Tales of Wonderlost

I'm a Korean-American adoptee living in Seoul, just finished my MA in Anthropology (yes, i took all of my classes in Korean TT). In my spare time, I volunteer at two great organizations: Korean Unwed Mothers' Families Association (KUMFA) and the Women's Global Solidarity Action Network (WGSAN) - a group that works on various issues, including with the survivors of military sexual slavery during WWII ("Comfort Women"). I also love cooking and baking and going to the noraebang ^^ To make a monthly donation to the Korean Unwed Mothers' Families Association, please click below!! (You can also make a 1-time donation)
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Posts tagged "interracial adoption"

made rebloggable by request.

[Image description: Photo of an anonymous ask, “Can you recommend any non-fiction or fiction books on adoption that you enjoy reading? Someone suggested to me Finding Fernanda, but I was looking for a few more to add to my list.”]

language of blood, fugitive visions - both by jane jeong trenka. language of blood, i cannot recommend enough.

comforting an orphaned nation - tobias hubinette. this is more of a scholarly piece but the writing is awesome and he knows more about the history of korean adoption that probably anyone out there. i love his postcolonial theory analysis. 

outsiders within - an anthology of writings about transracial adoption by transracial adoptees.

a single square picture - katy robinson. another memoir that is also well-known (but i prefer jane’s personally)

the letter never sent (I and II) - letters from birthparents to their children 

adopted territory - eleana kim. not an adoptee, she’s s korean american scholar who has done tons of adoption research - this is a pretty comprehensive look at korean adoption, adoptee communities, and adoptees returning to korea.

there are TONS more. but i’ll spare you from my whole thesis bibliography. also, you said “enjoy” so i tried to pick books that are a bit more “reader friendly.”

It is assumed that there are no special problems, or emotional or psychological costs in being a non-white adoptee in a white adoptive family and living in a predominantly white environment. Consequently, assimilation becomes the ideal as the adoptee is stripped of name, language, religion and culture, only retaining a fetishised non-white body, while the bonds to the biological family and the country of origin are cut off.

Tobias Hubinette, “Adopted Koreans and the development of identity in the ‘third space’” (2004)

"only retaining a fetishised non-white body" …and then put in environments where those non-white bodies are fetishised and consumed!!! not dangerous at all, right? is it a coincidence that i know so many korean adoptees that have been molested or subjected to sexual assault both in their families and in their communities? where we internalize the fetishisation of asian women and even commodify ourselves?

take it from someone who has been in the trenches, fighting side-by-side in solidarity with adoptees and unwed mothers for years! total respect!

the presentation i will give today in front of the ministry of health & welfare and the adoption agencies. wish me luck ^^;;

안녕하세요, 저는 미국에서 섀넌 하이트입니다. 한국에온지 6 정도 되었고 현재 한양대학교 대학원에서 문화인류학 공부를 하면서 지난 2 동안 한국미혼모가족협회에서 자원활동가로 열심히 연대하고 있습니다.

작년 8월에 실행된 입양특례법은 지난 60년간 탈법적으로 이루어진 입양절차의 문제점을 바로잡았습니다. 그럼으로써 한국의 국내외 입양절차가 국제인권기준과 더 가까워졌습니다. 그런데 최근에 개정된지 얼마 안되는 법을 재개정을 해야한다고 주장하는 입장도 있습니다. 이에 재개정하고자 하는 입장은 다음과 같습니다.

첫째, 개정된 특례법에 따라 의무적으로 출생신고를 해야함으로 인해 미혼모들이 혼인 외 출산신고가 두려워 아이를 유기합니다. 즉 베이비박스에 버려지는 아이의 수가 늘어나고 있다고 주장하고 있습니다.

