Things No One Ever Told Me About Growing Up Korean and Adopted in America

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My parents likely didn’t know what they were doing, raising me as an adopted Korean kid in the 1980s-90s. There were no internet groups for adoptive parents, few written books or resources on the topic and limited access to social workers specializing in this area. In many ways, this was uncharted territory for them. But one thing I can say is that they did try their best. They tried to socialize me with other adopted kids from Korea (although at the end of the day, we kind of forgot that that was the one big thing we had in common), presented me with the option to attend Korean culture camps (I ended up volunteering as a counselor at one of them, and that’s as far as I was comfortable going), letting me take tae kwan do one summer, cooking white sticky rice for dinner from time-to-time and buying me a subscription to A. Magazine as a teenager (which I think now goes by the name of Hyphen Magazine). Looking back on it all, one can’t help but admire them for trying (and sometimes succeeding) in raising me to have an appreciation for my identity as an adopted Korean American.

But there were of course some things they would never have been able to predict or talk about, and without consistent role models for me to interact with, I had to figure some things out on my own. Here are a few things no one ever told me about growing up Korean and adopted in America: Continue reading “Things No One Ever Told Me About Growing Up Korean and Adopted in America”

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”

Why I’ve Decided to Take a DNA Test

For several years now, DNA tests have been used to help adoptees find their biological parents and/or living family members. They have also been instrumental in absence of family medical records.

The Korean adoptee community has been at the forefront of utilizing DNA tests to pair adoptees with living biological family members—or at least attempt to give adoptees more information about their genetic make-up, but as an outside observer has pointed out to me, this collection of DNA is doing something much more—it’s compiling recorded data on Korea’s adoptee community, something that has not existed before. Continue reading “Why I’ve Decided to Take a DNA Test”

Living with two names: reclaiming birth identities

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When I was in second grade, I went through a mini identity crisis. For reasons I can’t really remember (I was probably bored and wanted to seem unique), I decided to use my Korean birth name on all my school papers. Of course everyone at school, including my teacher, knew me as Jodi, but for some reason, I wanted people to start knowing me as Soh Young (or Lee Soh Young / 이소영 to be exact). And so for a couple months, that was what I did. I used my Korean name on all my school papers and temporarily went by the first name of Soh Young. Kind of dorky, I know. But for some reason, it seemed important to me at the time.

It didn’t last long. Continue reading “Living with two names: reclaiming birth identities”