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Expats fight to change adoption law

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by By Shannon Heit for the Korea Herald


A group of expats in Seoul are driving a movement to create a major shift in how the country deals with adoptions. With Democratic Party Representative Choi Young-hee, the coalition presented its bill to revise the current Special Act Relating to Adoption Promotion and Procedure law at a National Assembly public hearing on Nov. 10. [Photo by Marc Champod]

Leveraging the help of a group of lawyers and a Korean unwed mothers’ organization, a group of expats in Seoul are driving a movement to create a major shift in how the country deals with adoptions.

With the support of Democratic Party Representative Choi Young-hee, this coalition presented its bill to revise the current Special Act Relating to Adoption Promotion and Procedure law at a National Assembly public hearing on Nov. 10.

The coalition has been working together for over a year to draw up a proposal for a new adoption law. Involved are three adoption-related groups — Truth and Reconciliation for the Adoptee Community of Korea (TRACK), Adoptee Solidarity Korea, KoRoot — an unwed mothers group, Miss Mama Mia, and the Gonggam Public Interest Lawyers Group.

What initially began last year as a request to the Anti-corruption and Civil Rights Commission for a probe into cases of allegedly inaccurate or falsified adoption records has expanded into a movement that could change the course of Korea’s adoption program.

Read the rest of the coverage from The Korea Herald…

Written by girl4708

November 13, 2009 at 12:31 am

A generation fights to reform adoption laws

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A generation fights to reform adoption laws
November 11, 2009

Six Korean adoptees filed an appeal with the Anti-corruption and Civil Rights Commission last year to request a probe into irregularities in their adoption documents and possible illegal procedures at local adoption agencies.

Now, they’re involved in a full-fledged battle to reform adoption laws and procedures, and they’re getting help from some heavyweights.

Adoptee rights and community groups as well as unwed mothers, the public interest law firm Gong-Gam and Democratic Party Representative Choi Young-hee have joined forces with the adoptees in an effort to convince lawmakers to revise the Special Law Relating to the Promotion and Procedure of Adoption.

The National Assembly has now taken up the issue and is exploring changes through a series of hearings.

The latest hearing took place yesterday.

If their efforts succeed, the groups will drastically change the landscape of domestic and international adoption in Korea, a country which lawmaker Choi said at yesterday’s hearing said “still has a stigma attached to it as one of the major exporters of children.”

It would also rank as one of the few cases in the world where adoptees returned to their original country and changed adoption practices through legislation.

False records

When they started this quest, the adoptees, hailing from three different countries, said their adoption records contained contradictory information.

Adoptee Jane Jeong Trenka

In one case, an adoptee only identified by her initials, SIA, said her adoptive parents in Denmark were informed by an adoption agency in 1977 that it did not have the records of her birth parents. But when SIA came to Korea in 1998 and asked for information about them, the agency did in fact have information about her birth mother. SIA also found that the adoption was done without her mother’s consent.

In another case, an adoptee only identified as PYJ said her adoption agency created a new identity for her when she was sent to Norway for adoption in 1975.

Their initial attempt to delve into the issue hit a brick wall when the civil rights commission dismissed the appeal, citing a lack of proper administrative procedures in Korea at the time of their adoption.

Taking on the law

The adoptees, however, did not stop there. Instead of filing another petition or begging for the release of their records at adoption agencies, they decided to try to revise adoption-related laws to find out the truth and improve the system.

According to the Ministry for Health, Welfare and Family Affairs, 161,588 Korean children were sent overseas for adoption from 1958 through 2008. Korea is the world’s fifth-largest exporter of children behind China, Guatemala, Russia and Ethiopia as of 2007, according to World Partners Adoption Inc.

“Most Korean adoptees are growing up in foreign countries and facing confusion over their identity. Even though they come to Korea to find their roots, there are few cases in which they are given accurate information on their birth or succeed in locating their birth parents. To improve the situation, we decided to hold a hearing on revising the Special Act,” lawmaker Choi said.

Need for stricter regulations

The proposed bill starts with the idea that foreign, and even domestic, adoption is not the best option for children and that public assistance should be given to mothers to help them raise their children, a concept that follows international adoption practices. It also incorporates the notion that adoption processes need to be more strictly regulated to prevent possible abuses by adoption agencies.

“The government wants to push domestic adoption, but all the children already have mothers,” said Jane Jeong Trenka, the president of the Truth and Reconciliation for the Adoption Community of Korea and one of the adoptees who filed the appeal at the commission. “The children can stay with their mothers. Single mothers should be given resources to raise their own children. It is still a matter of social prejudice in Korea.”

A National Assembly hearing was held yesterday on revising Korea’s special adoption law. By Jeon Min-gyu

Trenka added that a number of adoptees had families but were reclassified as orphans before they were sent abroad for adoption. “Because their records were manipulated, only 2.7 percent of adoptees succeed in locating their birth parents,” she said.

The majority of children relinquished for adoption in Korea are the children of unwed mothers. Of the 2,556 adoptions in 2008, international and domestic, 2,170 were the children of unwed mothers. Others were from low-income families or broken homes.

One of the biggest obstacles that prevents these women from raising their children on their own is the social stigma they face as unwed mothers. Another is the lack of social welfare services available to them should they choose to raise their child.

Trenka was adopted by a couple in Minnesota in the United States in 1972 when she was six months old. In 2007, Trenka and other Korean adoptees founded TRACK to help get the government to fully acknowledge its past and present adoption practices.

Reverend Kim Do-hyun, who is the director of KoRoot, which provides accommodation for Korean adoptees returning to the country, echoed those thoughts.

“Behind the Special Law is an idea that adoption needs to be encouraged,” Kim said. “But adoption is not something that we should promote. Rather than pushing adoption, we should reinforce the original family to prevent further separation between mothers and their children.”

Adoption as a business

One of the major changes proposed by the bill drafted by the public interest law firm Gong-Gam is that it would require court approval for all types of adoptions – currently they’re needed only for domestic adoptions – and increase government intervention in matters dealt with mostly by private adoption agencies.

The adoptees say there needs to be more government involvement in adoption because as more adult adoptees reunite with their birth parents and gain access to their records, examples of dubious international adoption practices have surfaced.

TRACK has been documenting these cases through interviews with adoptees and their birth families. They found that in some cases an orphan hojeok (family registry) is produced for a child sent for international adoption, even if the child has a family. Contradictions were also found between the records held by adoptive parents and those kept by the adoption agency. In one case the child was malnourished at the time of adoption but the records sent to the adoptive parents overseas stated the child was healthy. In another case, a child was given up for domestic adoption but was sent abroad for international adoption.

The adoptee coalition believes such irregularities occurred because adoption agencies manipulated records to push international adoption, which is very profitable.

According to the Health Ministry, the four adoption agencies authorized to facilitate international adoptions charge 13 million won ($17,211) to 20 million won for each child sent for international adoption.

