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.

For the most part, however, my identity has not been focused on the fact that I was adopted. While it’s a part of who I am, it’s not what I have necessarily wanted to be known for, and that’s been the case for most of my life. As I get older, I’m more comfortable with this status…but I may not ever be completely comfortable.

When I moved to South Korea in 2002, for the first time in my life I became aware of an active and vocal adult Korean adoptee community. But I resisted identifying myself as a part of it. For many years now, my impression of the adult Korean adoptee community has been tainted by a few rather aggressive adoptee activists pushing agendas I don’t agree with. And for many years, these have been the voices and messages I have associated with the Korean adoptee community, and I have wanted nothing to do with it.

As I become older, however, I’m opening up more to the idea of becoming better acquainted with other Korean adoptees, but very cautiously. One of my best friends is an adoptee and he insists the rather vocal activists out there do not represent the entire adoptee community. I told him that if he wants to convince me and others that this is the case, more needs to be done to balance out the noise. He has admitted that I am not the only one of his adoptee friends who has chosen to distance him/herself from the adult adoptee community because of this reputation, and he has acknowledged that it has become a polarizing problem.

Gradually, I have discovered that such activist agendas are not as loud as I once perceived them to be. I am part of several Korean adoptee Facebook groups and have been delighted to see that conversations do not focus on activism but instead on topics such as, “How do you deal with people who can’t seem to connect your ‘white’ first and last name to your Asian face?” Or, “Today is my arrival [to my adoptive country] anniversary!” — simple but significant things we can all relate to and topics that are not full of anger and bitterness, as legit as those feelings are for some adoptees.

My friend is trying to convince me to attend a future IKAA (International Korean Adoptee Associations) conference, and I’m considering it, although I haven’t quite 100 precent warmed up to the idea yet. But he insists it has changed his life as an adoptee. “To see a room full of people who look like you, speaking English but coming from all over the world, talking about issues you never knew other people had experienced other than yourself—it’s just an incredible experience,” he has told me. Maybe. Maybe a future conference I’ll be there.

So as one content to observe this community from a short distance rather fully dive into this network, what has inspired me to create this blog, you may ask. Perhaps it is the safe distance blogging creates that allows me to be a part of the community without being a part of the community. Or being the writer that I am, maybe it’s a comfortable outlet to explore adoption issues to a targeted audience. Obviously I can’t answer that question, as basic as it seems. But I guess that’s all part of the journey. I don’t have the energy to analyze the “why” so I’m just content to go along on the ride and see where it takes me. The only thing is, if it gets too real, I can’t take it back, but that’s the risk I’ll have to take.


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