Close Encounters with the Same Kind

So I’m sitting there in one of our office conference rooms with an SVP, a senior fellow/East Asia/nuclear security expert, a fellow fundraiser like myself, and some junior level program staff, all who were invited to meet the organization’s newest addition—our visiting senior policy fellow from South Korea. (For the sake of context, I work for an international policy think tank in Washington, DC.) Continue reading “Close Encounters with the Same Kind”

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”