Pressure on moms

Another proposed revision would give women a minimum of 30 days to make a decision on adoption, which is standard in Western countries. There is no set period for this in South Korea.

Observers say women are often forced to sign an agreement on adoption almost right after giving birth. If the mothers change their mind, the agencies charge them for all expenses they’ve incurred, from child delivery to the shelters they run. They said adoption agencies tend to encourage adoption rather than telling the women that there are other options available such as raising their child on their own.

“Adoption agencies pressure you to give up your child,” Choi Hyang-sook, a member of the group Miss Mamma Mia, which is also part of the adoptee coalition, said at yesterday’s hearing.

Access to records

Third, the agencies would be obligated to provide adoptees with all information on their birth parents, with the exception of name and registration number if the birth parents do not want their identities revealed. Kim said adoption agencies are often reluctant to share information with adoptees who are looking for their birth parents and vice versa because they are afraid that past abuses could become public knowledge.

“Adoption agencies provide adult adoptees with only partial information, citing the protection of their birth parents’ privacy,” Kim said. “The agencies have often falsified data to suit adoptive parents’ taste or to abide by the laws of the country to which they are sending a child. There were cases in which adoptees were classified as orphans when they were not. The more information they reveal, the more their reputation can be damaged.”

One adoption agency disputed the accusations. “There are records we can open but there are those we can’t,” said Choi An-yeo, a manager at Holt Children’s Services Inc., the biggest and oldest adoption agency in Korea.

Choi said things were different a few decades ago. “Then, it was possible to send an abandoned child abroad for adoption. If someone brought in a child and lied that he or she was a legal guardian, there would be no way for us to find out. We only have followed the laws and we will continue to do so,” she added.

Unifying adoption bills

Democratic Party Representative Choi is sponsoring the proposal while the Health Ministry is also drawing up its own bill. It is not certain how the government bill is going to be shaped but Park Sook-ja, the director of the Office for Child, Youth and Family Policy at the Health Ministry, said she generally sympathizes with the adoptee coalition. “We share similar ideas in general, but we need to take it one step at a time,” Park said.

The ministry has already held two hearings on the bill, however, Park said it is too early to talk about the bill as the final version has not been made yet.

Choi said the differences between the two bills will likely be ironed out before a unified bill is presented to the Assembly early next year.

Based on ‘lies’

Dozens of adoptees including Trenka attended the hearing yesterday in the hope that the bill Choi presented can transform adoption practices here.

Trenka commented, “Adoption may be an act of love, but all adoptions are meant to separate children from their mothers.”

Trenka started writing to her birth parents regularly when she was 16 years old. Her adoptive parents did not like her keeping in touch with her birth parents but one day she found letters from her birth mother in her adoptive parents’ mailbox. Her birth mother had found her adoptive parents’ address and kept sending her letters. Trenka said she still remembers the time she reunited with her birth mother.

“My mother was so emotional. I’d never seen a person so emotional,” she said. “She sat on the floor and poured her heart out.”

Trenka reunited with the rest of her birth family in the 1990s.

“Adoption is a big lie. Its success depends on everyone believing in that lie. They [my adoptive parents] wanted to believe in that lie but I could not do that.” Asked why she is devoting herself to creating the law, she said, “For my mother. My mother died but if I don’t try to change things, my suffering has no meaning.”

By Limb Jae-un [jbiz91@joongang.co.kr]

Written by girl4708

November 10, 2009 at 11:23 pm

Adopted From Korea and in Search of Identity

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New York Times
Published: November 8, 2009
DIFFERENT Kim Eun Mi Young in an undated photo with her brothers, David, left, and Shawn. Growing up, she says, “at no time did I consider myself anything other than white.”


As a child, Kim Eun Mi Young hated being different.

When her father brought home toys, a record and a picture book on South Korea, the country from which she was adopted in 1961, she ignored them.

Growing up in Georgia, Kansas and Hawaii, in a military family, she would date only white teenagers, even when Asian boys were around.

“At no time did I consider myself anything other than white,” said Ms. Young, 48, who lives in San Antonio. “I had no sense of any identity as a Korean woman. Dating an Asian man would have forced me to accept who I was.”

It was not until she was in her 30s that she began to explore her Korean heritage. One night, after going out to celebrate with her husband at the time, she says she broke down and began crying uncontrollably.

“I remember sitting there thinking, where is my mother? Why did she leave me? Why couldn’t she struggle to keep me?” she said. “That was the beginning of my journey to find out who I am.”

The experiences of Ms. Young are common among adopted children from Korea, according to one of the largest studies of transracial adoptions, which is to be released on Monday. The report, which focuses on the first generation of children adopted from South Korea, found that 78 percent of those who responded had considered themselves to be white or had wanted to be white when they were children. Sixty percent indicated their racial identity had become important by the time they were in middle school, and, as adults, nearly 61 percent said they had traveled to Korea both to learn more about the culture and to find their birth parents.

Like Ms. Young, most Korean adoptees were raised in predominantly white neighborhoods and saw few, if any, people who looked like them. The report also found that the children were teased and experienced racial discrimination, often from teachers. And only a minority of the respondents said they felt welcomed by members of their own ethnic group.

read the rest of the article here:

Written by girl4708

November 9, 2009 at 1:32 pm

Give it up

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For comedienne Amy Anderson…

who gets it in every way.


from KoreAm on-line magazine of the Korean American experience

A Korean adoptee comes to the defense of single moms like herself

amy Amy and her daughter Aubrey, 2008.

By Amy Anderson

My daughter is 2 and she is the most amazing human being on the planet. Sure, I’m a little biased, but she is pretty awesome. I have been blessed with a healthy, beautiful and intelligent child. I love her more and more each day. And while all mothers feel a special bond with their children, I should take a moment to mention that my daughter is the only blood relative I have ever known.

All that I know about the beginning of my life was that I was abandoned at the Yongsan train station in Seoul on September 2, 1972. I was estimated to be only a day old. After a passerby found me and took me to the police, I was adopted by my American family through Holt, an international agency known as the pioneer of overseas Korean adoption. No information about my Korean birth family has ever surfaced. The love for my adoptive family is sincere and they are indeed my “real” family, but as you can imagine, the special bond I have with my daughter is undeniably visceral.

I cannot fathom living without her.

That said, raising a child is tough. And sometimes, I feel really alone. And it’s because I’m a standup comedian who spends a lot of time traveling, working late hours, and managing an unpredictable schedule. It’s because I’m a single mom.

In my case, I have shared custody of my daughter with her father, which offers some relief, but it also presents a whole bevy of communication challenges that, at times, make the situation feel more stressful. And I’m not saying that raising children within a marriage is easy either, but at the end of a difficult day, I have to believe there is some peace in knowing you have another person in your corner to help pay the bills or lend an extra set of hands. (Anyone who has gone to Costco alone with an infant knows what I’m talking about.)

