It’s been six months since my husband and I took the helm of Adoptive Family Travel by the Ties Program, and what an amazing journey thus far. Everyday my work enables me to help families and friends touched by adoption. And in the process, I continue to learn.
Returning to Korea:
In 1999, I returned to Korea for the first time. The numbers of adoptees returning to Korea were starting to increase and organizations to help adoptees were budding. I was one of the early members of GOA’L (Global Overseas Adoptee Link) and celebrated when GOA’L became a recognized non-profit organization in South Korea. I also was there for the beginning days of InKAS (International Korean Adoptee Service). While I had membership to these organizations, I didn’t understand the importance of utilizing them while living abroad. Thus, even though I knew a handful of adoptees, most of my days were filled with teaching English at Hong-Ik University and hanging out with friends who grew up in Korea.
Living abroad on my own in a country where I looked like everyone but didn’t speak the language was emotionally confusing. I was finally in a place where I “looked” like I belonged. Like many intercountry transracial adoptees, I grew up surrounded by whiteness. Family, school, community, and the media reminded me of how different I was from my family, community, and country. But at least I could communicate and understand the culture of my small Northeastern town in Connecticut.
And so, a breath of fresh air, I finally looked like everyone. Yet because of the language and cultural barrier, I was still “othered.” In Korea, being adopted came with an attached social stigma. I dreamed of finally fitting in and naively told myself that would happen once I arrived (alone) in Korea. Looking back, I grieved at the realization that I hadn’t fit in, and moreover, hadn’t understood the power of interacting with other adoptees while in Korea.
When I returned to Korea in 2006 and 2009, I spent more time with other adoptees either conducting research or socializing. Unlike my time living there in 1999, I understood first hand how being in a group of other intercountry adoptees freed me from the confines of being “othered.” Yes, we adoptees may have had different socio-economic childhoods, religious backgrounds, and experienced different family dynamics. But we all maintained a qualitatively similar experience, where the initial origins of our adoptee membership were based on loss and immigration on one side and love and choice on the other.
What’s to Come:
Each month, I and our team look forward to sharing our thoughts on intercountry adoption, homeland trips, identity formation, adoptee loyalty, and race. We also will provide free workshops throughout the year. Finally, for those that would like more research-based knowledge, I’ll sprinkle in academic information along the way.
Thanks for joining me in this new chapter of my journey. Here’s to 2024!