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Archive for July 2009

and not about to be silenced…

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Thank you, Outlandish Remarks, for the link

Written by girl4708

July 24, 2009 at 1:49 am

Posted in Winds of Change

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Dis Place

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Ahh, another self-portrait.

This time it’s 5:30 a.m. in Seoul, S. Korea, and I’m waiting for the first train of the morning.  I’m reading Jane Jeong Trenka’s new work, “Fugitive Visions,” and it’s disjointed nature perfectly describes adoptedness.  How I felt growing up in the midwest.  How I struggled with all the western world put on me.  How I preemptively reject everyone because I can’t deal with the first rejection.  How I long for love, even though I expect only rejection. How I deal with now.  How every second of every minute I am sort of nowhere, because my head is always flooded with all these complicated clashing noisy distracting frustrating churning thoughts. The therapist would ask, “how do you feel?”  How can one possibly begin to put a finger on all that?  Because every moment is all that, and never just one thing.  We come from a place where we draw the kind of attention nobody wants.  We live in this place as ghosts in society.  We inhabit this space, this interstitial space.

And I look up and see this;  I must dig out my camera and shoot.

You know, it isn’t just about the past or the future or fate or gratitude or luck or anger or depression or hopeness. (the mispelling is an inside joke)  It’s about this photo.  It’s about all these layers.  How many layers?  How many layers…

Somehow, Jane managed to capture those layers, after layers, after layers.  We are each of us sifting through this morass of experiences, trying to organize our books in order to live.  But Jane just says, “see?  this is just how it is for me/us.” She is an excellent writer, but her book is no book:  it is a documentary film about a reluctant exile and finding the soundtrack to describe such an epic journey.  The visions are a deck of cards, shuffled. It is a document of how we think;  how we must think, to just be.

There is no protection from adoptedness.  There is no avoiding it or denying it, try as we might.  Yet our adopters and society insist on this myth of equality, banishing us to a life of silence.  No other diaspora that faces racism would be told the racism they experience doesn’t matter/is cancelled out because they were chosen. But adoptees live this daily.  Neither are we allowed to grieve our losses, because it hurts others, and we are taught that their emotions are more important than ours.  Is it any wonder so many adoptees have sardonic characters?

That would be me I am describing.

I have avoided other adoptees all my life, so it was surprising when I first met them to discover that they, too, had sardonic characters, biting wit, and were always recognizing the irony in everything.

When I first heard about adoptees returning to Korea;  that they met and had a community, I thought how counter-productive for their self actualization.  At that time, I had wanted to believe that with a little hard work, I could just slip right in and reclaim my Koreanness, and that reclaiming Koreanness WAS self actualization.  But Korea won’t let me.  Because my banishment was total, and I will forever be a foreigner here.   The adoptees you meet from all over the world are also lacking Koreanness, despite blending in here.  Adoptedness is the state we all understand, the land we all inhabit.

The truth is, we can never be like others in either society.  The adopting world needs to know that.  The adoptees need to recognize that before they can heal.  The Korean people need to see exactly what exile does to the little people they send away.  And the international adoption agencies need to stop toying with all those populations’ hopes and dreams. Their machine works.  But what of the lives they have affected?  Ask me.  Ask both my moms, wherever they may be.

So I have decided to become a card carrying returning adoptee member and join this community here.  And it is not about belonging to something/anything, out of desperation for company, for I am most comfortable with and accustomed to isolation.  It is about Jane’s pioneering work and vision.  It is about the kind of person I am.  It is about truth and justice.

The adoptees who have chosen to live here are a resilient bunch.  And for those that are activists in adoption reform, they are beyond mere resilience.  They are advocates for others and proactive about improving/resolving not only their own lives, but all the other lives affected by this crazy experiment gone awry.  I am proud, proud, proud to be invited into the fold.

Anyway, read Jane’s book.  Maybe then you can understand.  We’re not just ungrateful malcontents.  We are survivors and freedom fighters.

Written by girl4708

July 24, 2009 at 1:17 am

Relative Choices

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Click on the image below to reach a great collection of NY Times blog entries on International adoption.

