South Korea’s Adoption Day & the Transnational Network Of Families

According to this article from the Wall Street Journal, May 11th is Adoption Day in South Korea.

The article interviews Jane Jeong Trenka, who was adopted from South Korea to the US. She currently works in South Korea as the president of Truth & Reconciliation for the Adoption Community of Korea (TRACK), where she envisions changing societal prejudices against single mothers raising children on their own – because 92% of adoptees from South Korea are born to single mothers, and she believes that if the government and the society can promote the rights and welfare of single mothers, there would be less pressure on them to choose adoption.

There are tons of other approaches to the topic of adoption (obviously), and they’re all intersecting with each other, creating a network of adoptees and their families (whether they be biological, adopted, chosen, or any other form of family). For example, Lisa, who identifies herself as an Afropina (black and Filipina), was adopted transnationally into a white family. She describes her intersecting communities: “My family consists of my adopted family and my birth family, AND, my extended family, which is my family of adoptees.” (Note: just wanted to point out that I’m not assuming that she identifies as Asian, but her story is relevant either way.)

DANakaDAN (a Korean American adoptee and a kickass musician) also shares his story in his blog, specifically about his experiences performing at the Korean Heritage Camp for adoptive families:

Some of the people that I met, most of the counselors, have been going to the camp quite literally their entire life… They’ve been going to camp for the last 5, 10…some of them 20 years of their lives.  I often wondered throughout the weekend if I would have done the same if provided the same opportunity.  Either way- I discovered the camp this year for a reason, and am so proud and honored to have been apart of it. Even if it had taken me the last umpteenth years of my life to finally take part- i’m glad it happened now.

There’s many other stories at Pathos of Asian Adoptees, a space for dialogue for Asian adoptees: “They can uniquely share experiences from their own perspectives. These experiences help bridge the gap between some Asians and Asian Adoptees alike and help others understand through socio-cultural issues, adoption policies, and the journey of identity searching.” This space introduced me to an intriguing documentary in the works, Geographies of Kinship:

…a feature-length documentary that follows 5-6 Korean adoptees from the U.S. and Europe, each on a unique journey related to their adoptions. One person is searching for roots and returns to Korea for the first time. Another undertakes a search for her birth family and the reasons for her adoption. Yet another is seeking community among other adoptees. Some are motivated by a sense of loss, while others are well adjusted but desire a connection to their past. These character-driven stories will unfold against a wider backdrop of the Korean War and the hidden effects of post-war industrialization and globalization on women and families in South Korea.

I don’t know how to end this post in a way that won’t be cheesy – but in all seriousness… with Mothers’ Day coming up, there are all these Hallmark cards and TV ads that makes it way too easy to get caught up in the dominant discourse of who a mother is, what role she should have in a family, and more generally, what a typical family should look like. But you know, lets be real, what family actually looks like the stereotypical family? (Mine certainly doesn’t…)

(Photo credit: Mu Films)

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About Mina

I'm a compilation of lots of identities: japanese/hong kongnese immigrant, APIA, (fierce) womyn of color and third culture kid (TCK). And when I grow up, I want to be just like Yuri Kochiyama #BlueScholars
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