Sunday, July 31, 2011

Summer in Korea, Part 3

I am a terrible blogger....
To pick up where I left off... from Busan we traveled (minus our 10 year old interpreter) to Seoul on the KTX train. It moves along at 200 MPH, which is really cool. We had the middle seats that face each other and have a table. The kids played games together and ate candy, sharing with the family across the aisle from us. When we arrived in Seoul we retrieved our bags and headed out to find a taxi to take us to Holt's Guest House. We had a large room with one twin bed and one double bed, and thankfully, air conditioning. Each day in Seoul we would pull out the tour book and subway map and decide where to go. We went to the Coex mall,Insadong, a palace and art museum, the National Museum of Korea (they have a great children's museum), Kukki Won (TaeKwonDo headquarters) and the Folk Museum in Suwon. We ate out, but often we would stop at the mini-mart at our subway stop and pick up raymon and an apple for our dinner. The kids all loved the fresh waffles that were brushed with melted butter, smeared with strawberry frosting, folded over and hand to us in a napkin. Seoul was hot and we moved slower, but we had a lot of fun. My son was very excited to get a new TKD uniform with "Master Kim's" written in Hangul. The museum was amazing. We only saw a small portion and both my kids can't wait to go back. We found a great book for kids that was translated into English that showed many of the displays from the museum and explained the history of Korea. In Insadong we returned to "Happy Mandu" and ate our fill. We bought some gifts for our family and friends. We met an adult adoptee who has been living in Korea and enjoyed a bowl of ice, ice cream/yogurt and fruit... I can't remember its name but it was very good on a hot day. The kids all enjoyed time spent in an arcade just being kids.
After Seoul we took a bus to Goseong - in the south east part of Korea. It was about a 5 hour ride. When we arrived we hailed a taxi and went to my son's Halmoni's apartment. We had been invited to spend the night. We were met there by the social worker from Eastern and the lovely middle school teacher who had translated for us in April of 2009. Halmoni had worked hard to prepare us a wonderful meal. We were happy to meet my son's Emo (aunt) and her baby. Halmoni brought out photo albums for us to see. We were finally able to see pictures of my son's Koran mother. I videoed them and we were allowed to take home 3. My son looks very much like his mother and his grandfather. He was pleased to know this. We hiked up the mountain behind Halmoni's apartment and enjoyed the beautiful views. That night we all slept together on the living room floor. The next morning we took the bus back to Seoul, then a taxi to Inchon, where we stayed a night in a hotel to await our flight the next day.

Sunday, April 10, 2011

Airplane Day

Thirteen years ago today my son arrived at JFK airport. It is a day we celebrate and call Airplane Day. Yep. We celebrate it. I know that there are those who feel that this is wrong... how dare I celebrate my son being taken from Korea, etc. etc. To those I say, because I do! I fully acknowledge my son's loss that made him our son. I also work very hard to do what I can to help lessen that loss by giving back to him as much as I can. And while our whole family knows and talks about the losses, their are also positives, and those we will celebrate! My son became mine 13 years ago today. I love him and will celebrate his arrival in my life!
Trip 3 to Korea is only 253 days away! :-)

Sunday, March 6, 2011

Summer in Korea, Part 2

I left off with returning to Busan with HoIk (my son's brother). We spent just about a week in Busan. My hosts had their 10 year-old grandson come and be our translator/tour guide while we were visiting. We went out just about every day to have an adventure. We rented an umbrella/patch of sand & intertube at Haeundai beach, went to an amusement park, saw a movie, and shopped at E-Mart. The subway was always fun as people tried to figure out why this white woman was traveling around with 4 Korean kids - 2 who spoke only a little Korean. They would ask if I was 선생님 (teacher) and when I would say no, and point to my kids and say 어머니 (mother) people just sort of stared, then asked HoIk what the story was in Korean. The poor kiddo doesn't really understand why he has a brother in America (Halmoni hasn't explained it to him yet). The adjumas would come to my son, whose hair was getting rather thick, shaggy and a bit long and tell him to get his haircut. We did end up getting it cut in Busan - it was the BEST haircut he ever got. We are still trying to find someone locally to replicate it. The food was SOOOO good. We had the best calbi at a small place near the beach. I love it fresh of the grill in front of you. One day we took the train to Daegu and went to EcoWorld - another amusement park. The train system is very easy to use and really nice. We had quite the taxi ride in Daegu - the driver hit another car, tossed the guy his business card and kept going! While in Busan we bought some games to play together and some great learn Korean books. HoIk worked in an English book. He loved teaching his hyungnim Korean.
Next installment... Seoul.