Then, if you have about an hour you can listen to NPR’s Talk of the Nation about the difficulties accessing records for International Adoptees  (they barely scratched the surface, of course, but it is a nice cross section of both concerned adoptive parents and IA adoptees from various parts of the world.  It’s nice because it obviously shows a significant change in attitudes from back when most of us adult adoptees were growing up.)

Written by girl4708

July 23, 2009 at 9:23 am

Posted in Bittersweet Hope

Korean Adoptees for Fair Records Access

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It’s been less than a day since I started this Facebook group, and there are about 5 new members every half hour.  Maybe that should tell Holt and the other international adoption agencies something, ya think?  I mean, they claim to care about the children, but that seems to only be before they are adopted.  Afterwards, we get treated like unreasonable pests. There are A LOT of us, and even if we loved our adoptive families, being treated like this can make a person RIGHTFULLY angry.

Since when was wanting to know missing years, your name, your real birth date, how you came into being, and if you were loved  unreasonable?

If this describes you and you’ve been given the run-around in pursuit of your fundamental right to know about yourself, then do sign up for our Facebook group

A facebook group for Korean adoptees who have experienced undue difficulty accessing their records.

Between 1995-2005, 76,646 adoptees have returned to Korea to search for their natural parents. That’s over 61% of all adult adoptees! Only 2,113 (2.7%) have succeeded.

Are these poor rates of success due to our prospects, or due to ADOPTION AGENCY SUCCESS AT BARRING ACCESS TO OUR DOCUMENTS?

We believe it is the latter, and we know from experience that discouraging tactics are employed to withhold records whenever possible.

The Hague Convention on Intercountry Adoption protects the identity of adoptees, yet despite there being 78 other member countries, S. Korea has yet to join. Current efforts to prepare for joining the Hague Convention are inadequate and rely on adoption agency cooperation, with little or no oversight.

The combined voices of the over 70,000 can not be ignored by the Korean government. We want to document our suppression, so future adoptees are not turned away with no clues about their histories and current adoptees can try again and get the proper respect they deserve and access to documents about their own lives.

If you have experienced ANY DIFFICULTY currently or in the past getting fair access to your records, please join our group and share your experience on our wall.

Please stand up and be counted – and spread the word! Tell your FB friends, other KAD groups, and KAD organizations!

Written by girl4708

July 22, 2009 at 9:11 pm

Posted in Uncategorized

Adoption Day Puppet Fun

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I can’t believe I forgot to post this from May…

We mean to change things in Korea, for the better, and have fun doing it, too….

Written by girl4708

July 22, 2009 at 1:49 pm

Posted in Winds of Change

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Baby Exporting Nation

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I posted this before, but this copy has English Subtitles…

Written by girl4708

July 22, 2009 at 2:58 am

Posted in Dealing with the Devil

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K Care – South Korea’s new central adoption authority

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Written by girl4708

July 21, 2009 at 11:06 pm

Posted in Winds of Change

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From Korea Times Editorial

Korea Continues to Deny Overseas Adoptees Access By Jennifer Kwon Dobbs and Jane Jeong Trenka

The Ministry of Health, Welfare and Family opened a central adoption information service center Wednesday to provide post-adoption services to adoptees searching for their birth families. However, there’s one significant problem that the ministry has ignored: adoptee access.

This center is meant to fulfill the requirement of a “central authority” by the Hague Convention on Intercountry Adoption. Click on the central authority’s new Web site (www.kcare.or.kr) featuring images of adoptees for whom their birth families are searching and you’ll find it is completely in the Korean language. Can an overseas adoptee whose first language is either English or French read or use this?

Since 1953, South Korea has sent over 160,000 Korean children abroad to 14 Western countries. It is the oldest and largest adoption program in the world, despite South Korea’s economic miracle.

Reunion with birth families is a primary reason for adoptees to return to South Korea. From 1995-2005, the ministry reported that 78,000 adoptees came to South Korea to search for their families. Yet only 2.7 percent were reunited. What accounts for this low success rate?

Mads Them Nielsen, former director of post-adoption services at Global Overseas Adoptees’ Link (G.O.A.L.) from 2001-2003, said, “In a given year I received approximately 240 requests including e-mail inquiries. I have reunited only 10 cases. The main problem was getting information from the agencies.”

The lack of adoptee access includes not only records and translation, but also active adoptee representation.