그러나 특례법에 따르면 미혼모들이 아이를 출산한 기록이 가족관계증명서에 전혀 남지 않습니다. 개정된 입양법에 따르면 친생부모가 아이를 입양 보내기 전 출생신고하고 일주일 동안 입양 숙려 기간을 갖습니다. (헤이그 국제아동 입양협약은 최소한 30일을 추천하지만) 그리고 아이가 입양되면 친생부모와 아이의 가족관계증명서에 있던 부모자관계 기록은 삭제됩니다. 그리고 이후 입양인이 친가족을 찾고싶어할 경우 친생부모의 정보 공개를 요청할 수 있습니다. 이는 저 같이 친가족을 찾고 싶지만 출생신고가 없기 때문에 가족을 찾지 못하는 입양인 수를 줄일 수 있습니다. 그리고 베이박스에 버리지는 아이가 늘고 있다는데 제가 방금 언급한 정보에 쉽게 접근할 수는 없지만, 언론을 통해 거의 광고하듯이 베이비박스의 홍보는 계속되고 있습니다.사실 베이비박스는 불법이므로 이런 식으로 하면 된다고 생각합니다. 그리고 지난해 8월 이후 영아 유기가 증가했다는 통계가 없으니 법을 재개정하려고 노력하기 전에 최소한 전국적인 실태조사가 필요하지 않을까 싶습니다.

둘째, 입양기관 관계자에 따르면 지난해 8월 이후 입양 의뢰 건수가 크게 줄었고 입양 건수도 줄었다고 합니다. 입양기관의 말에 의하면 이러한 현상의 원인이 미혼모들이 아이를 불법적으로 입양하거나 유기하는 사례가 늘고있다는 것입니다. 그래서 청소년 미혼모의 경우에는 입양 숙려 기간에 예외를 두고 입양 기관이 출생신고를 대신할 수 있도록 재개정을 해야한다고 주장하고 있습니다.

그런데 입양의뢰건수가 왜 줄었는지 알아보기 위해 실태조사가 필요하다고 봅니다. 이러한 현상의 가능한 원인 중에 양육을 선택하는 미혼모의 수가 늘어남일 수도 있습니다. 베이비박스의 일부 사례만으로 전체적으로 미혼모의 영아 유기가 늘었다는 주장은 논리에 맞지 않습니다.

셋째, 장애아동의 경우에는 현실적으로 국내 입양이 어렵기 때문에 국내외 입양을 함께 추진하도록 재개정해야 한다고 주장하고 있습니다.

한국사회는 역사적으로 장애아동의 경우 입양이 어렵다는 이유로 국내입양을 거의 포기하고 해외로 입양보낼 목적으로 법을 재개정해서는 안 됩니다. 장애가 있어 다른 아이와 달리 차별적으로 아동인권을 저버리면(침해해서는) 안 됩니다.

넷째, 재개정을 하고자 하는 입장은 개정된 입양법이 아이의 권리와 복지 증진을 위해 만들어진 것을 인정하면서도 현실적이지 않다고 지적하고 그 어떤 가치나 주장보다 아이의 생명을 최우선으로 보호해야 한다라고 주장하고 있습니다.

그런데 가치를 지키면서 아이의 생명을 보호할 수 있는 방법은 없을까요? 실행한 지 얼마 되지 않는 개정된 입양법이 그 방법일 수도 있다고 봅니다. 영아 유기 문제가 개정된 입양법 때문인 것으로 호도하면 안 됩니다. 이런 뿌리 깊은 사회문제는 현실적으로 6개월 안에 완전히 사라질 수가 없습니다. 입양절차가 까다로워져서 미혼모의 아이가 유기되고 있다고 주장하는 입장에 논리적 문제가 있다고 봅니다. 미혼모에 대한 사회적 편견과 분위기 때문에, 그리고 미혼모들에게 정부차원에서 그리고 노동시장에서 성장할 수 있도록 지원과 취업의 기회가 충분히 주어지지 않기 때문에 그들은 아이를 포기할 수 밖에 없는 상황에 놓여져 있다고 봅니다. 그래서 친생부모가 아이를 양육할 수 있도록 정부가 지원을 해야 합니다. 현재 아동보호시설에서 아이 한 명 당 비용이 월 105-107만원이라고 합니다. 정부가 이 금액의 전부는 아니더라도 친생부모에게 지원해준다면 양육을 선택하는 친생부모가 늘어나지 않을까 싶습니다. 사회적 편견, 경제적 어려움 등 이러한 문제가 해결되어도 아이가 계속 유기된다면 그때는 입양절차를 탓할 수 있습니다. 그 전까지는 입양절차 때문이라고 주장할 수 없다고 봅니다.

