Archive for November 2008
I can’t recall how old I was when the book started crossing my path.
“What’s this?” I asked my mother. She explained about Harry Holt and how he and his wife Bertha saved eight Korean war orphans and started the adoption agency where I came from. It was clear she idolized them. After she had left the room, I looked at the photos of their ridiculously huge family. I only looked at the photos because I was too young to read all the big words. It didn’t pull my heartstrings at all. Harry Holt kind of looked like Clark Gable, though, and I wondered what kind of man he was. Bertha looked like she should be milking cows somewhere. They both scared me.
Over the years, I would run across the book time and again. It would be sitting on the desk in our family room, out of place, off the shelf. Or it would move and be on the shelf. Or it would be on the side table next to the couch. It kept popping up, in my way. I was old enough to read now. I knew someone in the house wanted me to read it and believe.
Fear not: for I am with you: I will bring your seed from the east, and gather you from the west;
I did it. The pressure worked somewhat. I opened the cover. I read the captions under the photos. I even read a paragraph or two. That was all it took. I vowed to NEVER read that book.
I was never an agry child, a tempermental child. I was docile and obedient, perfectly mannered 99.9% of the time. Adoption never came up in my thoughts, and it was never discussed in my home. I couldn’t dwell upon nor could I explain my refusal to read this book. But now I can.
I will NEVER read that book. It was an offense then, and it is an offense now. It is the rationalization for the taking of almost two hundred thousand children from their families in Korea. It was done in the name of God, in the name of bringing us unwashed heathens to God. I can’t believe in a God that would do that. I can’t believe in charity that would rather condone the separation of parents and children over assisting families in need.
I have been told by other adoptees that the books written by Mrs. Holt are astounding in their rationalizations, and that they are a must read. But I don’t need to do that, nor do I want to support the Holt adoption agency with one penny. Even as a child I could recognize propaganda when I saw it. Even as a child I could distinguish those with true faith over those that were self-serving zealots. Even as a child I knew deep down in my heart that my identity had been irreparably violated by this act of charity.
I am PROUD to have never participated willingly in embracing my adoption. I am PROUD of my personal sense of justice. I am PROUD I never submitted, and PROUD to have preserved this one small sense of self through this one act of rebellion. I will never relent.
I am NOT NOW and NEVER WAS a seed from the east to be gathered from the west
We shall not, we shall not be moved We shall not, we shall not be moved Just like a tree that's standing by the water We shall not be moved We shall not, we shall not be moved We shall not, we shall not be moved The union is behind us, We shall not be moved We shall not, we shall not be moved We shall not, we shall not be moved We're fighting for our freedom, We shall not be moved We shall not, we shall not be moved We shall not, we shall not be moved We're fighting for our children, We shall not be moved We shall not, we shall not be moved We shall not, we shall not be moved We'll building a mighty union, We shall not be moved We shall not, we shall not be moved We shall not, we shall not be moved Black and white together, We shall not be moved We shall not, we shall not be moved We shall not, we shall not be moved Young and old together, We shall not be moved
This is from the Hankyoreh, in 2007
I added the bold formatting. It got to me. Really got to me.
|[Editorial]Stop intercountry adoption|
The fourth meeting of the International Korean Adoptee Associations (IKAA) is being held until Saturday in Seoul. Approximately 650 adoptees who have been separated from their birth parents are said to be in attendance. These adoptees were once neglected in the country of their birth, so it is sorrowful to have them come to Korea again out of a sense of longing. Repeating the talk about how we are “the same minjok” (people) or “of the same pitjul” (bloodline) only sounds like lip service in the face of their irreplaceable loss, since today as well, a few more newborn babies will board planes on their way to adoptive parents.
These individuals who have returned, though they have grown up so well, are like a thorn piercing Korea’s conscience. This thorn serves as a reminder of the fact that Korea, the “country that exports babies,” still sends some 2,000 children intercountry every year. And yet it is only at times like these that we allow ourselves to be reminded. We go about life forgetting – until they return again, when we say “we’re sorry” and “thank you” and then go back to the usual. This is a process that has continued for decades.