Wednesday, January 5, 2011

Single Mothers in Korea...

Interesting link about single mothers in Korea. I think that this is why there is still adoption. I was glad to hear that 80% of single mothers who work with this organization are now keeping their children. That is progress.

Damned if I do... Damned if I don't

There is an adult adoptee whose story I have followed, and who I have grown to respect sharing her journey and trying to change things. I even met her in Korea. Today I found a blog: which offers people considering adoption the chance to ask questions of adult adoptees of color. The post I linked to was called, "Is it my search to begin? How far should I go? How can I prepare her?" As I have helped my under-age kids search, I was interested. Imagine my surprise when one of the adoptee replies was from the woman I met, and it was (in part) about me! Here it is (and I hope copying from a blog is legal... if not I'll put in a link later...)


I think I am less inclined to be a purist about principles, even though I agree with Daniel that this action is yet another example of who really holds the cards in the power inequities of social injustice, and how that power relationship is perpetuated and inflicted upon the adoptee.

I know a woman who searched and found her adopted child’s family with positive result. Now, it may be argued that this act serves mainly to further ingratiate the adopted son to his adopted mother, and I chafe at applauding it because she does not acknowledge that the act of adopting in the first place perpetuates a system that limits choices in societies that oppress women, and that the lack of a child’s access to their own identity only shows how adoptee civil/human rights are violated and controlled by this system which awards the privileged and robs those who are powerless.

However, to that boy these ugly politics do not matter. What matters to him is that he has been able to meet his brother and his grandmother. And because of this act, done for whatever reasons, he now has data from which he can sift through, when he is ready, from which he at some point can form his own opinions. Which is something most of us are denied until we find the strength to search on our own: some of whom will never find the strength to do so, and some of whom who do find the strength to do so will never be successful. So I thank the adoptive mom for at least giving him back some opportunity to at least meet the blood he came from.

The thing that infuriates me and angers me to no end is when adoptive parents have information and hold it for some magic later date, determined by them. The other thing that infuriates me and angers me to no end is how most adoptive parents don’t bother to do any on-the-ground fact checking of the children’s social histories prior to adopting. For many of the adoptees who do manage to reunite with their families, their social histories turn out to be very different from reality and are often outright fabrications.

So I tend to think the original proposition is too little too late. It is not a matter of dealing with when the child begins to have questions or is in touch with their own emotions enough to grieve, or is not in touch with their own emotions and shows signs of grieving by acting out, or is not in touch with their own emotions and despairs life without an identity after decades of not facing the trauma of adoption – it is a matter of always recognizing the truth that there is living flesh and blood family and that it is everyone’s natural right to have access to them.

Because of the politics of adoption, that boy missed about nine years of relationship with his Korean family, that he is enjoying a small part of now. Every year you wait is more years of relationship missed. If she had waited until he was the age of legal majority, he would have missed 18 years of relationship. His grandmother might not even have lived that long, and each year the odds of being able to locate family goes down.

In my world, most adoptions would be unnecessary because proper social services and family planning would be provided, women would have a say in their futures, control over their own bodies, children would not be the spoils of war, and entitled people from other countries would recognize that benevolence is giving aid to preserve families instead of taking their human resources. But for those adoptees who have already been subject to this trauma, for God’s sake don’t continue to subject them to more violence. To me, being barred from access to my own identity, history, and family relationships is violence.

ADDED: So I think the search should begin immediately and followed up on with ACTIVE relationship with the child’s family. I’d rather the disruption had never occurred, but to have done nothing while enjoying the child’s company is, to me, criminal and/or exploitative.

Parents searching on behalf of their disempowered adoptee will suddenly find themselves disempowered due to acting against the status-quo and the adoption industry. But despite that, we know that the adoptive parent part of the supposed triad always has the most power, and you may be the only people who can wrestle that information out of the adoption agencies. In doing so, you will get merely a taste of the frustration we adoptees go through trying to reclaim our own history and identity.

My reply is below...


I am the woman who is referred to in the above post. First, I DID NOT search for my son’s family to ingratiate him to me – that statement is so offensive to me. I searched because since he could understand that he was adopted (about age 5 that he really understood) he as asked about his Korean mother. He NEEDED to know. I searched because it was the right thing to do.

