Monthly Archives: June 2008

Dual Citizenship for Internationally Adopted Koreans

There is a dual citizenship campaign going on via GOAL for interationally adopted Koreans. I have brought up my viewpoint on this numerous times with GOAL so I don’t think it’s any big secret if I post it again on my own blog.

Basically I think dual citizenship is good for one thing and one thing only: to help make the international  adoption agencies accountable for keeping their records straight. (Although, as you know by now, I’m personally in favor of shutting the whole thing down once and for all — now.)

So here’s where I’m coming from:

I live in Korea, and I have lived here for about 4 years. I pay Korean taxes. I cannot vote in Korea. I vote in U.S. elections. I don’t pay U.S. taxes because if you live overseas, you are legally not taxed on the first $60K of your income, and I don’t make that much money. I have legal residence in Korea and I am an ethnic Korean and I look like a Korean until I open my mouth, at which point I apparently look Japanese. I speak about Sogang level 3 in Korean language. I work as an English editor in a Korean company. I drive a car with a Korean license and rent a house in an all-Korean neighborhood. I have Korean national health insurance.  My visa is an F-4. Sometimes I run into problems with that I wouldn’t have when doing things on the internet because the machine won’t take a foreigner ID number, but that is rare (yet annoying, for sure).

I have U.S. citizenship and I also have Korean citizenship. So basically, I already have dual citizenship. The only thing that makes it different from what GOAL is proposing is that I can’t prove that I am Jeong Kyong-Ah who was born on January 24, 1972, because my U.S. passport says that I am Jane Jeong Trenka who was born on March 8, 1972.

Here’s what I think dual citizenship cannot do for me:

Dual citizenship will not: make me more comfortable in Korea, make Koreans stop conflating the ability to speak the Korean language with being Korean, bring me back my dead Korean mother, improve my relationship with my birthfamily, make me speak Korean better, make me happier or more satisfied with life as I know it, or improve my work opportunities. Dual citizenship will not make my legal name any less incomprehensible to Koreans.

In my everyday life, having Korean citizenship does not matter at all and pretty much nobody knows that I have it and there is no reason to bring it up because nobody would believe me anyway.

But here’s what I think dual citizenship CAN do for EVERYONE:

It can help destroy the so-called “clean break.” The clean break is the idea that when you get adopted, you get to start all over as if you were born in the airport. That means your life in your birth country, your parents, your identity, gets pretty much erased and somehow that’s supposed to help (against all internationally recognized notions of human rights).

I think that if dual citizenship is implemented in a way that keeps original records open and forces agencies to keep more identifying and accurate records in the first place, that could be a good thing. (However, we know that in Korea, people can just cook up fake documents and certainly that doesn’t help at all either.) But if there HAD TO BE A CONTINUOUS AND ACCURATE PAPER TRAIL IN ORDER TO GET/RETAIN DUAL CITIZENSHIP, then I think that could help make a continuous identity, at least legally, throughout a peron’s life. The adoptee — let’s say we were doing this for someone who gets adopted tomorrow — would have to at least have the same birthdate on all papers. (I don’t.) The adoptee would probably also  to have papers and photo ID showing the same name on all papers from both countries, or at least birth name and adopted name together on the same papers. (I don’t.) Later on, this can be a more accurate clue for the birth family search and a more integrated legal identity. To me, that seems to be the biggest utility that dual nationality would have in a practical sense over living with just the F-4 visa.

On another note, I wonder, does if it seems fair to other immigrants that adoptees would get this special privilege of dual nationality just because we had the (mis)fortune of being adopted? I wonder, if it were widely publicized that adoptees could get dual nationality on a mass scale, how that would be perceived by Koreans living in Korea and Koreans living overseas? Would it build bridges between us or cause resentment by groups who may already think that we are too privileged because of our immigration into white families who know how to do everything in Western countries? (No, I don’t think that privileges us, but I think some people might think that way because their parents worked at a dry cleaner or a liquor store for 18 hours a day in the U.S. and couldn’t speak English, forgetting that the reason why the adoptees were kicked out of Korea in the first place is because we were the lowest of the lowest of the low and couldn’t afford a voluntary immigration. ) Also, adoptees went to 15 main countries and not all the countries will accept dual citizenship anyway. How will dual citizenship help or hurt as we try to build solidarity with other immigrant communities in our adoptive countries and in Korea?

