Tuesday, August 14, 2007

Thorn in Korea's Conscious

Many of my 'blogger friends' were in seoul last week for the IKAA gathering. An article about it can be seen here. I have been hitting their sites frequently, hoping they are home and have posted pictures and stories about their adventures. It would've been nice to join my fellow KAD-ers in seoul to show my solidarity, but there is something selfishly satisfying about visiting korea 'on my own,' perhaps easier to blend into the background. That's one of the nice things about going to korea (all two times i've been): Being part of the majority.

I am impressed that the gathering attracted so many KADs. The article linked describes the KADs as "a thorn piercing korean's conscious." I couldn't help but think the mass presence of the KADs was noticeable. I wondered how many mothers looked into the faces of the groups of KADs walking around wondering if they were theirs. Did it inspire them to search for their own birth child or was it confirming that the child they had was cared for and healthy? After all, these KADs returned to korea to find answers about identity. This was far less important that eating and having shelter or being ostracized by family.

I wonder how the KADs are being recieved by the natives. Do they percieve this mass influx as a thorn or are they thankful their exported children want to come back for some answers? I can remember my first trip to seoul when i was 11. It was definately not the norm for an adoptee to return to korea at that time. When taxi drivers, hotel staff, waitresses, etc, realized what, i mean, who i was, they'd pinch my cheeks and look into my eyes with disbelief that i was not only fit and healthy, but i had come back in an attempt to understand the country from which i came. The most overwhelming response was from the staff at the orphanage from which i came. No child had ever come back; It was as if i had come from their very own womb. They hugged me and were so proud that i had grown up into a healthy girl.

I hope the gathering has sparked discussions in korea about international adoption. I love the thoughts and comments observed by those who attended the gathering--Thank you all for sharing your experiences!!


Anonymous said...

Stopping Adoption is not the answer. If you can remember, those children who were not adopted were living on the streets in groups. They were on the trains, busses etc asking for food and money. They lived in housing with 2, 3, 4 to a bed and did not go outside to play. Stopping adoption will only make it worse. That means more children will be put (hidden) in instutions. Every country has adoption practices. It is good to have (international)homes for children to grow up in with loving and caring parents, brothers and sisters.

Anonymous said...

John, the circumstances now, in 2007, are quite different from years past. South Korea has a thriving economy -- 11th in the world, I believe (according to GDP figures) -- and is more than able to support and take care of its own children. In recent years, the South Korean government has even taken steps to offer incentives for couples to have babies in an effort to remedy the record-low birth rate. That strikes me as fundamentally backward, in a sense, that the focus is on having more babies rather than supporting the ones already in limbo, and preventing more children from being separated from their families in the first place.

The issue is not simply "stopping adoption." Today, the issue is building up welfare programs to help single mothers be able to keep and raise their children, and when that is not possible, to encourage Koreans to foster and adopt (domestically) when families cannot stay together.

LJ -- Wish you could have been there with us. You would have had plenty of time to explore on your own. :-) Of course there were the typical "We're sorry" apology speeches from the officials, but I think this year it seemed like there was more media coverage, which means we were more visible. I hope that this time, more people stopped to look and listen to us.