Bos is seeking to be included in the man’s family registry, an official Korean document detailing all household members.
If Friday’s court rules goes in her favor her lawyer says she will be the first South Korean adoptee so recognized, giving her a legal entitlement to an inheritance. According to Seoul’s justice ministry, it could create a route for those with no records of their adoptions to apply for citizenship.
Around 250,000 South Korean children have been adopted since the 1950s, according to Seoul’s welfare ministry data, most of them overseas — the country was once among the biggest sources for international adoption.
After the Korean War it was a way to remove children, born to local mothers and American GI fathers, from a country that emphasized ethnic homogeneity.
More recently, it has been unmarried pregnant women who still face stigma in a patriarchal society — and are often forced to give up their babies.
Hosu Kim, a sociology professor at the City University of New York who researches South Korean birth mothers, around 10 percent of adoptions “point to extra-marital affairs”, with the resulting children never acknowledged.
The South’s existing laws prioritize birth parents’ privacy over adoptees’ rights, and the issue is shrouded in secrecy — many adoption files contain falsified information, or simply none.
Bos was only able to pursue her case because of the online DNA match.
But Kim said it could serve as a “critical precedent” that opened a way for adoptees to “claim their biological connections” and force fathers — and their existing families — to face the truth.
Bos believes she is the product of an extra-marital affair, “one last attempt with someone else to have a son and as I was a daughter he abandoned me”.
She hopes that once the court has issued its ruling her father will meet her and finally reveal her origins. “I just don’t know,” she said.
In many countries the children of sperm and egg donors have the right to know who their biological parents are, she added, but Korean-born adoptees did not.
“I think it’s something that’s fundamentally a part of us all, the need to know where we come from.”