Questions about

What does IKAA do beyond the Gatherings in Korea?


In 2014, IKAA began hosting an Annual Leadership Development Program at each IKAA Gathering, as these events provide our community with unique opportunities to bring together the leadership of adoptee–led organizations from around the world. The target audience for the Leadership Development Program (LDP) are adoptees who are leaders in their respective organizations.

Past Leadership Development Programs have focused on / included:

  • Community Growth: Developing skills that participants can bring back to their local organizations, as well as their professional lives; Sharing of knowledge and resources with the next generation of leaders
  • Building Functional Relationships with Koreans in a way that can be mutually beneficial.
  • Networking Opportunities
  • Team Building Activities
  • Communication Skills Workshops
  • Individual / Organizational Assessments of Strengths, Weaknesses, and Working Styles
  • Special Session on Cross-Cultural Communications & Business Skills led by Mr. Sander Schroevers
  • Presentations led by the International Association of Korean Lawyers (IAKL): Doing Business in Korea / with Koreans; Special Adoption Law: General Information, Revisions, Implications for Birth Family Search, etc…


IKAA was invited to attend the Special Commission on the practical operation of the Hague Convention of 29 May 1993 on Protection of Children and Co-operation in Respect of Intercountry Adoption, serving as the only organization to have represented the perspectives of adult intercountry adoptees at the Special Commission in 2005, 2010, and 2015.

IKAA’s most recent Working Document submitted to the 2015 Special Commission contains
recommendations for increased and improved Post Adoption Services. In particular, IKAA
emphasizes the need for openness in adoption and records, effective post-reunion services, and
on-going support for adult adoptees from both Sending States and Receiving States. IKAA also
notes the continuing expansion of the adult intercountry adoptee community to include the
children and grandchildren of adoptees. IKAA finds that this new generation of family members
also requires their own specialized Post Adoption Services.


IKAA Member Associations take turns hosting large-scale international events in their “hometowns,” giving adoptees and their families the opportunities to participate in adoptee events closer to home. These Gatherings typically welcome 150-250 attendees.

How do I become a member of IKAA?

As IKAA is a network of existing adult adoptee associations, there is no individual membership, however any and all individual members of our associations are also IKAA members!

If you don’t know your local association or if they are not currently a member of IKAA, feel free to contact us at [email protected] for more information!

What are the benefits of being an IKAA Member Association?

ORGANIZATIONAL EXPOSURE AND PROMOTION:  Each member association will have their own page on the IKAA Website, and can submit their events for inclusion in the events section.

ACCESS TO THE IKAA NETWORK’S SHARED RESOURCES AND INFORMATION: IKAA Associations have extensive experience with the volunteer non-profit world, which is used to help our fellow organizations. Some main points of experience include: Event and conference planning, Specialized and/or sustainable programming, Establishing and maintaining relationships with local cultural and educational institutions/organizations, Opening and building communication with local Korean Consulates and Embassies, Fundraising/Sponsorship, and Organizational and Leadership Development.

IKAA also promotes the sharing of general information and resources amongst associations, including: Opportunities (for adoptees), both local and abroad; Sharing of Documentation (successful sponsorship proposals, formal letters, and governance documentation.

ADDITIONAL BENEFIT FOR YOUR MEMBERS: Discounted registration fees for your members to attend both IKAA events and local IKAA Member Association events.

Why doesn’t IKAA do Gatherings in Korea every year (historically, they have taken place every 3 years)?

The simple answer is that it is just not logistically possible to do it more frequently.

The amount of time and efforts that go into coordinating an event of this scale, may not always immediately apparent, but planning for each Gathering begins more than 2 years prior to the actual event and typically involves 20 or so individual trips to Korea for meetings with sponsors, cost / product negotiations, and general preparations. And remember, IKAA is entirely volunteer, so while one or two individual flights / trips might be sponsored, we pay for nearly 100% of all costs on our own, out of pocket.

Who can attend the IKAA Gatherings in Korea?

The IKAA Gatherings in Korea are open to all Korean adoptees ages 18+, their spouses/partners, and family.

I would like to review my adoption file / I would like to initiate a search for my biological family. How do I do this? Can IKAA help me with my birth search?

IKAA does not provide birth search assistance. There are a number of agencies and organizations in Korea who already help with this service (see below).

To review your adoption file or initiate a search for your biological family, you should first contact your Korean adoption agency directly (there are 4 — see below). If you are unsure which Korean agency you went through, you can find the information on your adoption documents.

If you are unsure about whether or not you would like to review your file or begin searching for your birth family, you can check out “Search: 10 Questions to Ask” written by Hollee McGinnis (adult adoptee, founder of Also-Known-As, Inc., New York) and originally presented at the 1st International Gathering of Korean Adoptees (DC, 1999).

If you need additional help with your search, you can also contact:

Global Overseas Adoptees’ Link (GOA’L) — The only adoptee-run organization in Korea
Website: https://www.goal.or.kr/bfs
Birth Family Search Email: [email protected]

Where do I find / how do I contact Korea Adoption Services?