From above: << I chafe at applauding it because she does not acknowledge that the act of adopting in the first place perpetuates a system that limits choices in societies that oppress women, and that the lack of a child’s access to their own identity only shows how adoptee civil/human rights are violated and controlled by this system which awards the privileged and robs those who are powerless.>>
This is not true, and I am sorry if I have given this impression. I did not understand this 13 years ago when I adopted. At that time, I knew that there were children who had been placed for adoption due to the social construct of the fabric of Korean society and its attitudes towards single mothers and their children. There is no social structure in place to help them. While I now understand that international adoption is helping to perpetuate a system, I think that first there needs to be social change in Korea – I have been to Holt and Eastern and seen ALL the BABIES… so many! And even with the ads and “incentives” to adopt in Korea,domestic adoption is not increasing quickly enough. Social attitudes towards unwed mothers are not changing quickly enough. I am all for that change and an end to international adoption. I speak on this to other adoptive parents. I am now aware of how agencies work with birthmothers and do not help them to keep their children – this is wrong. I now know that agencies lie. I NOW understand so much more than I did 13 years ago.
I tried to start this relationship from the beginning. We made it clear in all of our communications to the agency in the US and with Eastern that we wanted communication. We were ignored on this. We mailed countless letters and pictures (which were all in his file). We were only able to convince the agency to help us when my son was 11.5 (13 in Korean age) and we were coming to Korea. Eastern would not help us prior to this and we had to jump through hoops and threaten to get help this time. At this time Holt still refuses to help us on behalf of my daughter. They will only help my daughter when she is 18 – she has 7 more years to go. We hope that the laws will change. They will not even let her see that she has a file.

My son’s connection with his Korean family is a very good thing. It is a hard relationship due to distance and language, and his understanding of what happened. His Halmoni has said, “I’m sorry we had to send you away.” Not, “I’m sorry we sent you away.” She has made it clear that she feels this was the right choice… that is hard for a boy to understand, but at the same time she shows him love, which he so wants and needs. He looks like his little brother and his deceased grandfather – this means the world to him, to know who he looks like. We have been to Korea twice and will return again in 12/11 – we are trying to go every 12 to 18 months – it is expensive! But we have made a commitment to going as often as we can afford and spending as much time as we can to help foster a relationship as best we can. We call his Halmoni every month. We study Korean language, cook Korean food as part of our everyday meals, celebrate Korean holidays, participate with our local Korean-American community… It is from reading the blogs of adult adoptees that I became so much more informed and I have tried so hard to give my children as much as is possible of their culture/heritage/Korean-ness… I know that I can't replace what was lost. I know that living here is not living there, but I try to give back to them all that I can. Posts like the one above make me me feel like I am damned if I do, and damned if I don’t. I am trying. My kids are proud to be Korean, love their country of birth and are able to talk openly about their feelings related to their adoptions/Korean families, etc. That seems like a good start.
(Not meaning to sound too grumpy or defensive…really I’m not).

ADDED in this blog: Truly... if as an adoptive parent I do nothing, I'm damned. If I try to do what I think is right, I am only doing it to "ingratiate" my son to me?!I did it because I LOVE HIM. And while I support the end of international adoption and birth mother rights - I am so tired of the attitude towards all adoptive parents being that we are evil. I chose adoption, I am not infertile. I did not choose it to make the Korean government rich, or to make myself feel some sense of holiness for "saving" a child... I did it because I wanted to parent, and as I understood it at the time, there were children who needed families. Seemed like a good match to me. I NOW know more, but my intentions were never those that are so often portrayed by those who also want to see international adoption come to an end. (Throwing up hands in frustration!)

Sunday, January 2, 2011

Summer in Korea, Part 1

Our trip to Korea this summer was many things. Hot & humid tops the list! We landed in Incheon around 5AM after our 14 hour flight from JFK. We flew out at 12:50 AM and thankfully were able to sleep a good bit of the flight. Korean Air is wonderful! Upon landing we found the our luggage, then the rental cell phone company and picked up the phone we had reserved. After a quick call home we found a taxi to Seoul (there was a bus in 2 hours, but it already had a long line and were too tired to wait). The driver had a hard time finding the Holt Guest House, but did at last. We got into our room, cranked the AC, showered and napped. We Skyped with my husband (who was back home). Skype made the trip easier.
The next day we were off to Busan to stay with friends. The day after that we took the bus to Goseong for a short visit with DaHoon's Halmoni and to pick up his younger brother. With no translator our visit was made up of eating and sign language. We did okay, though we certainly felt the need to learn Korean more than ever. We took the bus back to Busan with him that evening. I had to break my "no American food while in Korea" rule as HoIk (younger brother) saw the Golden Arches and had to have some.

More later...