Just a few short years ago, as I was living my dream of being a comedian and actress in Hollywood, having a baby was not a planned event for my 34th year. Splitting with her father when she was an infant was also unplanned, but I decided to roll with the punches.

The struggle to establish a new life for my daughter made 2008 the most difficult year of my life. It took me months to get us on our feet and just now, I feel I have finally hit my stride. My daughter is thriving, my career is moving forward faster than ever before, and I have a wonderful new boyfriend. At 37, I actually have a life again that I really love.

Last month, just when I was thinking single motherhood was not such a bad gig after all, a friend forwarded an article to me from the New York Times, titled “Group Resists Korean Stigma for Unwed Mothers.” This article, written by Pulitzer Prize-winning reporter Choe Sang-hun, details a small group of Korean mothers who are banding together to protect their rights in a country that not only discourages, but also shuns, single moms.

Abortion is widely used in Korea as a way to avoid the shameful and ostracizing title of “unwed mother.” For the women who simply cannot terminate their pregnancies, the second most popular option is relinquishing the child for adoption—usually overseas. These birth mothers often lose all contact with their children.

Deception is rife in Korean adoption due to societal pressures and while adoption files are more accurate than they were in the past, untruths of orphanages burning down, names being concealed, identities being switched, and more, are all too common. The few women who choose the unpopular option of raising their children as single parents risk a life of poverty and social ostracism—for themselves and their children. These mothers are trapped in a no-win situation in a culture that doesn’t value them as the heroes that they are.

Korean women deserve the right to raise their own biological children with dignity and respect. Married or not.

While some American women, known as “single mothers by choice,” are now opting to bear and raise children alone (the clock is a-tickin’, Mr. Right never came along, and the sperm bank is just down the street), I don’t think any woman would describe that path as her ideal. Single motherhood is booby-trapped with emotional, financial and time management difficulties. No little girl dreams of growing up and doing it all by herself.

But as an American, I at least have the perk of being praised as somewhat of a societal hero. In South Korea, that’s never the case.

In 2008, I was selected to take an all-expense paid trip to South Korea to search for my birth family. While the trip yielded no family members for me, it did change the way I understood Korean adoption and my place in the world as a mother and adopted Korean American.

As part of this trip to Korea, which was sponsored by the Overseas Koreans Foundation, we visited babies at the Holt offices in Seoul. These were all infants who were going to be sent overseas, mostly to the United States. To say this was an emotional event would be an understatement. Holding these babies and realizing they were about to embark on the same journey that I had, more than three decades earlier, was overwhelming. Not just because I knew what they were in for, but also because as a mother, I knew how much the women who gave birth to them longed to keep them.

A few days later, I visited a city-run orphanage in Seoul: the Hae Sim Orphanage. Approximately 12 children, both boys and girls, lived in this home under the loving and firm supervision of a small staff. The children, infants to age 7, clearly loved and respected their caretakers. Even the toddlers bowed politely and greeted me with smiling annyeonghaseyos. The older boys were excited to have visitors, and didn’t want us to leave. The children were beautiful—perfect, actually—and I just could not understand why nobody wanted them. I already knew that South Koreans rarely adopted domestically but these children in the city-run orphanages had even slipped through the cracks of overseas adoption. Why?

A few days later, I visited yet another orphanage outside of Seoul. This one, in Anyang, was a much larger facility with at least 40 children. We were greeted by rows of tiny shoes, lined up neatly in the hallway entrance. With volunteers and two fellow Korean adoptees from Denmark and Canada, I arrived to make dinner (spaghetti and meatballs with kimchi) for the children.

After dinner, we played. The little ones, infants through toddlers, clung to us and cried as soon as they were set down, but the older ones, ages 5 to 7, wanted to engage and interact. Perfect children in a tragic setting. It was during a talk with one of the Korean volunteers that I finally learned the truth about these city-run “orphanages.”

She told me, “The children in these homes have Korean parents. They are mostly the children of divorced couples and very poor couples.” Another ugly truth about Korea’s highly Confucianist society is that custody is almost always awarded to the father in the case of a divorce, no matter what the circumstances. If the man does not want to raise the children, or has no relatives who will take care of them, he will often leave the children at one of these homes and the mother has no rights. The misnomer of “orphanage” is widely accepted because Westerners don’t want to hear the truth, but they are simply dumping grounds for innocent victims of an archaic cultural practice. These children are not even available for adoption because they have legal Korean parents, and while the mothers long for their children on the outside, the children languish on the inside.

These children are not orphans; they have parents that are healthy, functioning and alive. That, along with the fact that Korea is still exporting its children when they have the lowest birthrate amongst all industrialized nations, and can boast the 11th largest economy in the world, is disturbing. During a conversation with Dae-won Wenger, a Swiss-raised Korean adoptee and Secretary General of Global Overseas Adoptees’ Link, he pointed out that, “The more advanced Korea becomes, the more [Koreans] are devaluing their children.”

America’s rescue mentality towards foreign children is nothing new and, in the case of Korea, stems from a legitimate history of humanitarian aid after the Korean War. But few people seem to question why overseas Korean adoption peaked in 1985, decades after a cease-fire was signed in 1953. These numbers show that Westerners who now adopt from Korea are participating in a very profitable operation, whether they know it or not. In the majority of cases, they are adopting a single woman’s child. A child like my own.

As a single mother and Korean adoptee with a sketchy adoption file, you can imagine that I have strong feelings on the issue of single mothers’ rights in South Korea. I realized that if I lived in Korea, my own daughter probably would have been adopted out or placed in a group home, and that the choice to keep her would be intrinsically attached to a life of poverty and shame.

But a movement in Korea, though small, has begun. Brave people are finally stepping forward and with advocates like Richard Boas, founder of the Korean Unwed Mothers Support Network, and allies like adoptee filmmaker Tammy Chu, birth mothers and single parents in Korea will finally have a voice and eventually be able to enjoy the rights they deserve—not just as mothers, but as human beings.

Tonight, I am writing in a hotel room in Pennsylvania, over 2,600 miles away from my little girl in Los Angeles. My upcoming performance is a very important one and may determine how much work I book over the next year. No matter how much I miss my daughter when I travel, I am proud to show her what a woman can do and I am grateful to have the right to do it.

In two nights, I will be home to bathe her, read to her and tuck her in with hugs and kisses because I am her mother and this is how it should be.

Written by girl4708

November 9, 2009 at 12:49 pm

Confronting a Mother’s Pain – Redux

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New (to me) horrifying discoveries about adoption in Korea.

New unwed mothers homes and name changes

ESWS opened new unwed mothers home and changed their names.