[email protected] (English) [email protected] (Français)

Adoption Agencies

Eastern Social Welfare Society (ESWS)
493 Changcheon-dong,
Seodaemoon-gu, Seoul, Korea
Email: [email protected]

Holt Korea (Holt)
382-14, Hapjeong-dong,
Mapo-gu, Seoul, Korea
Email: [email protected]

Korea Social Service (KSS)
533-3, Ssangmun-dong,
Dobong-gu, Seoul, Korea
Email: [email protected]

Social Welfare Society (SWS)
718-35, Yeoksam-dong,
Gangnam-gu, Seoul, Korea
Email: [email protected]

Passport & Visas

You must have a current passport to enter the Republic of Korea. It may take some time to obtain, so don’t delay. Most conference participants coming from Western countries can travel to Korea without having to obtain a tourist visa prior to entry. Upon arrival at Incheon International Airport, Immigration & Customs Officials will issue an arrival confirmation (they no longer stamp your passport) that allows you a visa-free stay for a limited period of time – Americans (up to 90 days), Canadians (up to 6 months), many Europeans (up to 90 days) and Australians (up to 90 days).

We strongly advise double checking before coming to Korea, by contacting your local Korean consulate or embassy. You can also visit the Korean Ministry of Foreign Affairs and Trade website for information about required travel documents (if any) or to find your nearest Korean Consulate or Embassy (please click HERE if you are not sure of your nearest Consulate or Embassy).

Climate & Clothing

The summer months of July and August are the hottest of the year and extremely humid. Summer brings “monsoon season” to Korea, which means heavy rains from the end of June through July. Usually, the rains stop around the beginning of August, although it varies from year to year. You will only need to bring light clothing and possibly a sweater for indoor use (in the air conditioning). If you forget to pack an umbrella, there are numerous shops that sell them all over Seoul.


The currency of Korea is the won (KRW / ₩). Although exchange rates fluctuate, approximately 1 USD = 1134.42 KRW, and 1 EUR = 1280.09 KRW (as of March 26, 2019). You can access a handy exchange rate converter at: http://www.xe.com (or Google) for up-to-date information.

The easiest way to get KRW is to withdraw cash from global ATMs in Korea using your home debit/bank card (a.k.a. check card). The exchange rate applied to ATM withdrawals is usually good and comparable to that of banks. However, keep in mind that your bank and/or the ATM from which you withdraw funds might also assess a user fee. Also, not all ATMs will accept international cards, however, you can find them at most large bank branches and subway stations that clearly display a sign / sticker saying “Global ATM”. Lastly, make sure that your debit/bank card can be used internationally – this may be indicated by displaying the Visa®, Mastercard® or Maestro® logos, etc.

In addition to ATMs at Incheon (ICN) Airport, there are a number of various banks within close proximity to the Lotte Hotel, and ATMs (including Global ATMs) in the subway station accessible through the basement of the hotel, so getting cash throughout your trip won’t be a problem.

Traveler’s checks are not accepted everywhere, but they can easily be exchanged for KRW at banks, hotels, and the airport. Where can you get the best exchange rate? Usually banks give the best rate, and hotels give the worst rate. However, at the bank, although many branches now have an international desk to accommodate non-Korean speaking customers, you may still encounter some challenges if the employees don’t speak English very well, whereas at hotels, the front desk staff speak English.

Finally, credit cards are usually accepted at most stores, hotels, restaurants, bars, etc. – the most commonly accepted cards are Visa® and MasterCard® — although many smaller establishments (and markets) still prefer cash. Also keep in mind that some credit cards have foreign transaction fees. Some places accept American Express (like the Lotte Hotel), but it’s not as widely accepted.


220 Volt (same as Europe). Some American appliances require special adaptors to safely convert your 110 Volt appliances for use in Korea. While staying at the Lotte Hotel Seoul during the conference you can contact the Housekeeping Department to obtain these converters, however, it is recommended that you purchase a voltage converter before your trip. Most devices these days (cell phones, computers, etc…) have a built in converter, so all you’ll need is the physical adapter for your plug to fit the outlets.

Mobile Data + WIFI

Having a mobile phone during your trip to Korea can be extremely helpful. Making calls from your hotel room can often be prohibitively expensive, even for local calls.

There are a number of options for foreign travelers to get a Korean SIM card, both at Incheon (ICN) Airport and within Seoul.

A few options are:

They have different options (lengths of time for SIM card use) and also offer a WiFi router which works with up to 7 devices, with a daily rental fee.

With unlimited data/WiFi, you can easily call home for free via Skype, Whatsapp, or KakaoTalk (the most common communication app in Korea), and can similarly contact fellow Gathering participants for free via these apps. You will also have regular access to maps, Facebook, Twitter, and whatever other sites and features you cannot live without. ^_^


Health problems are not likely to occur in Korea. The hygiene standards are high and medical facilities are widespread. However, do not take any risks and ask your doctor which precautions (vaccinations) you can take before you leave. If you are on medication, be sure to take enough with you and do not forget to bring the original wrapping and your prescription. Pharmacies are located in every major area of the city, should you need to purchase medicine.

If you should have a medical emergency, dial 119 and an ambulance will come get you, however it is advisable that you have a Korean-speaking person accompany you. It’s advisable to know that in Korea, patients are expected to pay for medical services upfront.

There are 2 International Health Care Centers, affiliated with Yonsei University (one of the top 3 schools in Korea): http://www.yuhs.or.kr/en/inter_healthcare_center/

One is located Sinchon by Yonsei University (north of the river), and the other is in Gangnam (south of the river). There are also phone numbers for emergency services: http://www.yuhs.or.kr/en/inter_healthcare_center/inter_health_severance/Em_Service/

Most people in Korea drink bottled or filtered water rather than tap water.