Archive for the ‘Bittersweet Hope’ Category
While I was born after the Korean war, it is still sobering to know I was a product of its aftermath. More sobering still, are reminders of just how bad it was for the people of The Forgotten War.
The Christian missionary focus of the video is unmistakable, and I couldn’t figure out if this was a memorial to the Reverend Everett Swanson mentioned or if it was someone in Korea seriously living in the past, or WHAT it could be about.
Part of me continued with trepidation, thinking it might be yet-another-attempt at canonizing and perpetuating International Adoption.
But to my pleasant surprise, these are the posts of Compassion South Korea, a branch of Compassion International (and where the organization first began), and their focus is now, and has always been, sponsorship. Interestingly, the sponsorship today is not for Koreans, but from Koreans for children of other countries. And, I was correct that the footage and images are there as memorial to the founder and as a reminder of how tragedy was once in Korea’s backyard and how Koreans can return the favor. And you know what? I bet all the 22,000 children he helped are currently productive members of Korean society, with roots here despite their losses.
Seeing these images I am so deeply moved by what happened to the country of my birth, the land where I’m currently residing. And I truly do see how humanitarians could have been blinded by their desires to help fast and think later. But clearly, as the late Rev. Swindon demonstrated – we can help children without forcing them to lose their country, culture, language, and each other.
God, I’m always relieved whenever I see Christians NOT wreaking havoc and doing something beneficial. I wish Harry Holt had taken his cues from Rev. Swindon…
There is no school today, as it’s a school holiday: the founding of the school. Despite having much to do, I am distracted.
In the absence of air-conditioning, the fan emits this low noise pollution, sucking in organic matter through the window and blowing it and formerly undetected fine white powder from the installation fabric across everything. It clings to every surface and then to my half naked body which moves restlessly from place to place to place. It’s pernicious, this grit. How many cleanings will it take for it to disappear?
I try to make myself feel better: I watch movies, I pick up and drop several projects, I go for a walk, I check out another health club, I look for activities to join, I remember I should eat, etc., but nothing engages me and I just make the circuit of my room over and over again. I feel lost.
Jane’s writing from the TRACK blog grabs my attention:
Each misplaced, forgotten, thrown away, ripped-up, spilled-on, smeared, misstamped, lost and found again later tag still represents one child, one file. We keep finding stray tags now — one at a time, sets of them– unlabeled, unaccounted for. I found a stray tag today next to the door of my apartment, next to the garbage can and the shoes. “Where do you belong, little girl? How did you get here?”
I feel like that lost tag. I am that lost tag.
I am out of place. I am out of time. Despite my best efforts, I am always orphaned and alone and abandoned. Love is a privilege denied me. The losses collect. The white dust is like the grief I can’t wash away.
I know it’s not finished and it’s badly edited, but I don’t know how much longer I can linger on this and stay healthy, so here is my unfinished video gift to Kim Sook Ja and all the other Korean adoptees out there in the world who, despite their best efforts, sing private songs of lamentation when they long to sing for joy:
I hope they have some company, wherever they ended up: someone to take their part and soothe them. This is the best I can do: say I understand the loss and isolation you have felt/feel.
You are not alone.
|Jin-hee, played by Kim Sae-ron, in the movie “A Brand New Life.” Provided by Seoul Film Commission|
Jin-hee’s morning begins on a bicycle, her arms wrapped around her father’s waist as he navigates the streets. She enjoys the ride and the warmth of his back as she presses into him.
It’s a big day. Her father bought her new clothes, which she is now wearing. He also bought her a large cake, though it’s not her birthday. She is so happy that, during lunch at a restaurant, she sings a little song for her father.
The day, however, takes an abrupt turn. Jin-hee’s father drops her off at an orphanage, where she’s left with a dozen children she has never met. It’s the beginning of a brand new life for her, one she tries desperately to escape until she realizes that there is nowhere for her to go and that her father is not coming back.
She quickly learns that life at the orphanage is full of separation and sadness, as other children are adopted and leave her life, one by one. Her best friend Sook-hee (Park Do-yeon) lands in the arms of an American family and is whisked to a land where she apparently can eat cake every day. Although Jin-hee eventually gives up on the idea of going back home, she can’t shake the memory of that bike ride and the warmth of her father’s back.
The French-Korean film “A Brand New Life,” which will be screened at PIFF under the World Cinema category, narrates a heartbreaking story about overcoming the sorrow of separation and accepting fate. The film beautifully illustrates the process that Jin-hee (Kim Sae-ron) goes through as she slowly realizes her fate and then learns to embrace life as an adoptee. Every moment is tear-jerking, but at the same time it gives you hope that one can find a new path.
The film is based on the true story of Korean-French director Ounie Lecomte, who was born in Seoul, Korea, in 1966 and was adopted by a French family when she was 9. She spent one year at the Saint Paul orphanage, run by Catholic nuns, in Seoul. It is the first French-Korean joint production and is Lecomte’s debut film. It was co-produced by renowned director Lee Chang-dong and was filmed near Seoul. It was presented for the first time at the Cannes International Film Festival in May.
Lecomte said in an interview at the Cannes festival that she tried to portray the emotions of a little girl facing extraordinary circumstances – abandonment and adoption – rather than simply replicate her childhood. “The year at the orphanage is the time and place of an intervening period between two lives: a life in which she didn’t have to learn how to let go and then a life in which she will learn how to desire,” Lecomte said.
The film will be shown at 7:30 p.m. on Oct. 9 and at 11 a.m. on Oct. 11 at Lotte Cinema at the Centum City complex in Busan. It will also be released nationwide on Oct. 29.
A Brand New Life
Drama / Korean
By Limb Jae-un [email@example.com]
See the trailer to the movie below:
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.
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.)
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/
- 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.