Location Before After
Pyeongtaek Esther’s Home Esther’s Home
Seoul Sharon’s Home Saengmyeong Nuri
Gyeongbook Sharon’s Home Sharon’s Home
Anyang Sharon’s Home Hanbit Nuri
Daejeon None Hatssal Nuri
Incheon None Seum Nuri
Jeonju None Gippeum Nuri

Maybe that doesn’t seem so horrible to you, but in Korea, there is no time limit between birth and relinquishment like there is in most other countries.  That means the mothers are never given the opportunity to bond with their babies and possibly experience what they might be missing by relinquishing.  This means that mothers can relinquish while the children are in utero.  So this particular one waits until after the child is born – I don’t know what is worse for the mom…

This practice used to occur in the United States and Australia, but was OUTLAWED because it essentially exploited vulnerable girls. (often at the behest of their parents)  These homes for unwed mothers were called Baby Farms, because privileged people who wanted babies to adopt were essentially cultivating them…

More unwed mothers homes by – AN ADOPTION AGENCY.  No conflict of interest there…

Even more horrifying to me is that the adoption agencies RECOGNIZE how traumatic this is, and hope to ameliorate it with ceremonies to facilitate closure.  I call that twisted.  I call that damage control in the aftermath of manipulation and exploitation.  Read below.  It’s truly horrible.  There’s nothing I can add to that, as it speaks for itself.

from ESWS’s website:


There are many kinds of farewells in this world. All partings are heart
wrenching but is there one more painful than that of a baby separated from its mother as soon as it is born? Though the baby cannot express itself, the distress it causes is quite real.

At the same time, the distress caused by the separation is also enormous for the birth mother who has relinquished all rights to the baby. There is a report that identifies undeniable effects to the birth mother after her decision to give up her baby for adoption. In her report about Birth Mother Syndrome, Paik Yun Oak writes that giving up the right to a baby is like a living death. There is a finality to a typical death but in this living death, a mother who has given up her baby must cope with the range of emotions that comes from one extreme which is the hope of one day perhaps being able to meet her child and the other extreme, her current unbearable hopelessness. Mothers report repeatedly dreaming about losing their babies, fantasizing about marrying the fathers of the babies and living happily together, denying ever having given up their babies for adoption, losing themselves in alcohol or drug addiction or promiscuous sexual behavior. There are some who report having lost all memories of the birth or adoption, having bitterness towards the person who recommended adoption, feeling extreme isolation, living with guilt and shame and with the fear that she will be punished or in extreme cases attempting suicide caused by depression. In addition, these mothers are reported to have very low self esteem in raising their children after marriage and question their parental competence.

At Esther’s house, we aim to not only provide housing and prenatal care for safe births but programs for psychological support so that birth mothers can ease their loss and increase their confidence. According to Director Lee Kwang Mi who plans and oversees these programs, “many birth mothers experience much psychological pain and because there is so little to help them assimilate back into society and their previous lives, I have keenly felt that we need a rehabilitation program. As such, at Esther’s House, Choi Seung Hee, a social welfare Professor from Pyongtek University provides a loss program, farewell program and a confidence program for birth mothers.” Academics have reported that if a birth mother does not see her child or does not go through the process of saying good-bye, her ability to overcome her loss will be much more difficult. In this environment, accepting the reality of the adoption and being allowed to say good-bye allows birth mothers to accept their situation and lead a much more enriched life.

In our magazine, we describe a “farewell” ceremony for the birth mothers at Esther’s Home.

The ceremony began with a prayer by social worker Chang Bo kyung on behalf of the mothers who have decided to say farewell so that their children could have a better future. There were four babies in the middle of the hall. Even before the prayer began, there were sounds of sadness from the mothers. A birth mother stood by the foot of her baby with her head hanging down in tears and sadness. Once the prayer ended, Esther’s House employees took square pieces of paper to make a stamp of the babies’ feet and cut locks of hair. These will be passed along to the birth mothers so that they can cherish it.

Following was a time for reading letters by the mothers to their babies. The mothers each read a letter that they have written. Mothers read and stop overwhelmed by emotions and then read again. The mothers cried in sorrow because this might the last chance for the babies to hear their mothers’ voices.

Soon thereafter, the director of Esther’s Home, Lee Kwang Mi read a poem about birth parents and adoptive parents entitled “Legacy of an adopted child”. The director then asks the mothers to promise that they will pray for their child at least once a day and the mothers respond that they will. Then she prayed for the birth mothers who have physically and psychologically toiled and for the babies who will meet new adoptive parents. Then she approached each baby to bless them so that they will meet good families and grow up to be fine people.

The official part of the ceremony ended thus and the employees left the mothers to be with their babies. The mothers held on to their babies who have no idea what is happening and murmured words of love and sorrow. Mothers cried “baby, I’m so sorry. Your mother loves you so much. I will look for you later… I am so sorry.” Babies who had been born only three to four days ago stare up at the ceiling, only to start crying when the mothers hugged them hard in their sorrow.

The babies were then taken on a van to a temporary care center in Seoul and the mothers sat there in their sorrow unable to move.

The tummies of young mothers are now back in shape but the pain was added in their hearts. We should help them heal the pains in their hearts

Um, how about not cause the trauma to begin with and help these girls keep their babies?

Eastern Social Welfare Society is a licensed, nonprofit organization dedicated to finding nurturing homes for children. Founded in 1972 by Dr. Duk Whang Kim, ESWS has placed more than 35,000 children in loving homes in Korea, USA and Australia.

This is not the 1950’s. This is still happening TODAY.

Ugh. And try this one on for size…

ESWS 06.04.07 51

Victims, orphans, sadness, unstableness, and anger are the images that Korean media have created for adoptees who live overseas. This kind of images made Korean people feel sympathy on overseas adoptees and treat them with pity, which a lot of adoptees feel uncomfortable about.

ESWS is trying to change images of adult adoptees to a more positive way by showing they are happy, generous and mature adults who contribute themselves to this society.

ESWS had a survey for adult adoptees in the US and Australia last year. We traced where they live, what they do and have achieved and what they think about adoption. The survey turned out that many adult adoptees are well-educated, mature, strong, smart and well-rounded. Thus, ESWS decided to publish a book on the survey results to help change the prejudice of Korean people on adopted people. This book will mainly focus on the present and future of Eastern adoptees, rather than on the past that most media have focused on. However, we are in need of budget to publish this book.

To publish the Korean version, we need approximately
USD 3,000 for 500 copies. If you send sponsorship money, we will publish your name in the book and will send a copy to you. Photos and comments are welcomed.

I don’t think they want my photos or comments.  I’m certainly not going to give them credit for the hard work and accomplishments I’ve achieved IN SPITE OF having to deal with racism, abuse, and loss of everything they take for granted.

The adoption agencies worry about the adoptees being seen as damaged products on the supply side or sending defective goods on the demand side, because to them it’s a business.  Adoption agencies see Korean sympathy for adoptees as a problem.  This is a good thing, only because they’re worried about their income source.  We need and deserve sympathy.  Pity, no.  But yes, give us your sympathy.  This tactic of theirs to interchange the two emotions of sympathy and pity is used to divide adoptees and weaken the opposition to their unethical practices.  And I’m sorry – whatever benevolence they think they are trying to achieve are misguided fantasies.  Unethical practices are unethical practices, no matter what their intent.