마지막으로 다시 한 번 말씀드리자면 이러한 사회적 문제가 하루아침에 해결될 수는 없습니다. 그리고 정부가 다양한 방책을 마련해야 합니다. 하지만 개정입양법을 되돌리는 것은 해결책이 아닙니다. 그리고 친부모가 아이를 입양보내더라도 아동권리를 지키기 위해 그리고 국제 사회기준에 맞추기 위해 보편적 출생신고를 도입해야 합니다. 지난 60년 동안 17만명 중에 저처럼 많은 입양인들의 출생정보가 조작되거나 위조되었습니다. 이러한 인권침해를 다시 반복할 것이냐 아니면 앞으로 이러한 일이 없도록 할 것이냐를 고민해야 합니다. 입양특례법을 재개정하는 의도가 정말 아동을 위하는 최선이라면 저 같은 성인 입양인들의 목소리를 들어줘야하는 것 아닌가요?

감사합니다.

but if the ultimate goal is to change people’s hearts&minds, then i think it is possible your tone comes off as so aggressive that ppl will be quickly turned off, not taking the time to consider what you’re saying&really take it to heart. i know the realities you’re dealing with are harsh, but maybe it would be good to take a step back and read what you’re writing with other people’s eyes sometimes. i hope you can receive this in the spirit of respectful suggestion, not critical or judgmental.

허~~~ i believe you that you are sincerely trying to give me a respectful suggestion but i also sincerely disagree with you and think that line of thinking is problematic. i was going to just link this quote but i want it on my blog again, so i copy it here again. 

Tone matters, but not the way the OP understands it to matter. Tone matters, because people with privilege use “tone” as an excuse not to listen to you. “Regardless of the content of what you said or the validity of your argument, because you did not say it the exact way I wanted to, I will invalidate you.” Or, “I didn’t intend for it to be offensive and I don’t find it offensive. What I do find offensive is your tone.” (eg. “I get to decide what is offensive.”)
This puts the responsibility on the oppressed. It suggests to people of color, to women, to gays, to any oppressed group that “if only they had confronted the discrimination they faced in a better (more tactical, more appeasing, etc.) tone, maybe the people who ignored them would have listened. It teaches them that they should not burden others with their stories. It teaches them that they are in part responsible for their oppression due to their poor use of tone, even though they have no power over how someone labels their tone and even less power over how they are treated. Which, come on. Deciding whether or not to listen is a choice. If the decision to ignore injustice hinges on someone’s tone…
It is very difficult to avoid this trap. It means playing offense and defense at the same time. The easiest thing to do is to try and given people fewer opportunities to attack your tone. But make no mistake: this also means capitulating to the same oppressive power dynamic that is silencing you in the first place. In addition to the outsiders who will police your tone, you begin to watch your own tone. Tone becomes a tool you use to amplify your voice and oppress yourself at the same time.
You stifle your outrage, your defense mechanisms, your right to speak out. You train yourself to talk about discrimination with a brilliant smile. You live with the anxiety and reality that they may slam your tone anyway, ignore you, anyway.
They remind you that they listen to you only because they are benevolent enough to tolerate your pleasant tone. Perhaps they will even give you benevolent advice on how to talk about your experiences, all while reminding you that while experiencing discrimination is not optional for you, listening is optional for them. That before they care about your pain, you have to remember to please them, first, by respecting their right not to be annoyed by you. You must be deferent to be viewed as worthy of consideration, goes the advice.
You allow them to argue that the way you say it is more important than what you are saying. Because the majority has deemed that only certain tones are appropriate when discussing these issues. Because those with power get to dictate how the victims talk about their own oppression. And you want to believe that maybe, maybe if you just say it the right way, this one time…people will listen.
(bolded mine) 
yes, the ultimate goal is to change the way people think about adoption. but it’s to do so with my autonomy and dignity intact -  that means not feeling like i have to pander to people to get them to listen to me. maybe instead of me having the responsibility to read what i wrote with other people’s eyes, they have the responsibility to understand why i wrote it like that through my eyes. 

