My story is unique, yet it is nothing new.
Born almost 26 years ago, in a small clinic outside the bustling city of Seoul, a young woman gave birth to me. Less than three pounds in weight, two months early (I suppose this was a good indication of how I’d be later in life - I’m so impatient!), I was certainly not an easy burden to bear. According to the file I’ve read time and time again, my biological mother was somewhere around 21-years-old, single, and unwed. She was 5’0” and 110 pounds. She met my biological father and, under the guise of having a future together, had a whirlwind romance that ended when he left her - and left her with me, growing inside of her. He was tall, and skinny, and spoke in a traditional Seoul dialect, so the paper says. I’ve never thought much about him.
She wore no sort of physical binding to conceal her pregnancy, and she suffered no morning sickness - something that always seemed like a glimmer of hope for me when I finally decide to have children. I always grew up with the understanding that my name, Chae-Won, was one she had given me, but I believe the adoption agency in South Korea gave me that name. I don’t know what she called me or if she called me anything at all.
I was put into foster care two months after being born, two months in which I can only assume my birth mother tried to take care of me and nurse me to health. My foster mother fed me, gave me things like tangerine juice, and saved me from succumbing to pneumonia. In the first picture my parents received of me, the hair at the top-rear of my head is sticking in every direction having been shaved to insert an IV due to the pneumonia.
My siblings and parents have often told me their versions of the story. My sister was nine, my brother was seven. Their accounts are somewhat different than my parents, but all of them recall the day they received my picture in the mail. I was tiny, my eyes almond-shaped and large with fright, placed on a tiny black-and-gold throne. At my feet, a placard read, “Kim, Chae-Won:” it was one of the only mementos of my Korean life I had with me when I finally arrived on January 15, 1988.
Growing up wasn’t necessarily easy when it came to being “different.” The only Asian child for most of my elementary school years meant a lot of unnecessary questions (the common “Who are your REAL parents?” amongst others), bullying (“The only reason you’re adopted is because your REAL parents didn’t love you!”), and general confusion at the fact that my parents were white. Maybe it’s only in retrospect, but I’ve always thought it is easier to spot an adopted child than it is an adopted adolescent or adult. I remember walking with my dad in the city once as a teenager, and I remember the amount of disgusted, horrified stares we got because people assumed this older, white gentleman was dating a young, teenage Asian girl. But when you’re a child, Asian, and with parents who are a different race, it seems generally understood that you’re adopted.
I’ve been met with a lot of insensitively curious people who come up to me out of the blue and ask me where I’m from. I usually respond with, “New York.” Then they retort with, “No, where are you REALLY from?” Never being one to lie, I will usually oblige with, “South Korea.” While I understand that we tend to have a natural curiosity about our fellow human beings, the question gets old very quickly. Why can’t you just accept that I may not be from another country, just because I look different than you? For other Asians who ask me where I’m from, I understand that they are trying to establish a connection, a rapport based on similar origins. But I am afraid I can’t offer much in that realm since I know only a handful of words in Korean, have no knowledge of Korean culture, and am really alienated from the country in which I was born.
For fellow adoptees, I would like to say that you may come to a point in your life where you question your entire existence. I know that this journey started for me when I was about sixteen years old. I finally began to wonder about my biological family, where I fit in, where I belonged. I have yet to find the answers to those questions, but I am beginning to understand and accept that maybe there aren’t answers. Maybe, for adopted children or bi-racial children, there is no ONE place for us to fit in. Maybe we’re an amalgamation of different cultures, different people, and maybe that’s completely okay. Maybe the rest of the world hasn’t caught up to the idea that we don’t have to fit into a neat, little box - that we can be a mosaic of cultures, and a beautiful one at that. Whenever this journey starts for you, I wish for you peace. I wish for you acceptance. I wish for you strength and happiness. The world will try to take those things away from you; please, don’t ever let them.
For adoptive parents, I want to stress to you that you have know your children will face struggles. They will question their identities. And it doesn’t mean that they don’t love you, respect you, or want to be a part of your - THEIR - family. Please be supportive of them as they discover the meaning of who They are. And please acknowledge the fact that yes, they are different. They were born somewhere else, they are a different race, they will experience things you will never understand first-hand. Be there for them. Love them regardless. But don’t be color-blind. Don’t pretend like they are the same as you, because they aren’t. Acknowledge that they will deal with ignorant people (like the man who argued that my sister and I couldn’t be sisters because we didn’t look alike), but that they can still be a whole person. Support them on their journey, on their exploration of the world and the world according to them. Don’t be afraid when they want to know where they’ve come from or the woman who gave them away. Hug them when they cry about feeling abandoned. Love them all the same.
UC Berkeley’s ACE Program
This is a piece I made about my reunion with my biological family in Seoul a year ago. I found inspiration from Deann and other adoptees who had searched for their Korean families and had shared their experience with the adoptee community. I’m not sure I would have had the courage to search and share my experience without knowing about those who had done so before me. I hope we all continue to share our stories and inspire new generations to explore their identity and relationship with Korea. —Schuyler
For more about her story, follow the link above.