Although the central authority has prominent representation by adoption agencies, an overseas adoptee who lives in Seoul, who was a potential candidate for the board, was dropped without explanation.

His replacement, Steven Morrison, is an adoptee living in the United States who is head of Mission to Promote Adoption in Korea. He cannot regularly attend meetings or events in Seoul important to the information service center’s decision-making process due to his overseas residence.

At an institutional level, the ministry continues to view adoptees as a whole as children and discriminates against them as “orphans” and “foreigners” who cannot represent their own interests and who should not make decisions about themselves.

However, adoptees continue to struggle to make their voices heard. The ministry’s second hearing on the revision of South Korea’s civil and overseas adoption laws on July 1, sponsored by the Korean Women’s Development Institute (KWDI), marked the first time in 56 years of international Korean adoption that a critical mass of overseas Korean adoptees were able to directly communicate their own interests in a governmental forum. The KWDI provided professional, simultaneous translation services.

This public hearing was originally intended to be the last one before the ministry sends its suggested revisions to the Adoption Law to the National Assembly.

However, after seeing the number of adoptees and supporters who turned out to voice their opinions, Park Sook-ja, director of the ministry’s family policy bureau, announced that another public hearing might be necessary to further discuss adoptee and single mother concerns.

But the ministry has not released information about a third public hearing. Instead, it has rushed toward opening the service center both online and onsite without consulting overseas adoptees and without any regard for the comments they gave at the last public hearing.

The ministry intends for the center to bring South Korea into compliance with the Hague Convention on Intercountry Adoption.

In accordance with the convention, it should hold the records of the adoptees and assist with birth family searches. It should also serve as a watchdog over the agencies. However, the center is incorporated as a private entity, not a governmental agency with sufficient oversight.

The center’s facilities and problems are the same as the old GAIPS (Global Adoption Information and Post Services Center) Adoption Information Center.

In fact, it is located in the old GAIPS office ― they have yet to even change the sign on the door. GAIPS failed to establish a sufficient working relationship with overseas adoptees because it was not willing to provide language access.

Despite appearing to make improvements, the South Korean government continues to deny the adoption community authentic access and services. Fifty-six years and counting of adoption history, overseas adoptees are still waiting.

Jennifer Kwon Dobbs, professor of English at St. Olaf College in Minnesota, is the author of “Paper Pavilion.” Jane Jeong Trenka is the author of “The Language of Blood, Fugitive Visions,” and co-editor of “Outsiders Within: Writing on Transracial Adoption.” They are members of Truth and Reconciliation for the Adoption Community of Korea (TRACK), a group advocating for transparency in adoption practices both past and present to improve the lives of Korean families and adoptees.

Written by girl4708

July 21, 2009 at 10:31 pm

Posted in Winds of Change

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Practical Hints about your Foreign Child

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I can’t embed their streaming video, but here’s the link to Deann Borshay’s compilation of post Korean War footage of Korean children, justaposed against an instruction manual for how to care for your newly adopted Korean children, circa 1961.

Sara and I saw this at the exhibit at the Wing Luke Asian Art Museum downtown Seattle, and it was stunning, in the literal sense, to watch.

There is little I can say about the cultural insensitivity and racism of the people saving us. I cry inside thinking how the same things are being done to children all over the world, whose new adoptive parents really have NO CLUE what the child came from and what the child goes through to assimilate.

Written by girl4708

July 19, 2009 at 5:29 am

Posted in Scattered Seeds

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Approved for Adoption Teaser

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In a word:


Many Americans can not fathom how many adoptees there are in Europe. But here in Seoul I meet the ones who have returned, and I must say, they are distinctly European in their outlook and the way in which they have handled (or not) the burden of being raised in distinct mono-cultures. We just got word of this animated film and look forward to its completion and eventual release.