dear anon. i will answer your second question at a later date as i don’t have the time today to write out as thorough of an answer as i’d like. i have to go work out and then prepare a presentation that i’m giving on friday regarding the special adoption law. it’s gonna be in front of all of the bigwigs of the ministry of health and welfare and all of the assholes at the adoption agencies (who are trying to revise the adoption law that we already revised, in order to make it easier to send unwed moms babies abroad - fuck you).

ok, i’ve answered this before so please read the link for the answer (out of respect to my longtime followers ^^). also, even though i kind of hate the questions, i’m giving anon the benefit of the doubt because i want to believe that people have good intentions but just a bad approach. 

i have never been super close with my american parents and i am not today. however, we maintain a relatively good relationship, one that could even perhaps be classified as “typical” when considering my buttoned-up, awkward hugs, white middle class upbringing. 

again, i think it’s telling that people seem to be super interested in my adoptive parents and their stance on my activism. i personally think this line of thinking is couched in the idea that i should be “grateful” and that their hurt (or defensiveness, as you said) regarding my activism would be “understandable”. 

i think this is a dangerous line of thinking, one that is somewhere in the neighborhood (though not as bad) of this one in its underlying implications. 

if, not when, IF (because of the unethical practices of adoption agencies like the one my adoption was processed through, korean adoptees who search for their families only have a 2.7% success rate) i find my korean family, i would introduce them to my american family. that is IF my parents would actually be able to come to korea (they are getting old and my mom is not in great health). 

this says (2/2) as if you sent something prior to this, which i didn’t receive. i assume you’re referring to this post. of course, we know that not all women want to be mothers and no one should be forced to be a mother. however, when you look at the statistics of abortion in korea (96% of unmarried pregnant women have abortions), we can assume that most (if not all) of the women who chose not to have an abortion and to carry their baby to term had some inkling to raise their child. of those, there may be some who couldn’t/didn’t want to have an abortion but still don’t want to raise their children. i agree that they should have the legitimate “choice” to give up their children for adoption (like you said, no woman should be forced to be a mother against her will). but, like i explain in the above linked post, this word choice is a tricky one. it is my opinion, after meeting an extensive number of mothers who are both currently raising their children and who were forced to give up for adoption, that the majority of unmarried women who carry their children to term in korea want to raise their children. the ones who “chose” adoption were forced to due to economic circumstances. it is not my opinion that economic wealth should be a determining factor as to who is more fit to parent a child. so the government’s main concern should be creating a society where unwed mothers can have a real choice, regardless of economic circumstances, whether or not they want to raise their child. if they choose to raise their child, they should have the economic support from the government to do so. if they decide that they are not fit to parent, they should have the choice to give up for adoption. however, even if they chose adoption, they should also be obligated to register their children under the law. that is a basic human right of a child, one that not even a mother can take from their child.

 

UPDATE: anon sent this after seeing my answer, “Boo tumblr for eating my message. 1/2 was indeed what you thought, but also that I disliked the line “mothers’ right to abandon a child”, because it felt like it put the blame on the mothers, when, as you pointed out, most of these mothers would not make that choice in a better society - the rest was about not demonizing women for becoming pregnant but not wanting to be mothers, even if they had all the resources and support in the world.”