On the military issue, I think that for those who plan to live in Korea, having a social network is very important and one way that you can build that is to serve in the Korean military. Throughout history the South Korean military has exempted various people from military service, and we can understand that in a Korean context in some cases as a discrimination. If you can’t join the military, then you have that many fewer people who will be your friend throughout life and help you get a job. If all the other guys are serving, then you are missing out on a big portion of Korean society if you can’t serve just like everybody else. As I’m sure you know, Koreans often make friends in their youth whom they keep for their whole lives. That is why it is often hard for older adoptees who actually live here to enter into people’s circles of close friends, males especially, it seems.

OK, I think my speech on dual nationality is over so I’ll move on to the next topic.

A guy driving a silver Mercedes hit me today in my little Atoz. It was 100% without a doubt ALL HIS FAULT. He tried to just get away with giving me his name card and he didn’t want to call his insurance. I gave him bilingual hell and I will be getting my car fixed for FREE thanks to his insurance company who finally did get called after I ran to the nearest police station, which luckily was very, very close. Luckily the damage on the car was very clear and irrefutable, because he was lying out of his ass to the police and the insurance representative. What a king-sized jerk. Weikgook this, my friend. Would dual citizenship cause that man to be any less of a jerk or try to take advantage of weigook weigook me any less? I don’t think so.

Anyway, on to the next topic, like I said before.

My American sister just sent me an email the other day and it got me thinking. And you know, I think she is right. Much as I loved my Korean mother fiercely and I would no doubt take a bullet for her to this day, she did indeed, as my sister said, make all her children pay for her bad choices. Yes, we ALL paid for her choices, not just me and my American sis, but ALL FIVE of us. (Two in the U.S. and three in Korea).

It occurs to me: here I am thinking about the pros and cons of dual citizenship — thinking about CONSEQUENCES HERE — for me and everybody else, and honestly it seems that there are some (not all) women in the world who ended up giving away their kids to complete strangers because they did not think about the consequences of their actions.   And once the consequences hit, they made their CHILDREN pay for THEIR actions because THEY WANTED TO LIVE IN THE LAND OF NO CONSEQUENCES.



Babies are not embarrassments to be gotten rid of. Babies are people. The adults who make them have to take responsibility to raise them even if it’s hard and expensive and the neighbors look at you funny. That is a consequence.

Sure, a lot of women have limited choices and I really don’t think that anybody (or almost anybody) gives away their own flesh and blood unless they are completely desperate. But the buck has to stop somewhere, and it’s getting tiring to see that in my personal circle of friends, the buck stopped at the adoptee. The buck stopped at a child. The child had to pay for an adult’s irresponsibility. The adoptee has to pay for everybody else’s shame and guilt.

I am tired of this.

Within the past few months of living in Korea I’ve felt a lot of rage toward Korean society. I feel a lot of rage because I see Koreans as people, not some stuffed dolls in Confucius land who can’t change. I see Koreans as my family and I see where my Korean parents could have made different choices and where society could have stepped in to help. I feel rage because I see the buck stopping with a BABY to be completley  WRONG and I am tired of watching history repeat itself. I am tired of people not caring in a place where it people are very very COMMUNAL when its CONVENIENT. And in a place where people pride themselves on “we” — when it’s CONVENIENT. (BTW my private/community garden is completley out of control at this point.)

Case in point of people not caring when it’s mildly inconvenient:

Yesterday I saw a Buddhist monk get hit on the head by a rolling steel door coming down at the bank. The sound of him getting his bald head nearly cracked open was so loud that everybody at the bank stopped and looked. And you know what the horrifying part was? It was that there were two employees standing right there and it took an agonizingly long time — like maybe half a minute — for them to even go there and ask this monk in grey robes if he was OK!! Obviously it was the fault of the guy who wasn’t watching to see that he was closing the door on the head of a monk. A MONK.

Another incident: During the recent protest there was this old guy lying down in the packed subway station on the floor. He was awake but not moving. So I beeped out of the subway gate, went all the way up to the escalator while watching everybody else watch him, then came back down and asked him if he was OK. Why didn’t ANYONE ELSE just ask him if he was OK? Obviously everybody was looking at him — and finally it’s the adoptee who goes over to ask him if he’s OK. What’s wrong with that picture?

Did you hear about the kid who recently died in a Korean swimming pool? He was lying there for like 30 minutes before anyone called a medic. Apparently floating face-down for that long looks like a prank.

Anyway I have had enough of people minding their own business. It’s everybody’s business to help the monk, save the drowing kid, see if the old guy in the subway is protesting or having a heart attack. It’s everybody’s business to give women the support they need to take responsiblity for their own children. It’s everybody’s business to think about consequences so children aren’t the ones who have to suck up the consequences for adults.

And it’s everybody’s business to stop for oncoming traffic that has the right of way, even if car #1 is a Mercedes and the oncoming traffic is an Atoz! Grrrr!

