Monthly Archives: June 2010


Thank you so much to everyone who helped out on the art installation. The most wonderful part, I think, was spending time with people just working and talking. It was like a good old-fashioned barn-raising and quilting bee all in one. Thank you everyone, you are amazing. For me, this was a life-changing experience. I hope it was for you too.

By now girl #4708 and I have a bond forged in blood, or at least sweat! I am just blown away by her commitment, her vision, and her willingness to just try to do the impossible. She has a good head on her shoulders and she is so reliable. #2344 loves #4708!

I’m going to take a little vacation to get married and spend time with my family. In the meantime, please check out Suki’s blog for reports on the art installation. We are so blessed to have many amazing photographers in our adoptee community. She has posted Jeanne Modderman’s photos but you can bet that more by Jes Ericksen and others will be coming.

In the National Assembly!

Here are the first two modules inside the National Assembly that we will cover with photos and tags.

We need a lot of help this weekend! Please come out anytime from 7:30 a.m. to midnight and help us send a message to the Korean lawmakers. There were 600 bills introduced this session. Out of those 600, we want our bill to be A PRIORITY! They will only do it if we MAKE THEM. This is not a time to be passive and hope someone else will do it for you. We need everyone’s help. So please come out and make this thing a roaring success! We need you!

You can also join the closing party there June 15 at 5:00 p.m. Dancing! Art! Action! Food!




PLEASE HELP by committing to one of these times for stamping or hanging. You do not have to be there the whole time. Even a couple of hours on one day helps.  BBC and CNN will be there, so please join us and make a big impression!

MONDAY JUNE 7 at 7:00 p.m. Join the Stamp Champ team lead by Lea at KoRoot.

WEDNESDAY June 9 at the National Assembly 국화위원 회관 from 7 pm to midnight — set up

Every day from Thursday June 10-June 14 from 7:30 a.m. to midnight  at the National Assembly 국화위원 회관 – more hanging and stamping! (obviously, this is a process! We get a real physical feel for how much 200,000 is.

TUESDAY, June 15 – closing party in the evening at a time to be announced. Food by Little J unwed moms’ social enterprise, and traditional + B-girl + contemporary dance. All invited to the celebration!! (and yes, we will work on this until we have the celebration. And afterwards we need help to tear this thing down. )

Please email Jane Jeong Trenka at to sign up for a time to help.

Thank you!

Suki and me

Suki then

Me then

Us now

Our weapons of choice: Stamper!
Tag gun!

Little plastic hanger thingies!

Suki is a good friend.

Worth Every Second

This is blatantly copied from Suki’s blog called Hello Korea! Adoptee Repatriation Adventure.

It’s 3:39 am and I’m taking a short break.  I haven’t eaten dinner yet, and I have to leave in 6 hours to head to Seoul.   I’m going to the salon, because every other time I’ve been in front of a video camera I’ve looked like hell.  Well, I’ll probably look like hell this time too, because I’ll have worked two weeks straight like I am now on top of my day job.  But I’m excited and optimistic and energized despite being totally run-down.

Just now I unrolled 150 yards of fabric (well, actually I have about 20 more yards to do) and cut it into 7 meter lengths.  Let me tell you:  that’s a real workout!  It’s like doing 60 downward dogs, fast, all in a row…That 150 yards was from way back when – when we were going to get tiny tags and pack them in real tight.  Now, we need 300 more yards, which will be delivered to my school so I can do more of this.  Right now I’m sewing two 1 yard wide panels together.  After that, I have to put tent pole casing on three sides and velcro on another.

