A Catalyst for Transnational Adoptions
          The Amerasian problem became a catalyst for the adoption of impoverished Korean war orphans leading to a larger Korean American community and opportunity for a larger population of Korean Americans. It led to the adoptions by grabbing the attention of America and normalizing transnational adoptions starting with Amerasians, who America would care more to save than pure Koreans. These adoptions impacted the Korean American community by enabling a large group of Koreans to become Americans and achieve economic mobility.
Getting America's Attention
          The mass adoptions of Koreans began with half white, half Korean GI orphans exclusively. This brought attention to postwar South Korea’s orphan problem and eventually led to the adoptions of full Korean war orphans as well. Poverty stricken GI babies in a film screening describing postwar South Korea caught the attention of Harry and Bertha Holt, a wealthy white American couple. After months in Korea, Harry managed to adopt eight GI babies and get four others adopted by using a loophole in the Refugee Relief Act (RRA), which allowed Americans to adopt orphans by proxy, using a third party without the parent’s presence. They also lobbied Congress to ease the process of these adoptions. News of the Holts adopting eight GI babies made headlines and sparked an interest in many Americans in helping the GI orphans still in Korea. The Holts opened the Holt Adoption Program (HAP) which had the sole purpose of aiding GI babies and finding them Christian adoptive parents. The Holts were only concerned with helping the GI orphans and not the full Korean war orphans who were also a result of America’s involvement of Korean affairs. The Holts insisted that they were “colorblind” to race, but clearly they weren’t concerned with the full Korean war orphans. But demand for Korean war orphans, partly due to all the attention the Amerasian problem produced, continued and when other organizations, such as the International Social Service American Branch (ISS) and World Vision, began getting full Korean children adopted, many American couples were happy to adopt the children.
Normalizing Transnational Adoptions
          We believe that the adoptions of the half American Korean orphans helped normalize the view of transnational adoptions in America. It served as a sort of transition point leading to a quicker acceptance of the transnational adoptions of full Korean orphans as normal. Humans naturally want to be around those who look them and act similarly, so making a big jump like adopting full Korean orphans would be less likely to happen than adopting half American Korean orphans. This was in part displayed by the Holt’s mission of saving only the GI babies, who were adopted into Christian homes. The Holts’ hearts were pierced by the scenes of blond-haired, blue-eyed Koreans abandoned and living in garbage dumps. Even though the Holts claimed to be colorblind to race, they adopted only Amerasian children, and raised them solely as Americans with American traditions and American culture. The Holts did not try to have their adopted Amerasian children retain any of their Koreanness. But by advocating for the salvation of the GI babies, they helped to normalize transnational adoptions in America with the adoptions of the GI babies serving as an unintentional stepping stone toward saving the full Korean war orphans as well.
Economic Mobility
          While the American Korean adoption system has always been far from perfect and the adoptees had many problems growing up in America, the adoptees were unmistakably better off in terms of economic mobility. Most of the Korean American adoptees were placed into upper or middle class white families. This put these Korean Americans in a position to succeed in academics and in life, giving them more tools and opportunities than that of a working class Korean Americans and their children. This, among other factors, helped increase the percent of Korean Americans with college education by bringing over one hundred thousand Korean orphans over to America in this manner since the early 1950’s. This helps elevate the Korean American community as a whole to be seen as a more educated and respected community.