not an orphan. I have never been to Busan nor at the orphanage in Busan,” Kwang said at a news conference in Seoul on Tuesday. “This was all a lie. A lie made up for adoption procedure. I have been made non-existent in Korea, to get me out of Korea as fast as possible.”

Kwang is among nearly 300 South Korean adoptees in Europe and the United States who so far have filed applications calling for South Korea’s government to investigate the circumstances surrounding their adoptions, which they suspect were based on falsified documents that laundered their real status or identities.

Their effort underscores a deepening rift between the world’s largest diaspora of adoptees and their birth nation decades after scores of Korean children were carelessly removed from their families during a foreign adoption boom that peaked in the 1980s.

The Denmark-based group representing the adoptees also on Tuesday delivered a letter to the office of South Korean President Yoon Suk Yeol urging him to prevent agencies from destroying records or retaliating against adoptees seeking their roots as the agencies face increasing scrutiny about their past practices.

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The 283 applications submitted so far to Seoul’s Truth and Reconciliation Commission describe numerous complaints about lost or distorted biological origins.

Some adoptees say they discovered the agencies switched their identities to replace other children who died, were too sick to travel, or were retaken by their Korean families before they could be sent to Western adopters. They say such findings worsen their sense of loss and sometimes lead to false reunions with relatives who turn out to be strangers.

Peter Møller, attorney and co-founder of the Danish Korean Rights Group, said he also plans to sue two Seoul-based agencies -– Holt Children’s Services and KSS -– over their unwillingness to fully open their records to adoptees.

While agencies often cite privacy issues related to birth parents to justify the restricted access, Møller accuses them of inventing excuses to sidestep questions about their practices as adoptees increasingly express frustration about the limited details in their adoption papers that often turn out to be inaccurate or falsified.

Møller’s group last month initially filed applications from 51 Danish adoptees calling for the commission to investigate their adoptions, which were handled by Holt and KSS.

The move attracted intense attention from Korean adoptees from around the world, prompting the group to expand its campaign to Holt and KSS adoptees outside of Denmark. The 232 additional applications submitted Tuesday included 165 cases from Denmark, 36 cases from the United States and 31 cases combined from Belgium, the Netherlands, Norway and Germany.

The commission, which was set up in December 2020 to investigate human rights atrocities under military governments that ruled South Korea from the 1960s to 1980s, must decide in three or four months whether to open an investigation into the applications filed by the adoptees. If it does, that could trigger the most far-reaching inquiry into foreign adoptions in the country, which has never fully reconciled with the child export frenzy engineered by its past military leaders.

While the commission’s deadline for applications comes in December, Møller said his group will try to persuade the commission to keep the door open for more applications from adoptees if it decides to investigate the cases.

“There are many more adoptees that have written us, called us, been in contact with us. They are afraid to submit to this case because they fear that the adoption agencies will … burn the original documents and retaliate,” said Møller. He said such concerns are greater among adoptees who discovered that the agencies had switched their identities.

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Holt didn’t respond to calls for comment. Choon Hee Kim, an adoption worker who has been with KSS since the 1970s, said the agency is willing to discuss issues surrounding its adoptions with adoptees individually but not with the media.

When asked about KSS letters admitting to the falsifying of biological origins, Kim said, “The adoptees are saying they received such letters because they did, and it’s not like they are making things up.”

About 200,000 South Koreans were adopted overseas during the past six decades, mainly to white parents in the United States and Europe and mostly during the 1970s and 1980s.

Military leaders saw adoptions as a way to reduce the number of mouths to feed, solve the “problem” of unwed mothers and deepen ties with the democratic West.

Special laws aimed at promoting foreign adoptions effectively allowed licensed private agencies to bypass proper child relinquishment practices as they exported huge numbers of children to the West year after year.

Most of the South Korean adoptees sent abroad were registered by agencies as legal orphans found abandoned on the streets, although they frequently had relatives who could be easily identified or found. That practice often make their roots difficult or impossible to trace.

It wasn’t until 2013 that South Korea’s government required foreign adoptions to go through family courts, ending the policy that allowed agencies to dictate child relinquishments, transfer of custodies and emigration for decades.

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Remember last year’s Memorial Day travel jams? Chances are they will be much worse this year

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Remember last year’s Memorial Day travel jams? Chances are they will be much worse this year

The patience of Memorial Day weekend travelers was tested Thursday by widespread delays across the country, but there were relatively few canceled flights, raising hopes that airlines can handle bigger crowds expected Friday.

By early evening on the East Coast, more than 6,000 flights had been delayed Thursday, with the biggest backups at the three major airports in the New York City area and Dallas-Fort Worth International.