A Korean woman raised in the US finds out she isn’t who she thought she was. An adopted man in the UK decides never to find out who his biological father is. And a man in Palestine discovers that he may have been switched at birth with another baby.
In response to some of the negativity that’s been circulating the KAD groups online.
Advice to Adoptive Parents - Stephanie D.
A look at Natasha Driscoll of Atlanta and living the American Dream in the U.S.
Ladie K Productions, Ladie K is a filmmaker, model, actress, korean adoptee, living in Chicago. She makes films creatively for herself, other production companies, and commercially. Ladie K Productions is a mass media marketing and production company, Ladie K is a young asian entrepreneur and free thinker doing her best to make this world a better place. Check out her most recent film at www.melodymovie.com and google Ladie K or LadieK to find her online.
Beautiful, sexy, ambitious self-expressionist and starving artist Ladie K.
Starring: Ladie K
Director of Photography: Christian Hins
Director Editor: Scott Feigen
I miss the Filipino Heritage Camp (FHC), Filipino Adoptees Network, and everyone else I met on my experience there. Here is video for those who are Korean Adoptees and would like to be camp counselors or attend the heritage camp.
What’s your story? did you go to the camp? Are you an adoptee? Any thoughts on your unique background?
My last name’s Matthews. Not that I try to hide the fact that i’m adopted, just something that I don’t necessarily openly promote beyond DANakaDAN. This past weekend had the opportunity to speak and perform at the annual Korean Heritage Camp for adoptees. It was one of the most meaningful experiences i’ve ever been involved in. Met families+community members from all around the country who convene in Colorado at Snow Mountain Ranch to learn more about the adoptee experience. Here’s a video about the experience at the camp as well as my own personal story + an introduction to my own family. Thought it would be something that I’d like to share.
Read Blog + See Photos of Experience:http://afterschoolspecialmusic.com/life/my-adoption-story
I’d like you guys to meet Shane Carlin who is a Korean Adoptee. He told his story and also expressed his experiences growing up at my MAASU Leadership Retreat 2011 on a panel along with another Korean Adoptee, Joy Messinger from upstate New York, and me a Filipino adoptee, James Beni Wilson. We compared and contrasted from each other and built off a variety of struggles that Asian Adoptees face.
TEDxLakeshoreEast - Shane Carlin - Living in the Hyphen: A Korean Adoptee Story
There are over thousands of adoptees in the United States from all over the World. Shane Carlin, a Korean-American Adoptee will give his personal account growing-up in the US as one of these thousands of adoptees and not only enlighten us of his struggles and successes of identity development, but also give pointers to those parents who have or are going to adopt children from overseas.
Shane T. Carlin is the Assistant Vice Chancellor for Student Affairs Advancement at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign. He also sits on numerous boards including the Midwest Asian American Student Union Board of Advisors, the Korean Cultural Center, and the National Association of Asian American Professionals. He was born in Seoul, South Korea and is a Korean American Adoptee.
In the spirit of ideas worth spreading, TEDx is a program of local, self-organised events that bring people together to share a TED-like experience. At a TEDx event, TEDTalks video and live speakers combine to spark deep discussion and connection in a small group. These local, self-organised events are branded TEDx, where x = independently organised TED event. The TED Conference provides general guidance for the TEDx program, but individual TEDx events are self-organised.* (*Subject to certain rules and regulations)
I’m about to embark on a journey in 7 months that has taken nearly 30 years to realize - in May 2012, I’ll be traveling to South Korea, the place of my birth. From halfway around the world, I was adopted at three months old and lived for the first 25 years of my life in conservative Western New York. How I came out of that experience the way that I did - radical, feminist, proudly out and queer - is something that has been on my mind since… well, since I left cold and snowy Rochester in 2007.
What does it mean to return? And why return now? Or at all?
Adoptee Culture 101: The Airplane Day
One of the things that I thought was most badass about being adopted while I was growing up was that I got an Airplane Day. Because of course, in the mind of a 7 year old, any day that you get presents and cake for is pretty awesome, especially when you’re only one of ten people you know in the WHOLE WORLD that gets to celebrate being adopted.
So what is an “Airplane Day”?
Please watch “Finding Seoul” which is about John Sanvidge who is a Korean Adoptee. Before I uploaded a sneak preview of his production in the making and now here is his finished product. I hope you guys enjoy his film!
Finding Seoul follows one individual as he attempts to find his birth parents. John Sanvidge was raised in upstate
New York and brought up in an Irish and Italian household with his two siblings, who are also adopted. During his journey, he visits with his adoptive family to help them understand why he’s made the decision to look now and travels to Seoul, South Korea all in an attempt to reconnect
with a world he doesn’t understand.
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