I also think it takes a really strong, thoughtful, well-rounded people to have the fortitude and commitment to see injustice and battle it for the good of all society.

What’s evident to me is the adoption agencies, as exhibited in the defensive acts quoted above, know they are causing harm, no matter how they try to justify it.  The criticism stings precisely because it is accurate.  And these efforts to ameliorate criticism just goes to show how flat their rationalizing is.

There is no war.  There is no starvation.  There is only exploiting the vulnerable.  We adoptees have a right to be angry.  Stripped of our names, birth dates, country, culture, and language – and then placed in a world where everyone must stop and decide how to process our difference.  Being angry at the adoption agencies does not mean we are imbalanced.  It just means we have hearts and brains.

These practices need to stop.

Have they no shame or human decency?

Written by girl4708

October 31, 2009 at 4:54 am

Real Support for Unwed Moms

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from the Korea Times

Volunteers take care of babies born to unwed mothers at a welfare center in Yeoksam-dong, southern Seoul, on Jan. 8. Many of unwed mothers have to send their babies to adoption agencies because of a lack of support and difficulty with child care. / Korea Times File



By Jennifer Kwon Dobbs


In today’s adoption world, South Korea is no longer the largest sending country. Yet, why does it remain the world’s oldest sending country in modern adoption history?

To address this undesirable legacy, the South Korean government has attempted to promote domestic adoption with mixed results.

Though domestic adoption statistically surpassed overseas adoption in 2007, the Ministry for Health, Welfare and Family Affairs has reported problems with disrupted domestic placements where adoptive parents have returned children to the system.

More significantly, domestic adoption is not a valid solution primarily because it ignores an unwed mother’s human right to give birth to and to raise her child.

Surf the web in Korea for unwed mothers’ assistance. The top links connect you to adoption agency sponsored sites that promise help. Yet what is the quality of this help when there’s a conflict of interest?

Seventeen of South Korea’s 25 unwed mothers’ maternity homes are adoption agency owned and operated. As reported by Choe Sang-hun for the New York Times, “Nearly 90 percent of the 1,250 South Korean children adopted abroad last year, most of them by American couples, were born to unmarried women.”

Current adoption agency practices encourage mothers to surrender their children.

News Trace 60 Minutes (Chujeok 60), a weekly news show of the state-run KBS TV, reports that adoption agencies cover expecting mothers’ medical expenses and typically bring paperwork for a mother to sign relinquishing her child while still in the hospital bed.

A hospital discharge usually occurs 72 hours after delivery. A social worker will arrive at the maternity ward during this window to take the child.

Consequently, many children are unregistered to their mothers and lack identifying paperwork, therefore preventing future attempts for family search and reunion.

In response to instances where mothers have changed their minds and wanted to keep their children, agencies have charged mothers for the cost of their hospital stays. However, agencies receive government subsidies that offset these and other operating costs.

It is also a common agency practice to bill mothers for foster care provided between a child’s birth and placement in an adoptive home. Many mothers, however, cannot pay and end up surrendering their children. The children of unwed mothers are not orphans, nor are they unwanted.

In my interviews with expecting mothers at Doori Home, a maternity home operated by the Salvation Army in Seoul, I learned that each mother who intended to surrender her child did not fully know her options nor have realistic expectations even though Doori Home, which has one of the highest rates of child-rearing motherhood, had provided counseling.

Each mother had named her child. Mothers who chose overseas adoption expected that their children would learn English, become globally and economically mobile, and find and return to them.

This assumption motivated mothers to prefer overseas adoption. However, reunion is the exceptional, not the usual outcome. From 1995-2005, the ministry reported that only 2.7 percent of 78,000 overseas adoptees who initiated a birth search successfully reunited with their families.

Nor did the mothers understand that relinquishment means irrevocably terminating parental rights. When asked about this, the mothers repeatedly said that they were their children’s mothers although others would provide child-rearing care because they could not.

The mothers did not realize that overseas adoption cut their children off from Korean culture. For example, they were unaware that their children, more than likely, would be unable to speak Korean with them should they be reunited in the future.

All of the mothers with whom I spoke mentioned a lack of emotional family support foremost affecting their choice to surrender or rear their children. Their own mothers as well as their partners’ mothers primarily exerted pressure or threatened to take the child to the adoption agency.

The intimate cultural stigma and socioeconomic impediments these mothers face reveal the discriminatory side of South Korea’s economic miracle.

South Korea’s inability to imagine support for unwed mothers separate from domestic or overseas adoption shows just how deeply entrenched adoption, a once privatized postwar solution, has become in the country’s welfare system.

Promoting adoption instead of protecting unwed mothers’ rights to their own children shows that South Korea does not view them and their children as real families. Whether one is for or against adoption misses the point that the vast majority of children placed for adoption today have loving families that South Korea prefers to break up.

Addressing unwed mothers’ human rights requires multiple approaches to end a national culture of shame and secrecy. Foremost, South Korea must build a culture that promotes mothers and must provide real opportunities for them to care for their children.

Instead of punishing unwed mothers, South Korea should value and work with them to invest in future generations that can make our country stronger and more prosperous.

Jennifer Kwon Dobbs is an assistant professor at the English department, St. Olaf College in Northfield, Minn. She can be reached at http://www.jkwondobbs.com.

Written by girl4708

October 30, 2009 at 7:13 pm

An orphan struggles to overcome abandonment

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Joong Ang Daily
October 09, 2009
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

92 min.

By Limb Jae-un [jbiz91@joongang.co.kr]

See the trailer to the movie below:

Written by girl4708

October 14, 2009 at 1:24 am

Group Resists Korean Stigma for Unwed Mothers

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Probably the highlight of my visit to Busan (since I wasn’t allowed into the theater to see Resilience because I was 2 minutes late – but that’s another story) was meeting Kyong-Wha. (Her story in the New York Times follows below)

I consider myself a lucky girl to not only have heroines, but to meet them and be able to get to know them personally.

Heroine #1 is Jane Jeong Trenka, who is the most unselfish person I’ve ever met. We’re very similar, in that we see a need and follow up on it. But she’s younger and thinks bigger than I do, and she exhausts all of her seemingly (but not) boundless energy creating a better world for women. Currently she and a team of advisors have DRAFTED A NEW LAW to be proposed to the Korean National Assembly. How’s THAT for citizen action??? Historic. Landmark.

Heroine #2 is Kyung-Wha. Here’s another woman who sees a need and, instead of sucking it up stoically by herself, she not only puts herself out there, but creates a foundation for single mothers BY single mothers – the first of its kind in Korea – called Mama Mia.