 

 

 

 

 

 

Pasha Pidlubniak waits for a domestic flight at Miami International Airport, Thursday, May 23, 2024, in Miami. A record number of Americans are expected to travel over the 2024 Memorial Day holiday. (AP Photo/Lynne Sladky)

 

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Pasha Pidlubniak waits for a domestic flight at Miami International Airport, Thursday, May 23, 2024, in Miami. A record number of Americans are expected to travel over the 2024 Memorial Day holiday. (AP Photo/Lynne Sladky)

 

The Transportation Security Administration predicted that Friday will be the busiest day for air travel over the holiday weekend, with nearly 3 million people expected to pass through airport checkpoints. It could rival the record of 2.9 million, set on the Sunday after Thanksgiving last year.

“Airports are going to be more packed than we have seen in 20 years,” said Aixa Diaz, a spokesperson for AAA.

When they aren’t waiting out flight delays, travelers are reporting sticker shock at the prices.

At Chicago’s O’Hare Airport, Larisa Latimer of New Lenox, Illinois, said her airfare was reasonable but other expenses for a getaway to New Orleans were not.

 

 

 

 

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Motorists travel along Interstate 24 near the Interstate 40 interchange Thursday, May 23, 2024, in Nashville, Tenn. A record number of Americans are expected to hit the pavement over the 2024 Memorial Day holiday. (AP Photo/George Walker IV)

 

Motorists travel along Interstate 24 near the Interstate 40 interchange Thursday, May 23, 2024, in Nashville, Tenn. A record number of Americans are expected to hit the pavement over the 2024 Memorial Day holiday. (AP Photo/George Walker IV)

 

“I just have to make the accommodation,” she said. “The rental car is up … this year, the hotel accommodations were very unusually expensive.”

Kathy Larko of Fort Meyers, Florida, used frequent-flyer miles — and some flexible scheduling — to pay for her trip to Chicago.

“I’m really conscious of looking at the cost of the entire trip. We’re staying a little farther out than we normally would” to get a lower hotel rate, she said. “We’re also flying back a day later, because we could get cheaper miles.”

More travelers will be on the road. AAA estimates that 43.8 million people will venture at least 50 miles (80 kilometers) from home between Thursday and Monday, with 38 million of them taking vehicles.

 
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Travelers wait at a TSA checkpoint at the Los Angeles International Airport, Thursday, May 23, 2024, in Los Angeles. A record number of Americans are expected to travel over the 2024 Memorial Day holiday. (AP Photo/Ryan Sun)

 

Travelers wait at a TSA checkpoint at the Los Angeles International Airport, Thursday, May 23, 2024, in Los Angeles. A record number of Americans are expected to travel over the 2024 Memorial Day holiday. (AP Photo/Ryan Sun)

 

Airport unions are using the holiday weekend to highlight their demands.

About 100 workers who clean airplane cabins and drive trash trucks at the airport in Charlotte, North Carolina, started a 24-hour strike Thursday, demanding better pay and healthcare, according to the Service Employees International Union. About 15% of flights were delayed, but it was unclear whether the strike played any role.

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A planned strike at John F. Kennedy Airport in New York was averted, however. Teamsters Local 553, which represents about 300 workers who refuel passenger and cargo jets at JFK, said that it reached a settlement with Allied Aviation Services and called off a walkout planned for Friday.

 

 

 

 

 

 

George Ridley, 4, left, rides on a suitcase as he and his father Chris Ridley make their way through the Nashville international Airport, Thursday, May 23, 2024, in Nashville, Tenn. A record number of Americans are expected to travel over the 2024 Memorial Day holiday. (AP Photo/George Walker IV)

 

George Ridley, 4, left, rides on a suitcase as he and his father Chris Ridley make their way through the Nashville international Airport, Thursday, May 23, 2024, in Nashville, Tenn. A record number of Americans are expected to travel over the 2024 Memorial Day holiday. (AP Photo/George Walker IV)

 

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“We are happy an agreement has been reached, a need for a strike averted, and we are hopeful that the deal will be ratified by our members,” said Demos Demopoulos, the secretary-treasurer of the local.

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Associated Press video journalist Melissa Perez Winder in Chicago and Associated Press radio reporter Shelley Adler in Washington contributed to this report.

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Texas health department appoints anti-abortion OB-GYN to maternal mortality committee

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Texas health department appoints anti-abortion OB-GYN to maternal mortality committee

AUSTIN, Texas (AP) — Texas’ health department has appointed an outspoken anti-abortion OB-GYN to a committee that reviews pregnancy-related deaths as doctors have been warning that the state’s restrictive abortion ban puts women’s lives at risk.

Dr. Ingrid Skop was among the new appointees to the Texas Maternal Morality and Morbidity Review Committee announced last week by the Texas Department of State Health Services. Her term starts June 1.

The committee, which compiles data on pregnancy-related deaths, makes recommendations to the Legislature on best practices and policy changes and is expected to assess the impact of abortion laws on maternal mortality.

