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”

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””

Advice from an Adoptee to First-time Soon-to-be Adoptive Parents

Two years ago my friend Gabriel (not her real name so as to protect her privacy) reached out to me, wanting to talk about adoption. Gabriel is an accomplished, single woman in her early 40s who, like many girls and young women, always thought she’d one day marry and have a family of her own. Except it didn’t quite happen the way she was led to believe it would. Continue reading “Advice from an Adoptee to First-time Soon-to-be Adoptive Parents”

A Facebook Group for the Missing

Even as a Korean adoptee myself, I find it impossible to put into words the urgency many fellow adoptees have to personally learn more about their origins. In some ways, it’s a kind of desperation, a feeling of incompleteness so many people in this world take for granted. And while my own curiosity about the early months of my life has not yet transformed into a need to know where I came from (although I am curious), I am still all too familiar with the complexities involved in not knowing. It’s a strange feeling. And while I understand the importance the search for answers represents for many, I was not prepared for a particular Facebook page I stumbled across dedicated to Korean adoptees searching for their birth families.

Bombarded, one after another, with images of Korean babies and children from the ’60s and onward, combined with sometimes desperate pleas for help in finding biological family, I was not prepared for the emotional magnitude that accompanied this public Facebook group. As I read story after story, and viewed photo after photo, the only expressions that came to my mind were vulgarities of disbelief, “Holy shit.” “Jesus Christ.” “What the fuck?” The sadness I felt was completely unexpected.

Continue reading “A Facebook Group for the Missing”

Iowa, China and Ethiopia: How One Couple Built Their Family through Birth, Adoption and Love

The following is reprinted on this blog with permission by AsiaTrend Magazine. It originally appeared in AsiaTrend Magazine’s August 2015 issue which can now be accessed online by following this link.

Iowa, China and Ethiopia: How One Couple Built Their Family through Birth, Adoption and Love

By Jodi Katherine Kiely

When I first set out to interview Jane and Dave Jensen of Decorah, Iowa, I envisioned walking away from our interview with a story about how the international adoption process has changed over the years for adoptive parents like the Jensens. I thought I would hear how adoptive parents now travel to the birth country of their child to meet him or her prior to bringing them home to the United States. (This is in comparison to earlier days when adoptive parents would hold their child for the first time at a U.S. airport after waiting hours for their new son or daughter’s international flight to hit U.S. soil.) Or a how the actual adoption process is now carried out in U.S. and local government offices in the child’s birth country, an approach much different from earlier times when such formalities were conducted in a U.S. courtroom. Continue reading “Iowa, China and Ethiopia: How One Couple Built Their Family through Birth, Adoption and Love”