This time around, however, some of the people who want to see it stop are taking a stand. Adoptees and mothers who have sent children intercountry have begun collecting one million signatures calling for an end to intercountry adoption. It is an appeal calling for an end to the repetition of their experiences. This time, surely, they must not be neglected. Instead of statements about how Korea is going to promote domestic adoption or work to improve how society sees adoption, there needs to be an immediate and specific way to end intercountry adoption.
Some might question whether things can be changed overnight, but in fact the situation is different. Of the 1,899 children sent intercountry for adoption last year, 1,890 were the children of single mothers. If we make conditions such that single mothers can raise their children on their own, or raise them with help from their immediate communities, fewer of these women would send their newborn babies to strange foreign lands because they feared being ostracized in Korean society. A decent program for single mothers would contribute to a significant reduction in the number of children sent for intercountry adoption.
Discussions about increasing domestic adoption or changing how society improves adoption can come later. The only thing that discussing a long-term response, while neglecting the work that would have an immediate effect, does is make people doubt your sincerity.
Stopping intercountry adoption is more about very basic human rights for children than it is about any grand slogans about how “we should bear responsibility for our own minjok.” Article 9 of the United Nations Convention on the Rights of the Child declares that “a child shall not be separated from his or her parents against their will.” There is no justification for one of the world’s top ten powerhouses to ignore so basic a human right.
from Mother Jones magazine
October 24, 2007
Since the end of World War II, over 100,000 Korean infants and children—approximately one out of twelve Korean Americans—have been adopted into American families. While there are no statistics documenting what percentage of them have been reunited with their birth families, it’s clear that the number is growing steadily. As the oldest and largest population of transnationally adopted people in the United States, their experiences of search and reunion shed light on what the future may hold for younger generations of adoptees from China, South America, and other parts of the world.
When you grow up in a culture you can read cultural cues and subtleties. You can read a situation and you can make reasonably sound gut-level judgments about people and situations. But when you are going to a completely different culture, you have to learn everything new.
Yet if you look the same as everyone else, then they have the expectation that you will automatically click right into the language and culture and understand what’s going on and be able to read Korean people’s behavior like Koreans can. The expectations for adoptees in Korea are of course much higher than they are for complete foreigners just based on physical appearance, which is completely unfair, but they can’t tell just by looking at us that we were raised, for the most part, by white Americans.
It’s under these circumstances. . .that we are trying to re-enter contemporary Korean society and build relationships with people who are both completely foreign to us and who are also our families. Neither we nor our families are guaranteed to be people who are patient, gifted with languages, and culturally flexible, or possess the economic means, time, and lifestyle necessary to actually build a relationship over these almost insurmountable barriers. Nor are we guaranteed to be psychically strong enough to handle the extreme stressor of a reunion in our lives, especially after the adoption and separation itself takes such an emotional toll on mothers and adoptees.
—Jane Jeong Trenka, author of the memoir The Language of Blood and coeditor of Outsiders Within: Writings on Transracial Adoption
I’ve been in reunion for ten years. When I see my birthmother I’ve definitely seen the pain and the hurt a little bit less, but it still is there. And I wonder if it is still valuable for her to see me. I know she feels guilty and I know she feels shame and that it’s an awkward relationship because she knows that in some ways she failed. I’m there to let her know that everything is okay. But I also question whether or not it is helping her.
The second time I met my birth mother, I wanted to give her money. I was with a second-generation Korean American gentleman and he said, “No, you can’t do that.” And I asked, “Why not?” I didn’t have a lot—I was 25 years old—but I wanted to give something. And he said, “I can’t explain it, but you just can’t do it.” So I ended up going with him and taking my birth mother to a Korean barbeque, which is an expensive meal in Korea, and she just ate a small little bit of rice and water and didn’t touch any of the meat. And she asked, “What kind of parent am I letting you pay for this meal?” And that’s when I got it: Nobody could have explained it but just from observing her I understood that in Korea you take care of your child, even if that child is 25 or 30. That is the relationship. For me to give her money would have lowered her status as a parent. Now that I’m married it’s different and I can give because it’s like I’m a different kind of person. But one needs to be respectful of all of these cultural nuances.