Skop, who has worked as an OB-GYN for over three decades, is vice president and director of medical affairs for the Charlotte Lozier Institute, an anti-abortion research group. Skop will be the committee’s rural representative.

Skop, who has worked in San Antonio for most of her career, told the Houston Chronicle that she has “often cared for women traveling long distances from rural Texas maternity deserts, including women suffering complications from abortions.”

Texas has one of the most restrictive abortion bans in the U.S., and doctors have sought clarity on the state’s medical exemption, which allows an abortion to save a woman’s life or prevent the impairment of a major bodily function. Doctors have said the exemption is too vague, making it difficult to offer life-saving care for fear of repercussions. A doctor convicted of providing an illegal abortion in Texas can face up to 99 years in prison and a $100,000 fine and lose their medical license.

Skop has said medical associations are not giving doctors the proper guidance on the matter. She has also shared more controversial views, saying during a congressional hearing in 2021 that rape or incest victims as young as 9 or 10 could carry pregnancies to term.

Texas’ abortion ban has no exemption for cases of rape or incest.

The American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists, which says abortion is “inherently tied to maternal health,” said in a statement that members of the Texas committee should be “unbiased, free of conflicts of interest and focused on the appropriate standards of care.” The organization noted that bias against abortion has already led to “compromised” analyses, citing a research articles co-authored by Skop and others affiliated with the Charlotte Lozier Institute.

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Earlier this year a medical journal retracted studies supported by the Charlotte Lozier Institute claiming to show harms of the abortion pill mifepristone, citing conflicts of interests by the authors and flaws in their research. Two of the studies were cited in a pivotal Texas court ruling that has threatened access to the drug.

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Michigan farmworker diagnosed with bird flu, becoming 2nd US case tied to dairy cows

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Michigan farmworker diagnosed with bird flu, becoming 2nd US case tied to dairy cows

A Michigan dairy worker has been diagnosed with bird flu — the second human case associated with an outbreak in U.S. dairy cows.

The male worker had been in contact with cows at a farm with infected animals. He experienced mild eye symptoms and has recovered, U.S. and Michigan health officials said in announcing the case Wednesday.

A nasal swab from the person tested negative for the virus, but an eye swab tested Tuesday was positive for bird flu, “indicating an eye infection,” U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention officials said.

The worker developed a “gritty feeling” in his eye earlier this month but it was a “very mild case,” said Dr. Natasha Bagdasarian, Michigan’s chief medical executive. He was not treated with oseltamivir, a medication advised for treating bird flu, she said.

The risk to the public remains low, but farmworkers exposed to infected animals are at higher risk, health officials said. They said those workers should be offered protective equipment, especially for their eyes.

Health officials say they do not know if the Michigan farmworker was wearing protective eyewear, but an investigation is continuing.

In late March, a farmworker in Texas was diagnosed in what officials called the first known instance globally of a person catching this version of bird flu from a mammal. That patient reported only eye inflammation and recovered.

Since 2020, a bird flu virus has been spreading among more animal species — including dogs, cats, skunks, bears and even seals and porpoises — in scores of countries.

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The detection in U.S. livestock earlier this year was an unexpected twist that sparked questions about food safety and whether it would start spreading among humans.

That hasn’t happened, although there’s been a steady increase of reported infections in cows. As of Wednesday, the virus had been confirmed in 51 dairy herds in nine states, according to the U.S. Agriculture Department. Fifteen of the herds were in Michigan.

The CDC’s Dr. Nirav Shah said the case was “not unexpected” and it’s possible more infections could be diagnosed in people who work around infected cows.

U.S. officials said they had tested 40 people since the first cow cases were discovered in late March. Michigan has tested 35 of them, Bagdasarian told The Associated Press in an interview.

Shah praised Michigan officials for actively monitoring farmworkers. He said health officials there have been sending daily text messages to workers exposed to infected cows asking about possible symptoms, and that the effort helped officials catch this infection. He said no other workers had reported symptoms.

That’s encouraging news, said Michael Osterholm, a University of Minnesota epidemiologist who has studied bird flu for decades. There’s no sign to date that the virus is causing flu-like illness or that it is spreading among people.

“If we had four or five people seriously ill with respiratory illness, we would be picking that up,” he said.

The virus has been found in high levels in the raw milk of infected cows, but government officials say pasteurized products sold in grocery stores are safe because heat treatment has been confirmed to kill the virus.

The new case marks the third time a person in the United States has been diagnosed with what’s known as Type A H5N1 virus. In 2022, a prison inmate in a work program picked it up while killing infected birds at a poultry farm in Montrose County, Colorado. His only symptom was fatigue, and he recovered. That predated the virus’s appearance in cows.

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The Associated Press Health and Science Department receives support from the Howard Hughes Medical Institute’s Science and Educational Media Group. The AP is solely responsible for all content.

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