Reading the article, you will be both energized and impressed by this fearless, courageous woman and encouraged by the writing and the exposure of this issue in the New York Times. But Korea, it seems, does not see Kyung-Wha’s actions or Sang-Hun’s New York Times article in such favorable light. In fact, fall-out and negative comments by netizens of Korea’s insular cyberworld has been rather severe. They ask things like, “How can you ask for the government to help you when YOU messed up?” They refuse to recognize any of the extra hardships and descrimination these women face for TAKING RESPONSIBILITY FOR THEIR ACTIONS. They do not appreciate Sang-Hun airing Korea’s dirty laundry out in public, never once considering that it was they who dirtied the laundry to begin with. They see nothing wrong with the government promoting adoption and discouraging women to raise their own children, as most Koreans still think of America as the land of milk and honey: even though there are more jobs here and the standard of living is REALLY HIGH.

I learned, in addition to the NYT article, that the measly 50,000 won (half of the $85 the government sends to subsidize those who already have the means to adopt) is taken away once an unwed mother gets a job: which of course she must do, because how can you live on $42.50 a month? There is a child support system here, but it is not enforced, so dead-beat dad’s merely have to move so their address no longer matches the database. There is no blame directed at the men for their part in procreation.

Kyung Wha’s little boy is an absolute delight. Jane chases him and they play mock battle like the Pororo characters from Korean children’s tv cartoons. His peels of laughter amuse everyone but his mom, who knows he will be extra hard to settle down. He hits his head under a table and cries and she rocks him in her arms, kissing his head. I see this and remember how much I loved these moments of just being there for my little ones, comforting them. Later, he’s passed out across two restaurant chairs, oblivious to all and looking like an angel, and I remember Jane saying earlier under her breath something like, “and to think he could have been sent away.”

So I’ll post the first half of the NYT article here, and let you finish the rest there…

Mok Kyong-wha, with her son, said that she broke up with her boyfriend while she was pregnant and refused when he asked her to have an abortion

Mok Kyong-wha, with her son, said that she broke up with her boyfriend while she was pregnant and refused when he asked her to have an abortion

Published: October 7, 2009

SEOUL, South Korea — Four years ago, when she found that she was pregnant by her former boyfriend, Choi Hyong-sook considered abortion. But after she saw the little blip of her baby’s heartbeat on ultrasound images, she could not go through with it.

Skip to next paragraph


Times Topics: South Korea

Jean Chung for the International Herald Tribune

This 29-year-old woman, nine months pregnant, has decided to keep her baby instead of setting up adoption. More Photos »

As her pregnancy advanced, she confided in her elder brother. His reaction would sound familiar to unwed mothers in South Korea. She said he tried to drag her to an abortion clinic. Later, she said, he pressed her to give the child up for adoption.

“My brother said: ‘How can you be so selfish? You can’t do this to our parents,’ ” said Ms. Choi, 37, a hairdresser in Seoul. “But when the adoption agency took my baby away, I felt as if I had thrown him into the trash. It felt as if the earth had stopped turning. I persuaded them to let me reclaim my baby after five days.”

Now, Ms. Choi and other women in her situation are trying to set up the country’s first unwed mothers association to defend their right to raise their own children. It is a small but unusual first step in a society that ostracizes unmarried mothers to such an extent that Koreans often describe things as outrageous by comparing them to “an unmarried woman seeking an excuse to give birth.”

The fledgling group of women — only 40 are involved so far — is striking at one of the great ironies of South Korea. The government and commentators fret over the country’s birthrate, one of the world’s lowest, and deplore South Korea’s international reputation as a baby exporter for foreign adoptions.

Read the rest of the New York Times article here

Written by girl4708

October 9, 2009 at 1:53 am

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

Tagged with

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

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

Tagged with

Baby Exporting Nation

with 2 comments

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.

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July 21, 2009 at 10:31 pm

Posted in Winds of Change

Tagged with

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.

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July 19, 2009 at 5:29 am

Posted in Scattered Seeds

Tagged with ,

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/

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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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Sacred Crane / Patron Saint

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Here I sit at Hakbaui, which is “crane rock.”  As I was listening to the story (below) of why this rock was so special, I of course had to marvel that the first and only time I’ve been out hiking in Korea, it leads me here of all places.
A gentleman’s daughter was living in Haksan, and one day, she went to Seokcheon well for water.  She drank the water from a bucket upon which the sunlight is brightly reflected, and she gave unexpected birth to a baby.  She felt ashamed that an unmarried woman had given birth to a child so that she wrapped the baby up and threw him away at the Hakbaui.  A few days later, the lady went back to Hakbaui and found a white crane came there to cover the boy with its wings, and in the early morning the crane put a red-colored fruit into the baby’s mouth and disappeared.  She realized the infant was no ordinary child and raised him.  The baby became a Buddist priest and attained the highest position of Guksa (National Priest).  After returning to Haksan, he constructed Gulsansa Temple.
Hakbaui is known as the place where Boemil (810-889) a main god in the Gangnueng Danoje Festival, was thrown away when he was born without a father.  The tale of birth for Boemil Guksa (National Priest) involving Seokcheon and Hakbaui is portrayed in Jodangjib of “Samgukyusas (The Story of the Three Kingdoms)’ and in the local history of Gangneung written by “Imyeongji’.
So here I sit, in a country where they used to let their unwanted children die of exposure, at a place where an abandoned baby got a second chance at life  by some mythical crane.  In Gangnueng, they so revered this Buddist Priest that they deified him in their shamanistic rituals.  See Korea?  abandoned babies have great potential.  And mothers should raise them, even if a miracle crane doesn’t appear.

Written by girl4708

May 29, 2009 at 2:21 am

Posted in Scattered Seeds

Tagged with

Family Geometry

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Thinking about papercraneprayers’s comment about being uncomfortable in family photos got me to thinking about my own family photos…

One time, in an art class, the instructor was talking about composition and how people groups almost always form a “circle of love” and she demonstrated how you could overlay a circle connecting them – how hands held, arms entwined, heads positioned towards each other, etc. completed these circles physically drawing out the circle of their relationships.

Thinking about this and papercraneprayer’s comment, I realized then that there is NOT ONE photo of me and my parents in anything resembling a circle of love or even close enough for anything resembling affection.  There aren’t even any photos of me being held.  And people wonder why I have intimacy issues…I mean, come on – look at the lack of circle in this photo!  In every photo I have.  In every photo of my siblings with my parents as well.

And of course the adoptive parents are okay with the skin color difference:  they’re not the odd man out.  But ask the dark little girl in the photo above how she feels about it.  Her answer will be affirmative because her parents are within earshot and she feels fear and obligation, but every cell in her body will be squirming in discomfort.

I wonder if adoption agencies bother to look at people’s family albums?  I bet they don’t.  Would you send a child to a family that has NOT ONE candid photo of fun or affection?  No of course not.  But adoption agencies only look at income, criminal background checks, health records, letters of recommendation, and inadequate social worker home studies.  All of which any psychopath with any skills at all or socially inept and maladjusted person could pass with flying colors.