Here’s the write-up from Imprint TALK: Fresh Asian Pop Culture

Approved for Adoption, a hybrid animated/documentary, is being hailed as the Korean Persepolis. Persepolis was an Oscar nominated film in 2007 that used animation to tell the story of the narrators memories of childhood and adolescence. Approved for Adoption uses a similar technique where the main subject matter of the film, Belgian-Korean comic book artist Jung, goes back to Korea for the first time since he was orphaned. The animated sequences will help illustrate the memories of his childhood growing up with his adoptive parents in Belgium. The film is directed by French filmmaker Laurent Boileau. No word yet on an official US release date. This is a pretty unique perspective on the whole Korean adoptee story because of the European setting. There are, of course, many similar stories that have been told from Korean-Americans who were adopted at a very young age. Here’s hoping that it will get a chance to play in the United States in the near future. Here’s the official blogsite for the film. It’s in French only though: http://approved-for-adoption.blogspot.com/

Written by girl4708

July 19, 2009 at 3:44 am

Posted in Bittersweet Hope

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Grim Facts

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  • 161,558 Korean children have been sent abroad between 1958 and 2008.  108,222 were sent to the USA (67%, followed by 11, 165 to France, 9,297 to Sweden and 8, 702 to Denmark.  (MHWF – Ministry of Health, Welfare and Family Affairs report)  These figures do not include the adoptions that occurred between 1954 when Holt began international adoption and 1958.  Nor does it include private non-agency adoptions.
  • The Hague Convention on Inter-country Adoption was created in 1993.  15 years later, Korea has yet to sign or create a central governmental agency to oversee adoption, even though 78 other countries have such agencies.
  • The Hague Convention states that the right of the adopted child to know about their natural parents should be protected even when it contradicts the rights of natural parents or those of adoptive parents.
  • Between 1995-2005, 76,646 adoptees have returned to Korea to search for their natural parents.  Only 2,113 (2.7%) have succeeded. (MHWF)
  • The central agency proposed under the new draft of revisions to Korea’s Special Adoption Law will not be a governmental agency and will not oversee original recods, but rely on adoption agency cooperation for duplication of records.
  • Holt Korea alone has 4 stories of records on their adoptees (MHWF)
  • Somalia and the USA are the only two UN states which have not signed the UN Convention on the rights of the child.
  • Korea has yet to enforce three articles of the 1989 UN Convention on the Rights of the Child, despite the National Human Rights Commission of Korea making recommendations to do so in 2005.
  • The proposed moratorium on international adoption for 2012 has been struck from the new draft of revisions to Korea’s Special Adoption Law.
  • As of 2004, Holt Children’s Services had 142 employees and 11 regional offices in Korea.
  • There are 25 unwed mother’s shelters in Korea, 17 of which are run by international adoption agencies.
  • There have been 4,896 cases of cancelation of adoption by civil law in Korea in six years. (Supreme Court Records)
  • 1,250 Korean children were sent abroad for adoption last year (MHWF)
  • Last year 1,506 children were born of unwed mothers, 920 who were adopted before they were three months old.  Most were never registered on birth certificates to their natural parents.  Therefore, there will be no record that exists should those children or their parents ever wish to search for each other in the future.
  • According to the new draft of revisions to Korea’s Special Adoption Law, obtaining identifying information about natural parents will take a court order.
  • Korean citizens receive a subsidy for adopting, but women who chose to raise their own babies receive much less than the adopting parents do, even though as single moms they need the money more.
  • The proposed 100,000 won a month subsidy an unwed mother who keeps her child gets amounts to just over $80 US.  A one room apartment without utilities here typically costs at minimum $250. And deposits can run well over a thousand dollars.

Written by girl4708

July 4, 2009 at 5:03 am

Posted in Bittersweet Hope

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My Theory

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All during the search in Wonju people would tell us what happened and how it was back then, but actually none of them knew and they were all theories.  Well, here’s my theory, based upon the later realization that my age was deliberately tampered with:

Someone from Wonju added Kim Sook Ja to my document because they knew we were siblings and it would be easier and less paperwork.

Then, someone else at Holt didn’t like that because it made us harder to adopt as siblings, so they attempted to distance our relationship by changing my birth date, but that’s all they could do because the mayor’s stamp was already on the two for one document.

I don’t know why they gave us different family names.  Maybe those ARE our names.  Maybe we’re half siblings.  There are many stories where grandmas end up taking care of their daughter’s children of different fathers, or of women forced to give up their children by other men when remarrying.  Anyway, there are many scenarios that can explain two half siblings.

Holt didn’t have any theories.  They only said that nobody imagined adoptees would return asking questions…

Written by girl4708

July 3, 2009 at 3:49 pm