—Hollee McGinnis, policy director of the Evan B. Donaldson Adoption Institute, a research and advocacy institution.
When we first met I thought, “Wow, I could have had this parallel life in Korea and it would have been a lot different.” It was the best choice for my dad to put me up for adoption. I could definitely see where he was coming from and what he thought would be the best option for me. But I don’t really dwell on it because it’s not my life. In truth you can’t regret that other life because it’s not yours. I think of both my families as one unit. I feel pretty comfortable saying, “I’m going to see my family,” but it kind of confuses people because I don’t distinguish between my Korean dad and my American dad because I see them both as my dad. They feel like one family to me. It feels like my family has grown. Really all my connections to Korea have made me a better person.
—Daniel Martig, an undergraduate at the University of Minnesota
When she was dying, my mother told one of my brothers, “You have a sister and she went to America.” But there was no context for that statement. And so when my brother asked their father—who was not my father—what she meant he just said, “I don’t know.” That happened quite some time before I found them.
[Having a relationship] is not easy because they don’t speak English and I don’t speak Korean and they live in Korea and I don’t go there very often. But certainly I’m in contact with them when I’m going to go. I have friends who are willing to be go-betweens for us and send messages back and forth. It’s not an easy relationship just in terms of logistics.
The difficulties are much less emotional because we are siblings [and not child and parent], but even so there are many. For example, I had so many questions to ask them such as, “Why was I adopted?” And they were really quite puzzled by this because other countries aren’t so open about their feelings and emotions on any level—and certainly not about something as intimate as adoption. You cannot just transfer Western culture and feel like this is the way it should be.
Susan Soon keum Cox, vice president of public policy and external affairs at Holt International in Eugene, Oregon
Adopted children whose birth parents named them deserve to carry that piece of their heritage with them, as it is one of the few parts of their birth histories they can lay claim to as part of their very own, real, authentic, true-life stories. Adoptees, such as myself, whose names were given to them by social workers, nurses, or orphanage intake workers may find that although those names don’t represent a piece of their birth histories or bloodlines, they nonetheless represent pieces of their rightful histories.
Of course others among my fellow adoptees will feel differently—perhaps ambivalent or otherwise less attached to their pre-adoptive identities, as I have at various stages of my life. But for me, today, Ji In, although not a name given to me by my umma or abeoji, is as real a part of my Korean heritage as I’ll ever have.
It reminds me that I am who I am today because of the choices made for me by other people. It represents to me the wrongs done to my umma and many, many others like her that left her with no freedom and no chance to give me a name that linked me to her or to my sisters. The fact that my Korean name is dissonant among the matching names of my three Korean sisters, whose names fit together as harmonies in a chorus, is a scar on my flesh that I bear proudly and with a sense of profound loss. We do not match, but we know why.
—Ji In, a Hawaii-based writer and editor and the author of Twice The Rice, a blog that in part explores her experience as a transnational and transracial adoptee
Elizabeth Larsen has worked for both Sassy and the Utne Reader. She wrote about her daughter in this year’s Choice: True Stories of Birth, Contraception, Infertility, Adoption, Single Parenthood, and Abortion.
You might have seen this already, but for those that haven’t – it’s really worth watching.
Please don’t let the expose music turn you off – it gets calmer and more and more relevent to your typical Korean adoption the further into the story you get.
And I, personally, really relate to the first case where the mother had papers pushed in front of her to sign while she was recouperating from her cesarian section. I recall the fog I was in right after surgery and while in recovery, and I would not have been fully aware of what was going on. Additionally, I did not recognize my own child after I saw it a day later – general anesthesia divorces you from that recognition – so it really hurt me to know she didn’t even get to see her baby after it was born.
