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International Adoption: Lessons from Korea

Since the 1950s, South Korea has placed an estimated 150,000-200,000 children in North America, Europe and Australia. Adoptees, activists and experts weigh in with perspectives on In the Matter of Cha Jung Hee, what we can learn from the largest international community of adoptees and the answers that they seek.

Susan CoxSusan Soonkeum Cox
"When the orphanage director says, “I’m sorry it is still haunting you,” I ached at the disconnect that was unfolding on-screen between Deann and the Korean staff looking at her. I believe they were sincere in those expressions and meant them to be comforting. But I also know these words are not comforting, or easy to hear, and especially to accept, when you know you are entitled to your feelings." Read more »

 

EJ GraffE.J. Graff, Journalist
"Liem shows us how shockingly easily it can be to change a child’s identity — cavalierly moving her from one name to another, one family to another, one country to another. By investigating her origins without bitterness or blame and showing us the rich lives led by the “real” Cha Jung Hees, Liem never allows us to conclude complacently that growing up in the wealthy United States was necessarily better than growing up in impoverished post-war South Korea." Read more »

 

In the Matter of Cha Jung Hee - Eleana KimEleana Kim, Author, Adopted Territory: Transnational Korean Adoptees and the Politics of Belonging
"By 1966 there were an estimated 71,000 children in roughly 600 institutions. In an attempt to address the problem of child abandonment and overflowing orphanages, the government implemented a program to return children to their families. In the process, however, it found that many of the children on the rolls of these institutions were actually 'ghost children' who were not even in residence at the orphanages claiming them. These 'ghost children' served as conduits for overseas aid." Read more »

 

Steve MorrisonSteve Morrison, Founder, Mission to Promote Adoption in Korea
"In In the Matter Cha Jung Hee, Deann Borshay Liem raises an honest question about how and why a humanitarian effort became an industry worth millions of dollars. However, it is a fact that year 2009 statistics from the Korean government show that approximately 10,000 children became homeless that year. Out of those, approximately 1,300 were adopted domestically within Korea, and approximately 1,100 were subject to intercountry adoptions. That leaves 7,600 of children who are either in foster care or in institutions." Read more »

 

Kim Park Nelson Kim Park Nelson, Researcher, Korean adoptee issues
"In the decade since the release of this seminal film, the explosive growth in cultural and artistic production by Korean adoptees has been accompanied by a dramatic increase in the amount of research on Korean adoptee experiences. A critical mass of adoptee artists, activists, authors and researchers has emerged and gained visibility — not only to the general public, but, just as significantly, to one another." Read more »

 

Julie RosickyJulie Rosicky, Executive Director, International Social Service-USA
"At ISS-USA, we understand these issues because we encounter cases of international separation every day. Each story is unique, but the common thread is the brokenness that comes with loss of family, loss of heritage, and loss of connection to the fundamental underpinnings that make us all what we are. No caring person can watch Deann’s film without feelings of sadness, anger and betrayal." Read more »

 

Kim StokerKim Stoker, Adoptee Solidarity Korea
"Fifteen years ago I returned to live in the country where I was born. Like so many of my fellow Korean adoptees from all over the world, I grew up in a white family in the white suburbs. I had white relatives, white friends, white teachers and white role models. Encased in my own internalized whiteness upon returning – or rather, going — to Korea I had no agenda, no schedule to search for my birth family, no aim to discover my roots and no plans to stay beyond the one-year teaching contract that I had signed. Or so I thought." Read more »

 

Jane Jeong TrenkaJane Jeong Trenka, Author, Fugitive Visions: An Adoptee’s Return to Korea
"Cha Jung Hee was a 'perfect orphan.' Her parents were dead, and she longed to live with the kind Americans who sent shoes and money to her orphanage. This template of a perfect orphan was then used by the Korean orphanage to deceive the Borshays into adopting Kang Ok Jin, who despite all odds would eventually reunite with a living Korean mother and family." Read more »

 

Dae-won WengerDae-won Wenger, Former President of G.O.A.'L.
"Launched in 2007, the dual citizenship campaign took only three years to reach fruition. In May 2010, the Korean government promulgated the revised nationality law, which allows all Korean adoptees to regain their Korean citizenship while keeping citizenship in their adoptive countries. This law revision is important not only to Korean adoptees but to the entire adoptee community worldwide." Read more »

 

Chris WinstonChris Winston, Adoptive mother, Founder of KAAN
"Twenty years ago when my husband and I adopted our children from Korea, it was suggested that if we loved them enough they would not crave missing identity elements from their past. We were told not to include Koreans or Korean Americans in our lives, as they might stigmatize our two Korean-born children for their orphan status. Somehow this advice didn’t seem right. We wanted to acknowledge our children’s experience of often being the only Asian faces among their peers. " Read more »





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First Person Plural | Adoption History

Learn more about the history of international and transracial adoption, featuring an overview of adoptions from South Korea. Explore an interactive journey into the contemporary history of Korea, mapping out the stories and events which contributed to South Korea's adoption policies.

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