Tuesday, November 10, 2009

The Gift of Language

한국어 Korean language - it is probably the most important, life-long gift I can give to my children. It isn't an easy gift to give. While learning the Korean alphabet is easy, there are many rules and sooo much vocabulary. There is also the time factor - finding time to study and go to class with so much else going on. It is hard for my son, who is studying Latin at school, and Korean at home.

But, even with the difficulties and our very slow progress, it is so worth it. When we return to Korea in July we can talk to Halmoni about what color things are, we'll count for her and name animals, foods and body parts. :-) We should also be able to tell her if we're hungry or full, ask for a bathroom and greet people. I can tell the kids, "Let's go, hurry up!" (가자! 빨리!). Well, we still have a long way to go. For my kids, it is a matter of feeling that they belong. When we were on the subway in Seoul back in April there were times it was very obvious that people near us were talking about us. Both kids said they wanted to learn Korean so they could know what was being said about them! More importantly, knowing Korean will allow my children to return to Korea if they choose and be able to communicate, to fit in a little more easily. For my son (and hopefully someday for my daughter) it means being able to communicate with his Korean family without a translator.

So, we will continue to plug away. We are very thankful to our Korean friend who teaches us, and to so many members of our local Korean community who let us practice our skills when we see them. I am thankful for the encouragement and pride the Korean community has shown my children when they use the little Korean they have.

한국어 공부 시간! (Time to study Korean! - I think).

Sunday, November 1, 2009

Changes in Korea

I have been following the work of TRACK (Truth and Reconciliation for the Adoption Community in Korea)as they work to get legislation enacted to allow adoptees more information about themselves. This group is working hard to make sure the voice of the adoptee is heard in Korea as laws concerning them are being made. I hope they are successful. You can find them on Face Book at:


The other big change in Korea in relation to adoption is the increase in domestic adoption versus international adoption. I think this is great, but I am worried about the children. I hope that Korea is putting social education in place to help those children be accepted in society. Traditionally, adopted children were not afforded the same legal rights as birth children. And the social stigmas have been awful. I wonder if domestically adopted children will be accepted into families of the people they wish to marry. I hope that the social workers are following up on the adoptees - I'm concerned that the monthly stipend, help with housing and additional health benefits will encourage some people to adopt for the benefits and that these people might not treat an adopted child in the same way they would a birth child.

I am also encouraged to see that there is a group working to help single mothers have rights and help so that they can keep their children. The social stigmas related to unwed pregnancy are ridiculous. The way these women, and their children, are viewed is so wrong.

Soo.. how do you change a centuries old culture? How do you get people of that culture to understand the need for human rights when the rights are at odds with long held beliefs? I think that getting the laws and programs into place must come first, but then how do you help these same people (adoptees, birth mothers) be accepted by society? I hope it is possible. I know that there is a good chance my children will live in Korea at some point - whether they choose to make it their permanent home, or live there for a short term, I want them to be treated with respect, to be able to marry whomever they choose without the rejection of the society that created the social situation which lead to their need to be adopted.