100% agree. 

made rebloggable by request:

Ok, I’m finally getting to this (as I’m procrastinating writing my paper). Also, thanks for your sort of compliment, by the way? ^^

——

I have a personal story about this first. I know a North Korean mother who actually ended up sending her child for adoption. She was a defector living in China and she was basically fooled by a South Korean man who she met there (he came there regularly on business) who actually had a family back here in South Korea. She became pregnant at the age of 20 (they started dating when she was 19 and he was over 30) and then she found out about his family. When she left China to come to South Korea, she left her son (then around 1 year old) with a Chinese woman that she knew who promised to care for her son until she came back for him (she was crossing over via dangerous routes in Laos and Cambodia). However, when she arrived in South Korea, her parents, who had crossed over before her, had already registered her (people register family members who may cross over later so that they can be alerted when they arrive), but had intentionally registered her 4 years younger than she actually was (at the time she was 21 so they registered her as 17). The reason they did this was because while she was in China she was illegal and therefore not able to go to school, so they knew she would be behind (plus, they just thought it would be better for her to be younger). By law, NK defectors receive a free apartment and a lump sum to help them get on their feet from the South Korean government when they cross over. So she thought when she came to South Korea she would be able to receive that and send for her baby immediately. However, since she was technically a minor now, she was not eligible for any of those benefits. After telling her parents about her baby, they told her to give it up for adoption. She refused but after two to three years, eventually that Chinese woman said she could no longer afford to raise her son and that had left him at the Korean consulate in China (at this point she was just getting ready to graduate high school and had no financial means to support herself or her baby either). The consulate then sent the baby to an adoption agency in South Korea. North Korean babies are technically ineligible for adoption - both domestically in South Korea and abroad but ironically, since the father is a South Korean citizen, the baby was eligible for adoption and he was sent to Canada. She has been tormented by that decision to this day although she now maintains a somewhat open-adoption like relationship with her son and his parents. But I preface all of this to say that I find it ironic that the South Korean government makes it illegal to put up North Korean babies for adoption - essentially, for diplomatic purposes, they have more incentive to protect NK babies than SK babies because the SK government sees all defectors as basically diplomatic bridges if the two countries were to unify and an orphan is even better because they can be indoctrinated and educated exactly as you wish.

——

Moving along, in regards to your actual question regarding the US trying to pass laws about North Korean children (I say children because VERY FEW of them are actually orphans). A fellow adoptee scholar has done more research on this topic so I leave you with her response to your question:

Actress Sandra Oh has taken on a new starring role: North Korean adoption activist.

In a public service announcement for the Korean American Coalition’s Topple Hunger in North Korea (THINK) program, Oh pulls heartstrings for the rescue of North Korean children who have escaped and who “are living alone and without family in foreign lands” like China. “They need us,” she says against a backdrop of fleeting images of emaciated children, “and [The North Korean Refugee Adoption Act (H.R.1464/S.416)] will help us to adopt them.”

Who are these children Oh urges us to fantasize about saving?

In contrast with Oh’s pathos-laden portrayal,human rights organizations operating in northeastern China agree that there are few unaccompanied North Korean children annually crossing the Tumen River and that these individuals are, by and large, in their late teens. More numerous is a second generation of younger children consisting of mixed-ethnic children who are born in China to Chinese fathers and North Korean mothers and who, by law, are Chinese nationals.                                                                                                                                              Although H.R. 1464 appears to distinguish between these populations by directing the State Department to propose solutions for orphaned mixed-ethnic Chinese-North Korean children who lack access to Chinese or North Korean resources, the bill’s extreme response to the needs of unaccompanied North Korean minors—a tiny population—should inspire caution, not expedited action.

Proponents draw a tearstained, hollow-cheeked orphan figure to stand in for all the children this bill claims to help, but such conflations and exaggerations promote a fictive orphan crisis.What legal protections will prevent an aid worker from misidentifying a mixed-ethnic Chinese national for an imagined “North Korean” orphan and removing this child—in circumvention of Chinese law—from her family and community? 