*unroll, measure, then cut. repeat from * across

7 meters is really long!  Once sewn, it makes a tunnel section about about 9 feet high by 6 feet wide by 6 feet deep.  Now multiply that by 28 times.  The tags will be really crowded.  If I’d designed it to have a little breathing room on either side, it would have ended up about 10 feet longer than a football field.  To give you an indication of the enormity of this project, each tag is 4 cm wide by 8 cm. long.  That’s about 1.5 inches wide by 3 inches long.  200,000 of them overlapped by half, in a tunnel 9ft. high by 6 ft. wide, shoulder to shoulder, is about 12 feet shy of a football field.  And that’s just little tags…

It isn’t making me cry YET, probably because I am taking care of the canvas.  Maybe tomorrow when I go to help stamp a number on each tag I will.  It’s definitely affecting everyone who’s working on the project.  I worry about Jane, surrounded by all those little tags.  You can see what she’s up against at the TRACK website.  A Korean saw a small portion of the tags, which is a huge quantity, and said, “I’m so ashamed to be Korean right now.”

Let’s hope the lawmakers feel the same way.

You know, people have been confused by the project.  Nobody really understood that the art was not in the product, but in the doing.  It was never meant to be easy.  It was meant to reflect the reality of processing adoption.

I was asked to give an artist’s statement, and so I wrote the following.   It’s currently being edited for Korean culture, (because I thought Han meant Korean people) but says what I wanted to say.
A collection of one
the art instigator’s personal statement

The Korean in me wanted to tell the Korean in you something, as the people we should have been, and the people Koreans can be in the future, and so I shall talk about our adoption experience in terms of we…because the adoption experience is not just the adoptee’s problem, but uri problem.

Most Koreans have never met an adoptee in real life, though almost every Korean knows of a family member that was affected by the disappearance of a child, a child who was born a Korean but is now only a guilty whisper at family confessionals:  a distant memory for many and a fresh wound for many more.  In each Korean family there are child-shaped holes, and in the space of their absence is a void that can’t be filled and can only be covered up.

These children are the memory we want to forget but never can.  They are in our minds like bad dreams and spill out on our paper, canvas, and screens.  And so we return — again and again and again — to re-live the pain of our loss, in the hope we can somehow find resolution to absolve us of this act committed against nature and humanity.  We want it so badly, this resolution, and in the deepest way.  But we are trapped in a never-ending inconsolable loop, because we not only exiled our children from us, but we also exiled ourselves from our children.  We not only harmed them, but we also harmed ourselves:  on so many levels.  How much han must this nation untie due to adoption?

This internal haunting of conscience is our eternal fate as a people, as a nation, and as individuals, unless we stop throwing away our children and face the ugliness of our own actions: so that we may right our wrongs, heal our wounds, and make a better society for ourselves.  And in order to do this, we must finally open our eyes, look at the consequences of our actions, take ownership of them, and correct our ways.

The Korean adoptees who have returned recognize that adoptees are invisible to Koreans.  They don’t look like the foreigners they’ve been forced to become.  There is no way to distinguish them physically from other Koreans, because they are Korean.  At most, when they speak, they are a passing anomaly, a momentary disruption in the fragile pride we have over the sacrifices we’ve made for success, and easily dismissed in the habit of purposeful forgetting.  A futile forgetting.

In a collectivist society, one has no meaning.  And adoptees are always portrayed in terms of one.  And when they come to visit, they come one at a time. And when they were thrown away, it was one at a time.  By portraying the adoptee as one, we don’t allow the lone adoptee, the anomalous adoptee, to penetrate our task of protective forgetting.  Yet they are not one.  Each and every child sent away is a person:  a person whose absence has left a deep scar on the soul of Korea.

All together, approximately 200,000 Korean children were sent away from Korea without a choice.
Of those, only an estimated 500 have returned as adults to live in the country that threw them away.

As one of the 500 who has returned, I wanted to show you what 1 Korean adoptee looks like, 200,000 times.

And as one of the 500 who has returned, I’d like to see Korea redefine family so that it values all Koreans,
so Korea loses no more children and I never have to hang another tag.

girl #4708


I’m not a process-oriented person. I like results and I like to get there the fast way. When hand-stamping 200,000 price tags, however, each with a different number, there is no fast way.

