Susanne Brink was adopted from South Korea. She initiated a movement that opposed international adoption and united adopted people. She was a spokesperson for anti-racism.
Susanne Brink was born in 1963 in South Korea as Shin Yoo-sook. Nothing is known about the reasons that the girl was abandoned. She was adopted by Inger and Rune Brink from Sweden when she was two and a half and she was given the name Shin Yoo Susanne Charlotte Elisabeth Brink. Her adoptive parents had an adopted son, born the same year, and also several foster children. Susanne Brink grew up in Norrköping and attended school there.
After the end of the Korean war in 1953, many children of South Korean women and American soldiers were put up for adoption. An adoption authority was opened and many adoption agencies sent children to the West, since they were not considered to fit into the Korean community. During the industrialisation of South Korea in the 1960s, 6,000 Korean children were sent away. Their families could not afford to keep them. The figure was doubled several times during the next decade. Many single mothers and poor couples were persuaded to hand over their children since adoption had at that point become an industry worth millions. North Korea accused its enemy in the south for selling its children and the subject was therefore treated as a state secret in South Korea. Despite the fact that the economy became better and the country was democratised, ordinary people knew nothing of all this.
Susanne Brink has made public her conflicted experiences of being adopted. At the end of the 1980s, Susanne Brink met a south Korean film team that was in Europe to interview adopted Koreans. The programme was broadcast in South Korea and seen by her biological mother who contacted TV. In exchange for the right to film, the TV company financed the journey so that Susanne Brink could be reunited with her mother. She made her upbringing public and recounted how she had grown up, and her story became a book. It laid the foundation for the full-length film Susanne Brinks Arirang that was shown for the first time in South Korea in 1991. “Arirang” is a South Korean folk song and anthem that deals with the pain of being abandoned. The film has never been shown in Sweden but since April 2019 it is accessible on YouTube. In South Korea, the film almost set a record in filmgoers. It shows how many children were sent to the West and South Korea was compelled to settle with its past.
In 1983, Susanne Brink had a daughter, Eleonora. As an adult, Susanne Brink became a missionary whose assignment was to spread Christianity among adopted children. She organised activities and her whole life dedicated herself to working for adopted people, for whom she felt great love. Through her outspokenness about her own experiences, she became a symbol for complex problems in relation to the issue of adoption. After several years, she left Christianity and made her way to the USA. However, even there she felt alone and betrayed despite friends, who were also adopted, and who were fond of her.
When Susanne Brink returned to Sweden, she was diagnosed with cancer, but continued her engagement. In the TV documentary En gång var jag korean, broadcast in 2002, Susanne Brink talks about her life. The programme also questioned why prosperous South Korea continued to send children to Sweden. In Aftonbladet on 26 September 2003, Susanne Brink published a debate article against the racism that met adopted persons from Asia. In it, she recounted that many Asian adult women are treated like prostitutes and are therefore exposed to contempt and discrimination. Her view was that the cause was, as is often the case, the sex tourism and trafficking that Swedish men often dedicate themselves to in the women’s countries of origin – and as usual, it is the women who are punished for men’s behaviour.
Susanne Brink died of cancer in 2009. She was 45 years of age.