한국말로 끌 쓰도록 노력 할게요



저는 제인 정 트렌까 입니다. 제 한국 이름이 정경아 라고 입니다.


이제부터 여기서 제가 우리의 한국 친구들에게 우리말로 재미있고 중요한 이슈에 대해서 끌 쓰도록 노력 할게요.


제가 한국말로 잘 못해서 당신은 인내 있으면 너무 감사하겠습니다.

내일도 만납시다. ^^

Another great truth and reconciliation commission

Australia has done it and now Canada. It’s time for the U.S. to do this and also time for South Korea to worry about a real problem.
By ROB GILLIES, Associated Press Writer Wed Jun 11, 5:25 PM ET

OTTAWA – In a historic speech, Prime Minister Stephen Harper apologized Wednesday to Canada‘s native peoples for the longtime government policy of forcing their children to attend state-funded schools aimed at assimilating them.

The treatment of children at the schools where they were often physically and sexually abused was a sad chapter in the country’s history, he said from the House of Commons in an address carried live across Canada.

“Today, we recognize that this policy of assimilation was wrong, has caused great harm and has no place in our country,” he said, as 11 aboriginal leaders looked on just feet away.

Indians packed into the public galleries and gathered on the lawn of Parliament Hill.

From the 19th century until the 1970s, more than 150,000 Indian children were required to attend state-funded Christian schools as part of a program to assimilate them into Canadian society.

Hundreds of former students witnessed what native leaders call a pivotal moment for Canada’s more than 1 million Indians, who remain the country’s poorest and most disadvantaged group. There are more than 80,000 surviving students.

“The government of Canada now recognizes that it was wrong to forcibly remove children from their homes and we apologize,” Harper said.

“We now recognize that it was wrong to separate children from rich and vibrant cultures and traditions, and that it created a void in many lives and communities and we apologize,” Harper said.

Harper also apologized for failing to prevent the children from being physically and sexually abused at the schools.

Phil Fontaine, the national chief of the Assembly of First Nations and one of the leaders seated near Harper, wore a traditional native headdress and was allowed to speak from the floor after opposition parties demanded it.

“Finally, we heard Canada say it is sorry,” Fontaine said.

“Never again will this House consider us an Indian problem for just being who we are,” Fontaine said. “We heard the government of Canada take full responsibility.”

He said the apology will go a long way toward repairing the relationship between aboriginals and the rest of Canada.

The federal government admitted 10 years ago that physical and sexual abuse in the schools was rampant. Many students recall being beaten for speaking their native languages and losing touch with their parents and customs.

That legacy of abuse and isolation has been cited by Indian leaders as the root cause of epidemic rates of alcoholism and drug addiction on reservations.

Fontaine was one of the first to go public with his past experiences of physical and sexual abuse.

The apology comes months after Australian Prime Minister Kevin Rudd made a similar gesture to the so-called Stolen Generations — thousands of Aborigines forcibly taken from their families as children under assimilation policies that lasted from 1910 to 1970.

But Canada has gone a step farther, offering those who were taken from their families compensation for the years they attended the residential schools. The offer was part of a lawsuit settlement.

A truth and reconciliation commission will also examine government policy and take testimony from survivors. The goal is to give survivors a forum to tell their stories and educate Canadians about a grim period in the country’s history.

Truth and Reconciliation Commission:


Memorial Service for Julia (구지혜)님을 위한 추모식

There will be a memorial service for Julia this Friday at 7:00 p.m. at KoRoot in Seoul, followed by a light dinner. Please come to celebrate her life and share your memories.


오는 6 6일 저녁 7, 해외입양인센터 ‘뿌리의 집’에서 줄리아 (구지혜)님을 위한 추모식(Memorial Service)이 있습니다.

줄리아 안 야파 멘델슨(Julia Ann Mendelson/ 한국이름 구지혜) 1983년 5월 29 서울에서 한 미혼여성의 딸로 태어났습니다. 태어나자마자 홀트아동복지회를 통해서 뉴욕에 있는 한 유대인 가정으로 입양되었습니다. 줄리아는 풍성하고 따뜻한 사람이었으며 많은 감동적인 글들을 유작으로 남겼습니다. 그녀는 수단 남부지역으로부터 피난해온 유대인 캠프에서 히브리어 교사로도 활발하게 활동했습니다. 지난 2005년 처음으로 한국을 방문했고, 친모를 찾는 일을 시도했으나 성공하지 못했습니다. 그녀는 2006년에 뉴욕주 버팔로 대학을 졸업했습니다. 2006 5월 생명을 위협하는 백혈병에 걸린 것을 알게 되었고 버팔로의 로스웰 암센터에서 화학치료를 받았으며 이어서 예루살렘의 하다산 아인 케렘 병원에서 치료를 받았습니다. 줄리아는 근 2년 동안 화학치료와 방사선 치료를 받으면서 생명을 위해 투쟁했습니다. 그녀는 스물다섯 번째 생일이 지나고 이틀 후인 지난 5 31일에 세상을 떠났습니다.

