|After the separation: the persistence of roots|
But a single sentence in a New York Times Magazine piece did it for me: "My life in the United States, no matter how good it was...never made up for my omma's grief."
Omma is the Korean word for mama, and the sentence was spoken by a Korean adoptee, Amy Mihyang Ginther, who moved back to South Korea in 2009, reunited with her first mother and now sees her regularly, after living with her for a month in 2006.
|Lorraine at public hearing on OBC accesss|
WHAT 'GIVEN UP' MEANS
So rarely do we see this concept accepted by adoptees in this country, at this blog, for instance, that her sentiment leapt off the page for me. If only, I thought, if only women today who believe adoption option is a good one would understand that nothing can make up for the singular fact of being "given up," or what "giving up" a child will do to them. Those agency workers who are this very minute convincing single teens and poor mothers that they cannot handle one more child--he deserves more--ought to consider exactly what they are doing: irrevocably damaging the lives of two people--mother and child--in a way that will never heal. (Yes, we do understand that some adoptions and terminations of legal parenthood are necessary. We posit the vast majority of adoptions are not necessary.)
The piece, Why a Generation of Adoptees Is Returning to South Korea, is scheduled for the Times Sunday Magazine this weekend, and so is only available on the Internet as of today, but it's quickly circulating, it appears, among the 200,000 Korean adoptees and their parents and friends. At this writing, there were already 600 comments, many critical of the approximately 300 to 500 adoptees who have moved to South Korea, primarily from the United States. Since we urge you to read the piece in its entirety, we are not going over chapter and verse. Below are some highlights from our perspective:
- Adoptees acting in concert with both Korean birth mothers and single mothers have been able to get South Korea's adoption law amended in an effort to discourage overseas adoption. The legislation there now makes that in some states here look positively puny. Today in South Korea women considering adoption must receive counseling and wait seven days before signing consent. All adoptions must be registered through the courts, which gives individuals an accurate avenue for tracing birth parents.
- Adoption to other countries from South Korea has been seriously slowed: While it hovered around a 1,000 a year between 2007-12, it dropped to 263 in 2013.
- Conditions for single mothers in South Korea lag far behind ours, are not dissimilar to what it was like here up until the 80s. Single mothers are ostracized; prospective employers ask female candidates if they are married; parents reject daughters who raise their children alone; the children of single mothers are often bullied and called names.
- When talking about their adoption, the attitudes and feelings of those quoted might have come from any group of adoptees, including those not adopted internationally or transracially: feelings of betrayal if they search for their original parents; difficulties in growing up with a different color of skin from their white parents; bristling over hearing that their adoption was "god's plan." Would adoptive parents of children from anywhere finally understand that most of the issues the Korean adoptees raise are common to adoptees everywhere?
AUTHOR IS ADOPTIVE MOTHER
Maggie Jones, the author, is an adoptive mother who appears to have adopted in her late 30s. One child was born in the U.S. of African and Japanese heritage; the other was adopted in Guatemala when she and her husband were in their early 40s. Yes, Guatemala. (See links below.)
When they were adopting in a country where we now know at least half of the adoptions during the height of the "baby rush" were corrupt, she and her husband were creeped out by the lawyers and others they witnessed so easily handing over brown-skinned babies. Shortly after they got their child, she writes, "a well-dressed Guatemalan man in his 50s or 60s passed my new daughter and me and muttered, 'There goes another baby taken from our country.'" The comment apparently startled her and made her look into what was going on.
Through voices of adoptees back in South Korea, the piece discusses what's its like now to try to be part of the Korean culture. Not all have bad relations with their adoptive parents; others have not spoken to their adoptive parents in years. Just like adoptees here who say they are not fully part of either family--adopted or natural--so say the transplanted Korean Americans about moving to Korea. South Korea lets them apply for dual citizenship.
A POIGNANT SUICIDE NOTE
There's much more in this meaty piece, including the author's personal connection to adoption. Some of the comments criticize her for writing about that, but we ask the same of people who comment here. No one is completely neutral when they sit down to write, and so including the author's point of view is entirely valid. I've written about Detroit for the Times magazine myself, and my editor definitely wanted that I was from there up front. We urge you to read the piece and leave a comment, and please copy it and leave it here too.
I'll end with a quote from the piece that blew me away. It was left in the suicide note of an adoptee: "I'm going to meet my birth mother."--lorraine
About the picture of the tree root above. I took this shot a few days after the hurricane Sandy that buffeted the East Coast in 2012. The tree had fallen over, but the pith of the trunk stayed connected to the stump.
Why a Generation of Adoptees Is Returning to South Korea,
Adoptionland: Brutal essays by adult adoptees expose the truth of intercountry adoption
The Vance Twins: Raising awareness about adoption realities
Korean Adoptees Fighting to Reform Adoption Laws in their Homeland
What We Think About Adoption
Kidnapped in Guatemala, 'adopted' in America
Guatemalan Army Stole Kids for Adoption
At the hospital: The innate need to know who you are, the desire to return 'home'
Korean Adoptees Fighting to Reform Adoption Laws in their Homeland
South Korea: Culture is not an excuse to abuse a MOTHER'S rights
Encouraging intercountry adoptions with hard cash
We have written many more pieces on international adoption. To search for them, put in a country or relevant words in the search function in the upper left corner.
To order Adoptionland: From Orphans to Activists, From Lorraine's review: "The Vance Twins, Janine and Jenette, adopted together from South Korea and raised near Seattle, compiled the essays after their awareness was awakened at the 2004 Korean Adoptee Conference in Seoul they attended together. What is revealed in the writings is how adoptees were treated like chattel and scattered from their native culture hither and yon. In essay after essay, the rush of anger sizzles on the page."
Fugitive Visions: An Adoptee's Return to Korea by Jane Jeong Trenka, one of the strong voices writing about the disloction of Korean adoptees. Trenka is one of the political activists quoted in the story. She's an intelligent, beautiful writer.
"Jane Jeong Trenka's willingness to stay with the pain of her alternate lives as a transnationally adopted infant, an exiled Korean child in America, a returnee to Korea where she was neither truly Korean nor truly "other" --is one of the bravest journeys of discovery and naming I've ever seen. It is amazing, and should be required reading for anyone considering transnational adoption: the price exacted from the adoptee is all visible here, and it is heartrending. This is a fine piece of writing and an important book. Highly recommended."--from Amazon
Ten Thousand Sorrows by Elizabeth Kim
"I started this book at 10:30pm thinking I would read a chapter before going to bed, and ended up finishing it at 3:30am. A testiment to the cruelty and inhumanity in the world, but also to the human will to survive, overcome and carve out love in one's life."--from Amazon. I've dipped into it and yes, it is an amazing story, beautifully told in evocative language.
Thank you for ordering through FMF. Click on the book jackets or titles.