It’s also really interesting how they view the returning adoptees in this video, and gives some nice exposure to Koroot, ASK, and GOAL.
Jane Jeong Trenka posted this on her blog. (and probably wrote the synopsis below) It really moved me so I wanted to share it with you.
Vodpod videos no longer available.
“Forgotten South Korea” tells “The Story of Eun-seok’s Second Separation.” The second separation is from his foster family, with whom he lived for five months. The program ends with some facts and an appeal to South Koreans to adopt domestically. It says the adult adoptee at the end has been searching for his family for 5 years. The thing he wants most to say to his family is, “I want to see you.” Aired Nov. 2005 on educational channel EBS.
I’ve heard this same story from so many of my fellow adoptees.
The view of Holt is quite different from this side of the triad…
from Seoul Searching
As some of you may already know, I’ve been patiently searching for birth family during the past eight months here. After much time, patience, arguing, persistence, and waiting, my adoption agency finally released some information to me. If anyone plans to adopt in the future, please refrain from adopting through Holt. Dealing with their post-adoption services has been perhaps one of the most frustrating experiences in my life. They deal with adult adoptees who return to Korea seeking their files in a completely cold-hearted, insensitive and distant manner.
The first time I met with the social worker she treated me as if I was creating this huge burden for her and all of Holt for asking to see my file. It is apparently “against Holt policy” to release any personal or identifying information of the birth parents, and besides, “why do you want to search for your birthmother anyways?” After being denied information on countless occasions, I realized that following the Korean model of persistence is the only way you will get what you want. By American standards it would be called stalking, but culturally in Korea, if you really want something in life it’s better to show your commitment and desire for it by being persistent, rather than waiting for that thing to come to you. (And yes, that is why I have found so many Korean guys to be stalkers. But apparently in Korea they’re not being freaky stalkers, but rather showing the girl how much they respect and like her).
To make a long story short, I’ve spent the last three months relentlessly calling, visiting, and emailing this one social worker who is dealing with my case. I don’t think she means to be a cold-hearted, insensitive bi*** (excuse my French) but that’s how she comes across. Anytime I have dealt with her she makes me feel like a complete stranger, treats me as if I am inconveniencing her life, and is completely ingenuine. One of the worst feelings in the world is sitting across from this woman as she clutches onto my file for dear life, as if I am going to leap across the table, snatch it and run away with all of my birthmother’s information. Yes I realize it’s Holt’s policy, but I cannot quite grasp the concept that this complete stranger can hold the answers to my life, yet can deny me anything and everything that I yearn to know. After 9 grueling months, I have finally found just enough information to begin piecing together the puzzle of my life. It’s barely enough information to know anything, but it’s hopefully just enough to lead to the answers of my unanswered questions….
and you’ll hit one of the 200,000 Korea adoptees in search
here’s one site, y2korea, I ran across totally on accident today – from the year 2,000.
