The One Word You Need to Know When Traveling to Korea

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Nampo-dong shopping district, Busan. Summer of 2006.

As an adoptee traveling to Korea, there are many useful words you’ll want to know: hello, good morning, thank you, good-bye, how much is this, where is the bathroom…but just as equally important is the word 입양아 (ib-yang-ah) which translates into the word “adoptee.” Trust me when I tell you that knowing this word will save you many headaches.

The thing is, when you’re in Korea, Koreans are naturally going to assume you speak Korean. And when you don’t speak Korean to them, they are going to assume you are second, third, fourth-generation Korean-American/Canadian/etc. and that your parents did a lousy job of raising you for not teaching you how to speak “our language,” and trust me when I say that you’ll get an earful, and it won’t always be nice. It can pretty much border on being offensive. Continue reading “The One Word You Need to Know When Traveling to Korea”

KoRoot and the Politics of International Adoption in Korea

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KoRoot—a guest house for Korean adoptees visiting Seoul.

While I have known about KoRoot for a while, it wasn’t until my recent trip to Korea that I actually stepped foot into the hostel. For those unfamiliar with KoRoot, it’s a guest house created especially for Korean adoptees and their families when they visit Seoul, often for the first time and sometimes in an effort to trace biological family members in the country. Priced economically, KoRoot offers room, board, meals, cultural events and social activities for its guests and the Seoul adoptee community. It also is engaged in local outreach activities aimed at educating Korean society about international adoption and some of the social forces driving it, topics that are still very sensitive in this country fixated on family bloodlines and social perceptions. Continue reading “KoRoot and the Politics of International Adoption in Korea”

Personal Reflections on the Adult Korean Adoptee Community

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I was fortunate as a child. Growing up in Minnesota where thousands of Korean adoptees have been raised, I was lucky to have exposure to other adoptees early on. Of course, at a certain age children don’t see one another as black, white, Asian or adopted, but perhaps in the back of our minds there was a sort of camaraderie that psychologically bonded us, or at least made us feel “less different” than we were. I can’t remember having such feelings, but I do remember those interactions. Continue reading “Personal Reflections on the Adult Korean Adoptee Community”

Opening a Pandora’s Box: Taking a DNA Test

 

Not too long ago, I wrote about my decision to take a DNA test as a Korean adoptee. This was a very personal choice that took me a few years to comfortably make. For various reasons, I resisted the desire to learn more about where I came from for as one fellow adoptee said to me regarding us adoptees’ personal resolutions to do anything related to unearthing more information about ourselves and our pasts, such a step can be scary, because once you open that Pandora’s box, you cannot control what comes out.  Continue reading “Opening a Pandora’s Box: Taking a DNA Test”

Thoughts on the Movie “Lion”

Spoiler Alert!   Spoiler Alert!   Spoiler Alert!  

I’m finally on vacation and have already experienced my first full day in Korea yesterday. It’s pretty great to be back in the country after leaving ten years ago following a five year period of living here.

It’s also great to have so much free time, something I did not have back home prior to this trip. Even the 14 1/2 hour flight from DC to Seoul was relaxing! And it wasn’t just the fact that economy class on Korean Air includes a bottle of water, a pair of slippers, a sleeping mask, blanket, and toothbrush and toothpaste kit all waiting for you at your seat upon your entry onto the plane. Nor is it the kind post-it note Korean Air puts on your seat while you are sleeping during times they are serving food, letting you know that once you awake, you should ring them so they can bring you the warm meal you missed during your nap. It has been so much more than those small but meaningful touches that have made this such a relaxing vacation so early on my journey.

But for all the promises I made myself about how I was going to spend the long flight to Seoul reading and writing, I am guilty of doing neither. Instead, I binged watched recent movies on the airline’s in-flight movie service. And one of the movies I saw was “Lion,” based on a true story and starring Dev Patel and Nicole Kidman. The movie is about an adoptee from India who was adopted by a loving Australian couple and his journey as an adult to find his birth family in India. Continue reading “Thoughts on the Movie “Lion””