The Walk of Shame (see posts below) has got me in a funk, frankly. It takes only one second to stamp a tag, but it takes a lot longer to prepare the paperwork to send a kid for adoption. Yet even just stamping is a lot of work! I’ve done about 1,000 tonight (because I was too tired to use my brain anyway) and what I have done compared to the huge pile underneath my desk, by the copier, on top of my desk, in my kitchen, and at KoRoot does not even start to make an appreciable dent.

So the process is teaching me something. It’s teaching me what 200,000 means. Before, it was just a number. Now I have stamped  1,000 tags and 200,000 seems like a lot bigger number than it was before. It seems like infinity. An infinity of children sent overseas for adoption.

Stamp Champs go at it at KoRoot, June 3. Photo by Jes Eriksen.

While stamping all these tags, I figured out that it’s easier if I separate them like shuffling Go-stop cards and stack them like solitaire. It seemed to say something about the luck of the draw.

People have been sending in their mugshots for the art exhibit. I have them organized on my computer. By number. It seemed to just be practical when dealing with so many pictures. A number on each photo, and a separate sheet recording their names. It seemed like the logical thing to do, to take away their names and assign them a number, when dealing with so many.

I did an interview for CNN today. She asked me about my sister. I said my sister was sent to America at the age of 4 1/2 and she did not speak for 6 or 9 months and there was no one she could talk to during that time.  I am sure she had never been so alone.  I said at the time we were sent for adoption, Northwest Airlines was on strike, and a girl who remembered that flight said that the kids were so scared they hid in the bathrooms during those long layovers.

I went upstairs in my office after that interview and cried.

When I’m stamping sometimes the numbers get smudgy or I stamp the wrong number, or something is illegible. I just cross it out and do it again. Or things get shuffled around. I just cram it back in stack. This is the problem of confusion when you are dealing with mass production.

I wish it was every member of the Korean parliament — not me and a bunch of adoptees and unwed mothers — doing this tedious work. I think they would be forever changed, as I am.

At least I hope that they will spend some time to stamp or hang at least 100 tags. The process of doing it is profound. Thank you Suki aka Leanne for masterminding this.

We need help so please see the posts below.

Also, if you’re at KoRoot tomorrow from 7:00 p.m. we will be stamping, and also June 7 Monday at 7:00 at KoRoot.

People who cannot come, please send your mugshot to me at or a monetary donation to help cover our $4,000 project to

Thank you.

200,000 price tags are here!

The front of each tag is a travel certificate (for the longest holiday!) The back side says “Age,” “Weight,” and “Height.” The letters underneath the bar code represent human genetic code.

By stamping each tag with a unique number, we honor each individual Korean citizen who was sent overseas for adoption.

The tags start to feel like playing cards. When they are spread across your desk at work (“Jane, what are you doing?”)  and you have only done about 60, which leaves 199,940 left to go …you realize you need more workspace so you take over some empty desks … (now up to around 300) … which leaves 199,700 left to go …

and you begin to realize the enormity of the (adoption) project … and have the idea that the lawmakers themselves should stamp a few hundred travel certificates with their own hands and then ponder what they can do RIGHT NOW, NOT LATER to support vulnerable families in Korea!  빨리 빨리!

Thanks to Stamp Champs Lea, Rae, Greg, and Frank, who got sent back to their motel with tags for #551  through about #28,000. It’s a big project!

It’s not our fault they sent so many kids!

Since we can’t make everyone stamp 28,000 tags, please support this project by sending in your orphan mug shots and/or your money! 60-100k is OK for your digital mugshot. Any amount, no matter how small, helps to defray costs for this $4,000 project — a small investment for the change that’s gonna come.

Bill written by Gonggam Lawyer So Rami and sponsored by Rep. Choi Young-hee of the Korean Democratic Party!

That’s hot Korean-on-Korean action! Honk honk!

Paypal or send mug shot to:

Greetings from Seoul, Korea!