Archive for October 2008
|The Lie We Love|
ALEXANDER MARTINEZ/AFP/Getty Images
Who’s your mommy?: Parents might never know if their adopted child is truly an orphan.
Web Extra: For a photographic tour of the global baby trade, visit: ForeignPolicy.com/extras/adoption.
We all know the story of international adoption: Millions of infants and toddlers have been abandoned or orphaned—placed on the side of a road or on the doorstep of a church, or left parentless due to AIDS, destitution, or war. These little ones find themselves forgotten, living in crowded orphanages or ending up on the streets, facing an uncertain future of misery and neglect. But, if they are lucky, adoring new moms and dads from faraway lands whisk them away for a chance at a better life.
Unfortunately, this story is largely fiction.
Westerners have been sold the myth of a world orphan crisis. We are told that millions of children are waiting for their “forever families” to rescue them from lives of abandonment and abuse. But many of the infants and toddlers being adopted by Western parents today are not orphans at all. Yes, hundreds of thousands of children around the world do need loving homes. But more often than not, the neediest children are sick, disabled, traumatized, or older than 5. They are not the healthy babies that, quite understandably, most Westerners hope to adopt. There are simply not enough healthy,…
foster sisters reunited – and they can still speak Korean!
so nice they only had to wait 6 months instead of 40 years.
(apologies for the Barry Manilow)
Steve Kalb of Holt International,
I entered into this search process not unlike most every other adoptee, naively thinking Holt would help me out as stated on your website. However, this process, though friendly, has been continuously frustrated by your methods.
The body of this letter has been removed since Holt has decided to DO THE RIGHT THING and assist me.
I would like to close my dealings with your organization on a positive note. Please give me reason to do so.
I’m glad Holt chose to do the right thing and fully explore every available avenue of reunion. I hope it is based on conscience and not becuase of public disclosure. Fully exploring every available avenue of reunion should be the first response, instead of the last resort after a long arduous triage. I hope this is a new beginning for Holt, and that future adoptees in search benefit from our difficult relationship.
After the adoption file stonewalling I decided I needed to go to Korea and investigate my history on foot. By some strange twist of fate, our economy just happened to tank at the same time. Because my profession (architecture) is on the front line of the market battle, it has been one of the first industry’s hit. And hard. The writing is on the wall, the work has been slowing, and looking around I see a reduction in jobs and workforce. I am essentially over-qualified and too old to be hired for the few jobs available in my area. So what the hell. I might as well get to REALLY know my culture.
My investments disappeared and I have been essentially laid off. I think the gods are trying to tell me something – don’t wait – go now. I don’t understand the forced urgency about this, but I will embrace it and try to have the adventure of my life. And who knows? It may instead be coming home to the land of the morning calm.
Talking to one job recruiter, he kept complementing me on how I had done my homework. Well, I have never been one to hoard my lessons, so I have assembled my most valuable resources (replace my college transcripts for your institutions, however!) so should you, too, wish to return you can have one clearinghouse spot from which to gather the information you need specifically for Korean Adoptees seeking to teach english in Korea.
Enjoy, and the links are assembled in this Getting Ready for Korea jetpack.
(It is Washington State focused right now, but I will be sure to update it into a more general resource after I have completed my document gathering)
I’m taking a crash course in Korean. Han is not one of the words on my vocabulary list, but I’ve known Han all my life.
The Korean poet Ko Eun describes the trait as universal to the Korean experience: “We Koreans were born from the womb of Han and brought up in the womb of Han.” Han connotes both despair at recognition of past injustice and acceptance of such matters as part of the Korean experience.
The Television show The West Wing also referenced the trait in Episode 5.4 (entitled “Han“). The episode concludes with Bartlet, the President of the United States, realizing his own personal understanding of the esoteric concept; “There is no literal English translation. It’s a state of mind. Of soul, really. A sadness. A sadness so deep no tears will come. And yet still there’s hope.”
As part of the Korean Diaspora, the over 160,000 children sent abroad for adoption, it is natural that we, too, carry Han with us, deep in our souls.
Recently on the K@W (Korean Adoptees Worldwide) board was the following post:
The words Kyopo <http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Korean_diaspora> and Dongpo
are general terms that refer to Korean-blooded people who’ve lived the
majority of their life outside of Korea. The “literal” meaning of Kyopo is
derived from the Chinese characters “KYO” – meaning vagabond or wanderer and
“PO”-meaning placenta where one can translate this to “leaving the mother’s
The Kyopo adoptee, therefore, was born in the womb of Han, forced to leave the mother’s womb and sent abroad as vagabonds and wanderers.
Han has been, for me, like the kryptonite fears of Superman. Again, from wikipedia:
When Superman followed the time trail of a piece of red rock that weakened him, he was able to trace his origin back to Krypton for the first time
Soon I will return to my mother country. Soon I will learn what it is to live literally in the womb of Han. This kryptonite that handicaps me here in the United States – will it be my source of strength in Korea? Is it the key unlocking my origins, my sense of place, my identity?
I always thought of Korea as a coarse place, a rugged, inhospitable place. In all things, it seemed less refined aesthetically than Japan; less diverse than China. I would look at photos of Korea in the Lands and People geography encyclopedia of my youth and be disappointed it wasn’t as cultural as Japan or as historically rich as China. But now. Now I am beginning to think of Korea differently.
Just their word for greeting, for instance, is so civil, has such depth and meaning: annyeonghaseyo, which translates literaly to, “are you at peace?” I am beginning to appreciate the rough-hewn nature of their aesthetics, which are boueyed by an esoteric sensibility forged from persisting against all odds. There is nobility and beauty there. That, despite fighting off continuous attack and colonization by marauding hoards throughout history, being almost continuously on the defense in a state of seige, they choose to greet one another with, “are you at peace?”
It’s a profound question, a good question, one that instantly makes me care about those I am sharing this troubled Korean experience with.
I have hope.