뿌리의 집에서는 줄리아의 투병에 대해서 지난 5 24, 영시 낭송회를 하던 중에 알게 되었습니다. 영시 낭송회의 초대 시인 리 헤릭(입양인/ 미국 캘리포니아 프레스노 대학 영문학과 교수)이 이날 사경을 헤메고 있던 줄리아를 위해서 쓴 시를 낭송했기 때문입니다. 서둘러 줄리아를 위한 골수이식의 필요성을 느끼고 이를 사회적으로 알릴 필요가 있다고 판단해서 연합뉴스를 통해서 이 소식을 내보내기도 했습니다. 감사하게도 국내외의 많은 사람이 골수 이식의 뜻을 표해왔습니다. 혹시 친가족으로부터 소식을 받았으면 하는 간절한 소원을 품기도 했었습니다. 안타깝게도 소식 나간 지 며칠 되지 않아 줄리아는 세상을 떠나고 말았습니다. 조금이라도 일찍 이런 형편을 알았더라면 얼마나 좋았을까하는 마음을 금할 길이 없습니다.

줄리아의 블로그(에서 우리는 그녀의 주옥같은 글들을 발견할 수 있으며 그녀의 삶의 아름다움을 느낄 수 있습니다. 우리는 무엇보다도 줄리아의 생의 동반자이면서 동시에 한국계 입양인인 존 아버(John Arbour)를 통해서 줄리아의 추모식에 필요한 모든 자료들을 얻었고 또 그의 안내를 따라, 그리고 무엇보다도 그의 슬픈 마음에 조금이나마 위로가 되기를 바라고 이 추모식을 준비했습니다.

현충일이라 쉬는 날이어서 말씀드리기 외람되오나 줄리아의 아름다운 삶을 추모하고 안타까운 죽음을 애도하는 자리이니만큼 오셔서 함께 해주셨으면 합니다. 고난 혹은 백혈병은 누구에게나 찾아 올 수 있지만, 무엇보다도 친가족으로부터의 골수이식이 가장 근접한 치료책일 수 있었다는 점을 생각하면, 해외입양이 때로는 이런 삶의 길에 놓인 또 다른 아픔이 아닌가 하여 애도의 정 더욱 금할 길 없습니다.

2008 6 5

뿌리의 집 김도현 목사

TRACK(해외입양 진실과 화해 위원회) 정경아(Jane Jeong Trenka)


My new hobby is watching Japanese dog videos on YouTube. Yeah!

Eerie night in Seoul

Perhaps you’ve been following the massive protests against the imports of U.S. beef in Seoul. I won’t explain that all here, but in a nutshell, the Korean people think their new president sold them out and sacrificed the safety of the people for business and trade concerns. I frankly don’t agree, but it is interesting to see what is happening in Seoul with massive candlight protests and police barricades.

I’ve started to get used to having police all over the street at 10:00 pm when I come home from the office. I  live close to the Blue House and downtown, where the protests are taking place.

Tonight was a little different from usual, though. I think it was because the govt has made some concessions for the people, but the people obviously don’t trust the govt. The feeling of the situation in my neighborhood, at least, seems to be even worse than yesterday. There is something positively eerie in the atmosphere, and I wonder if it brought back memories of the military dictatorships to many Koreans.

People who know how jam-packed Seoul is will see how incredible the situation is. These roads are usually jam-packed, day and night. Tonight they are quiet and free of traffic.

At the intersection of Gyeongbokgung Subway station, an old grandpa sat on the ground with his candle.

This middle-aged guy in a suit came over and gave him a cigarette.

Not sure what this piece of machinery is, but I guess on Sunday nite the police opened up the water cannons on the people. Is this a water cannon?

As good a night as ever to walk home right down the middle of the street in the U-turn lane.

Police going toward Hyoja dong. They told me not to take pictures.

Ajumma carries on as usual.

In front of Gwanghwamun with Sejongno to the right.

Here’s a businessman in a suit carrying a candle. Gwanghwamun is to the left and Gyeongbokgung station is to the right. I turned around later to see where this guy had gone. He had just gone to the other side of the street, turned around, and was waiting for the light to turn green again. I think his plan was just to walk back and forth across the crosswalk all night, with the police standing there watching him.