Yet the bill’s potential for harm doesn’t end there.  

Several paragraphs into the legislation, the bill establishes a new category of orphan, a “stateless orphan.” It proposes that American adoption agencies and aid organizations will be authorized to identify and move “stateless orphans” to the United States for the purpose of adoption.Adoption agencies and aid organizations will be permitted to work around the adoption or child welfare authority of a child’s country of origin, bypassing the country’s sovereignty. In effect, the United States will supersede the sending country’s authority to locate, assess, and refer a child for international adoption placement. The host country, defined as the “foreign-sending country,” will serve a bureaucratic function to prove the child’s orphan status through “alternative mechanisms.”

As a signatory to the Hague Convention on Intercountry Adoption, the United States is obligated to follow China’s adoption protocols. Rather than invent an extraordinary adoption framework that lacks accountability and that risks alienating China, the United States should work with China as a host country to refugees and as a sending country of adoptees within both countries’ preexisting Hague commitments. 

In light of adoption scandals in which aid organizations such as Zoe’s Ark in Chad and New Life Children’s Refuge in Haiti eyeballed “orphans” who actually had families and then illegally attempted to remove them, this bill’s unprecedented non-recognition of a child’s country of origin risks conferring extraterritoriality to adoption agencies and aid organizations and empowering them to baby scoop.

Adoptive father and Cumberland Law School professor David M. Smolin says, “Like too many efforts done under the banner of adoption and orphan care, the North Korean Refugee Adoption Act represents zeal without knowledge—particularly knowledge of the safeguards necessary to prevent adoption from becoming trafficking. Like too many adoption-focused laws, the law mis-matches the solution of adoption to unrelated problems; the law baits us with visions of starvation and disease in North Korea that have little or no relationship to the proposed ‘solution’ of new intercountry adoption procedures.”

Historically, South Korea has been a laboratory for intercountry adoption, sending over 200,000 children to 15 mainly western receiving nations. The children of this adoption experiment constitute the world’s largest and oldest mass child removal. As Macalester professor SooJin Pate, author of Genealogies of Korean Adoption and a Korean adoptee, observes,“Contrary to popular belief, Korean adoption was not a humanitarian act of rescue; rather, it was a tool used to expand U.S. neocolonial power under the guise of benevolence during the Cold War. History seems to be repeating itself, nearly 60 years after the first ‘official’ adoption of Korean children by Harry Holt. Korean adoption—this time involving Chinese-North Korean children—is currently being used to help the United States secure its position as a ‘Pacific power’ during what Secretary of State Hillary Clinton calls the ‘Pacific century.’”

While on the surface the North Korean Refugee Adoption Act proposes a simple solution—American homes for North Korean children in urgent need—it’s actually a well-crafted Trojan horse full of chilling consequences for the children it purports to rescue. On these children’s backs, the bill threatens to break down almost two decades of intercountry adoption reform since the Hague Convention was ratified in 1993. Recalling the legacy of Korean intercountry adoption as war machinery, this bill’s circumvention of the children’s country of origin risks escalating geopolitical tensions along the already volatile China-North Korea border.

Already passed by the House of Representatives and set on a fast track through the Senate before Congress recesses in late September, the bill is quickly moving around the bend. While naïve Hollywood stars and ambitious neoconservatives cheer their horse on, they forget intercountry adoption’s most basic question: What are the best interests of the child?

Let’s not take the (red) bait. Let’s support real children and their families by engaging with their countries of origin to ensure their human rights. For those children who truly have no other options, let’s keep intercountry adoption safe as a last resort.

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http://www.fpif.org/articles/baby_scooping_stateless_children

(A sneak peak of an earlier, unpublished draft of this article appeared on facebook to support community in the struggle against H.R. 1464/S.416. Going forward, please feel free to cite this final, published version. Thanks! JKD)