People have said to me in the past that this fate of mine had nothing to do with adoption – that these things happen in non-adopted families too, that some children are born into bad families and also don’t have any choice, that it is the luck of the draw.

To this I vociferously disagree:  adoption is an opportunity to do better than chance.  A half dozen entities, coordinated by my adoption agency, all were guilty of negligence in their duties.  Adoptive parents are too often just processed and not really screened – and they complain about the hoops they have to jump through.  Well, there aren’t enough hoops.  There isn’t a magnifying glass big enough.  And nobody’s really looking through one anyway.  Not in any meaningful way.

Apart from being sent to a dysfunctional family, just being displaced and forced to assimilate to a totally foreign life took its toll.  “Young Sook is a bright, happy child and makes friend easily.”  (paraphrase from orphanage report)  Note there is no post adoption report.  It would have said, “Leanne is a very shy child that behaves well.”

The real me was crushed.  Something terrible happened.

And it was called international adoption.

Written by girl4708

May 25, 2009 at 1:14 pm

Posted in Scattered Seeds

Tagged with

Disbursed and Returned

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Am I anywhere different?

The scenery doesn’t really change. I’m still inhabiting this body. I’m still outside looking in.

This is my first myspace generation type narcissistic self photo, taken in the bathroom of the Seoul Folk Flea Market. I like how it could have been taken anywhere, and I am standing still and the rest of the world is moving around me. It just seemed like what I should do at the time. And later, after attending the Disbursed and Returned exhibit about returning adoptees, it wanted me to post it and write about it.

Rev. Kim Do Hyun, speaking to the Korean audience of subway go-ers passing through the exhibit, wrote:

Having to continuously explain your existence is not necessarily a pleasant thing….When international adoptees no longer have to explain and justify their existence, the returnees are liberated from the coercion of continuous self-explanation.

And yet I don’t have to do that here, not really. I recognize Rev. Kim is trying to elicit understanding from the Korean people, and the point he made later was that it is not us adoptees who have explaining to do: it is the Korean people who should be making explanations to us.

Here, I WANT to explain my existence, but nobody really wants to know. As soon as you open your mouth, they can tell, and they’d rather not talk about it. You are a reminder of their shame. And in the United States, with every new encounter, I had to explain my existence. And the best one of all, that I got with alarming frequency, was, “What ARE you???” I am not one of you, obviously…

Here, I blend in. Here, I am not one of you, though it’s obvious I should be.

I really liked what Maria Hee Jung, returning adoptee from Denmark wrote.

I think most adoptees realize that they don’t really have a country that is truly theirs, when they come to Korea. I think it would actually be easier for me to be accepted and to feel comfortable in a third nation without blood relation and anything else.

Tobias Hubinette, Swedish adoptee, wrote in Comforting an Orphaned Nation

It is precisely in the interstitial space, oscillating between this still unfinished reconciliation with the past and still on-going imagining of the future, that the adopted Koreans are appearing as comfort children in order to ease and console the homeless and orphaned Korean nation.

Our return, for the 500+ of us who have done so, is perhaps even more important for Korea than it is for us. We adoptees were sacrificed in exchange for a better life: because they couldn’t see that they were already free, that it was only their colonized mind-set that enslaved them, and that they had the power to make change within themselves. They need to see and recognize us so they can move on to the next phase of their personal development.

A particularly well-written assessment of Korea’s desperation to do ANYTHING to get ahead, the later shame of such desperate acts, and the denial of desperation and erasure of those acts, was written as an article entitled, The Korean Adoption Syndrome by Dr. Kim Su Rasmussen, PhD in History of Ideas, Seoul National University:

International adoption is a vector of deterritorialization in modern Korean society. The Korean adoptee syndrome is a politico-historical phenomenon that involves more than 150,000 adoptees who have been subjected to involuntary migration. And with the exception of a hyper-sentimentalized portrait of adoptees and their reunions with their birth families, which merely functions as a screen-memory, it is a phenomenon that has been wiped from the collective awareness in Korea. There is no mention of international adoption in Korean history books, nor is it part of the curriculum in Korean elementary or middle schools. Myths and deliberate distortions of the history of international adoption are widespread. Only the most progressive elements of Korean society are able to see international adoption as a dark side of the militarized industrialization of the modern Korean society. International adoption is a constitutive blind spot in the modern Korean society. The Korean adoption syndrome raises a number of questions about the phenomenological experience of adoptees returning to Korea and their historical and political position in the Korean society. While the traditional approach is to explain international adoption by referring to various antagonisms in the Korean society, I maintain that the study of international adoption provides a unique opportunity for us to gain understanding of modern Korea and its phenomenal rise in the international order of industrialized nations.

My journey to Korea has been forty years in the making. My radicalization has been forty years in the making. It is not enough to sit back and observe and let this life happen to me. Fatalism is not productive. And people who read my works volley back to me that I am negative or angry. And to that I say: Sorting through this morass of complicated issues is a positive action. Coming here to live is an act of bravery. Confronting Korean society and questioning the world’s assumptions about adoption is based upon a love of humanity and a faith in the capacity of people to change for the better. You must turn over the soil and make a new bed before you plant new seeds.

Dr. Kim Su Rasmussen also wrote about Self-Rejection and Emancipation:

Returning to Korea is a journey of discovery. It is a discovery of an entire world of sounds, smells, and extraordinary sensations. The magical country that was only a vague fantasy during childhood and adolescence suddenly becomes very concrete: the pushing and jostling in the subway during rush hour, the army of impeccable suits and high heels, the ringing of a bell in a Buddhist temple, the unbearable hot and humid summer. It is a pleasing shock to discover that for some people, the Koreans, this is the center of the world.

However, returning to Korea is first and foremost a journey of self-discovery. It is an experience of radical disjunction between the past and the present, the West and the East, the mind and the body. It is a threatening experience that destabilizes and decenters the world of the adoptee: returning to Korea is an experience of oneself as an other; it is an experience of radical deterritorialization in which everything, including the very core of our self, is being questioned; and it is, at least potentially, an experience of emancipation and empowerment.

So yeah, I’ve been abandoned and exiled and abused and marginalized and silenced and OF COURSE that makes me angry! But once upon a time, I didn’t know I was angry. I was uncomfortable, but couldn’t verbalize it. Later, I realized that internalizing discomfort was really hurting me.

I can ignore my discomfort and swallow my anger and hurt myself, or I can work to make it so no child in the future has to experience such avoidable trauma. Righteous anger has powerful energy, and channeling that energy is how the world changes for the better. I am certainly destabilized here, and it effects me. But I try to learn from the past and persist into a future where I can contribute to society in the most meaningful way possible.

This is what optimism looks like.

Written by girl4708

May 23, 2009 at 11:30 am

No end in sight

with one comment

Cause for celebration last year was the reporting that Korea intended to eliminate international adoption in the next four years.