Korean name: Hong, Jin Pyo Adopted name: James Elwood Milroy Born: January 21, 1960 Seoul Abandoned: Holt Orphanage baby home Nok Bun Dong in Seoul January 27, 1960 (#1757) Adopted: June,22 1960 US Arrival: November, 1, 1960 Adopted Parents: Thomas W. and Dorothy Milroy Adoption City: White Bear Lake, Minnesota
Korean name: Kim, San-nyu Adopted name: Cheryl Scimeca Born: September 20, 1960 Abandoned: Abandoned in Yongsan (October 4, 1960) then moved to Holt Orphanage baby home Nok Bun Dong in Seoul (October 8, 1960) (#2195) Adopted: December 14, 1960 US Arrival: March 25, 1961 Adopted Parents: John and Barbara Scimeca Adoption City: Chicago, Illinois
Korean name: Bertha Yoon (given at orphanage) Adopted name: Ruby Lee Smith Born: November 21, 1960 Seoul Abandoned: Holt Orphanage baby home Nok Bun Dong in Seoul on Jan. 21, 1961 (#2435) Adopted: April 14, 1961 US Arrival: July 11, 1961 Adopted Parents: Howard and Rosalee Lund Adoption City: Canton, Illinois
Korean name: Whang, Keum-yu Adopted name: Brenda Kim Paul Born: August 21, 1962 Abandoned: I Isabella Orphanage in Pusan – transferred to Holt on August 14, 1963 (#3935). Adopted: May 23, 1966 US Arrival: August 8, 1964 Adopted Parents: Robert E. & Betty K. Paul Adoption City: Federal Way, Washington
Korean name: Kim Jai Ran Adopted name: Kendra Blevins Born: November 25, 1968, Seoul Abandoned: Tae Ku City Hall around 11 pm on 2/2/1970. White Lily Orphanage was 2/5/1970 Placed at Il San orphanage on 2/5/1970 (#7139) Adopted: US Arrival: July 22, 1971 Adopted Parents: Richard and Karla Blevins Adoption City: Prior Lake, Minnesota
Korean name: Shin, Ok Soon Adopted name: Kim Cox Born: April 11, 1969, Choong Chung Bak Do (province) Je Chun Kun (county) Abandoned: April 13, 1970, #247 Sung Nom Dong Choong Ju City Choong Buk. Taken to the Ki Shin Orphanage from the Je Chun Kun Social Section. On April 21, 1970 referred to Holt.#7435) Adopted: US Arrival: October 21, 1970 Adopted Parents: Fred and Elayne Cox Adoption City: Edina, Minnesota
TO CONTACT US IN SEOUL WITH ANY INFORMATION PLEASE REFER TO:
Mr. Lee, Myung Woo, Director of the Afterservice Counseling Department at Holt Children’s Services, CPO 3526, Seoul, Korea
The number is 011-82-2-322-8l04 from the USA and 02-322-8104 in Korea. e-mail to: HoltKorea@hotmail.com
CONTACT US! firstname.lastname@example.org
The stone this time was looking up the word Ho Juk…
here are some more (sigh)
Posted by: Christine (Hazel Wang) Boone Henney Date: January 09, 2001 at 11:47:32 of 705
My name is Christine Estelle Boone (Henney: married). I was adopted December 26, 1958 from Isabella Orphanage in Pusan, Korea. I was given a name of Hazel Wang (founder of Isabella orphanage) and a birth date of February 5, 1957. My papers that came with me have at the top, “Ho Juk Deung Bon (family registration)” on them. All of my adoption paperwork is through Seoul, Korea with the assistance of Holt Organization of World Vision. Please review the home page that I made with any paper work that came over with me at the time of my adoption. http://community-2.webtv.net/Chenney/ChristineEstelle/ This paperwork includes my registration papers, passport(visa), immunization records and pictures of me then and present. I was adopted to Howard City, Michigan, USA by Frank G. and Martha Ruth Boone. At the time of my adoption I was very ill, with pneumonia, during the flight and the nurse (Lois Cooper) had to stay several days in Oregon until I recuperated. Then we finished the flight to Michigan. I do believe that I left Korea sometime between Dec 26th and 29th of 1958. I am writing this letter in hopes to find any information or guidance in how I can find my biological parents. Please reply by e-mail with any assistance. Chenney@webtv.net
Again my home page is:
I am trying to help a dear friend find her brother and birth parents. Any help would be greatly appreciated.
Born in Korea
She grew up in her early childhood years at 1216 Woodburn Ct. Columbus, GA
Her brother is five years older and was also adopted.
Adopted Parent’s Names: Donald Roger Malloy and Patricia Ann Malloy
Natural Mother’s Name: Miss Pok Yon Kim
Kid No.: 341201-2227210
No Case No. but only Kid No. above
Address: San: 39, Suhyang-ri, Songhwan-up, Chonwon-kun, Chungnam-do, Korea
Permanent Address: #855, Mijon-ri, Samrangjin-up, Milyang-kun, Kyongnam-do.