It has been four years since the first Adoption Day was launched in Korea promoting domestic adoptions, and last year was the first year that domestic adoptions exceeded international adoptions.

However, we have learned that our celebrations were premature.  The domestic adoptions will continue to exceed international adoptions by a slim margin.  However, the end to international adoption will remain only a topic of discussion because sources tell me that a back room quota system is in play, allowing an almost one for one advance.  So, as long as domestic adoptions are promoted, for each domestic adoption (save the margin permitted to make it appear as if domestic adoptions outnumber international adoptions) an international adoption will be allowed to take place.

So actually, even the campaign for domestic adoption is being used as a vehicle to increase international adoption by politicians and multi-national corporation international adoption agencies.

It is not enough to ask Koreans to adopt their own.  We need them to realize how these international adoption agencies do NOT have the best interest of ethnic Koreans in mind, which will be my next post…

Written by girl4708

May 6, 2009 at 7:20 pm

Posted in Bittersweet Hope

Tagged with

Not again

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Today I learned that Holt is setting up humanitarian aid to children in North Korea. This is how it begins. It appears Holt may have found a new nation to mine…

In the past, North Korea has admonished South Korea as being a baby selling nation. Hopefully, they will hold onto that belief and protect themselves from multi-national corporation aggression meaning to capitolize on their hardships. If Holt wants to help children so much, they need to get out of the creating orphans business and get into the business of helping families in crisis instead of breaking families up.

Hopefully that is what they are doing.  But given their track record, it’s highly unlikely that they will be willing to stop at aid.

We’re aware.  And we’re watching.

Written by girl4708

May 6, 2009 at 7:03 pm

Posted in Bittersweet Hope

Tagged with

New Year / New Life

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Best Wishes for a great new year and years to come!

I’m sitting in my almost empty fragrantly cedar cabin in Washington
State, after having given away a lifetime of possessions, my goods
reduced to two suitcases full of stupid clothes I would rather replace
in Korea if I had the cash, and an instrument I can’t yet play. Last
day before I mop the floors, turn in my key, and spend three weeks at
my daughters prior to boarding the plane for TESOL training in
Thailand. After the training, I’ll spend a week in Seoul at Koroot,
doing the requisite orphanage tour, traveling to the nearby mountain
town of Wonju as personal identity sleuth, and then on to my new
teaching position in Anyang.

As I sit here avoiding cleaning the oven and contemplating this life,
it’s quite stirring to think about the future and the past and the
epic in between. Almost 3 years of mystery followed by 42 years of
what doesn’t kill you makes you stronger, followed by starting over
halfway around the world in a place I know nothing about yet feel I
know on a cellular level, is almost too incredible for me to
comprehend. Do you ever think that way? Do you ever think about how
unbelievable and incredible this odyssey is we’ve been sent on?

Transracial, transcultural, intercountry adoption feels like a brief
interruption of an inviolable destiny. I blinked and I have a head
full of gray hair, but I feel somehow like I am a 3 years young old
soul, picking up where I left off.

In this generous moment, I want to thank Holt for f’g up my life so
badly. It’s made this homecoming all the more sweet.

I’m just grinning ear to ear and bursting with love love love love
love for all of you and wanting to wish you half of what I feel right now.

Holt orphan 4708

Written by girl4708

January 1, 2009 at 3:03 am

How can we eliminate the need for adoption in Korea?

leave a comment »

Great question:

Just ASK

ASK, Adoption Solidarity Korea, is an organization formed to do just that:

from their website’s JOIN ASK menu option:

Join ASK :
ASK is part of a growing community of adoptees and supporters who advocate for the discontinuance of intercountry adoption from Korea and hope to see it replaced with social welfare services which will give families the option to stay together. Whether you would like to be directly involved in the current activities of ASK and participate in planning meetings, get updates and stay in the loop, or somewhere in between, please join us today.

Membership is open to all Korean adoptees who support the mission and work of ASK.  Membership fees are 15,000 won annually, or the equivalent after conversion.  Members receive regular updates and are invited to participate in all levels of the organization.  Click here to join.

*We encourage people who joined ASK using our old site to become members using the new system.  Please click the link above to join.

Supporters are community members who are not adoptees themselves, but want to support the mission and work of ASK.  Supporters receive regular updates and are invited to participate in many levels of the organization, including volunteering.  By volunteering for ASK, you become an important link between ASK and the Korean community.  As a volunteer, you can help with translation, interpretation, research, and other activities according to your interest. Click here to join.

It’s not enough for us to cry and moan about what was done to us.  We need to spare future generations this grief by setting up alternatives to the ineffective, poorly managed bandaid solution that adoption has offered.

I’m proudly going to try and involve myself in this organization during my stay in Korea.  And even if you can’t get to Korea yourself, please lend your support to this effort, which offers REAL change and REAL solutions.

Written by girl4708

December 17, 2008 at 8:06 am

Posted in Winds of Change

Tagged with

Stop Intercountry Adoption

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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.

Written by girl4708

November 27, 2008 at 6:19 pm

Posted in Winds of Change

Tagged with

In Their Own Words

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from Mother Jones magazine

In Their Own Words

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.

Written by girl4708

November 14, 2008 at 6:49 pm

Posted in Scattered Seeds

Tagged with

Baby exporting nation

leave a comment »

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.

Written by girl4708

November 14, 2008 at 11:56 am

Posted in Dealing with the Devil

Tagged with

The Story of Eun-seok’s Second Separation

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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.

more about “EBS 지식채널e, 2005-11-21, 26화 – 잊혀진 대한민국…“, posted with vodpod

“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.

Written by girl4708

November 13, 2008 at 7:32 am

Posted in Bittersweet Hope

Tagged with ,

Throw a Stone

with 7 comments

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.


Click picture for large image

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



Click picture for large image

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



Click picture for large image

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



Click picture for large image

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



Click picture for large image

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



Click picture for large image

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



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! jemilroy@yahoo.com

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:

from http://genforum.genealogy.com/korea/messages/240.html

Hi there:

I am trying to help a dear friend find her brother and birth parents. Any help would be greatly appreciated.


Steve Podhouser

Born in Korea
05-11-71 D.O.B.

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.

Written by girl4708

November 11, 2008 at 6:58 am

Posted in Tools for Searching

Tagged with

YTN 24 Hour News Channel

leave a comment »

Adoptee Search Page

I’ve copied a couple so you can get a glimpse of what you’ll see on the page in the link above…


There are about 150 from all over the world…each one is a little video letter…

> 뉴스 > 글로벌 코리안 > 입양인 영상편지 Home> News> Global Korean> Adoptee video letter

[2008-10-25 12:37] [2008-10-25 12:37]
[2008-10-18 09:13] [2008-10-18 09:13]
[2008-10-11 10:31] [2008-10-11 10:31]

Written by girl4708

November 1, 2008 at 9:55 pm