Monthly Archives: August 2010

An example of an ethical intl adoption and other things

I was interviewed a while ago by PBS. They only used a portion of my responses. Here are my responses in full, with a few new embellishments.

– What are the most important things that parents who are adopting transracially and/or transnationally need to know and learn from adult adoptees?

Adult adoptees, as adults, are capable of forming opinions and analyses about the situations that we came from and grew up in. Many adult adoptees are now professors, lawyers, film directors, artists, teachers, journalists, social workers, etc. The best adoptive parents engage in objective, adult dialogue with us. However, many adoptive parents attempt dismiss our analyses with simple name-calling, calling us “angry” or “bitter” or people with “an axe to grind.” The losers, of course, are their own children. If their cute adopted children grow up to be critical thinkers, as we all should be, what will happen if they dare to produce an analysis about their adoptions that is different from the opinion of their adoptive parents?

– In brief, what facets about the current system of international adoption would you most like to see reformed? Continue reading

Kim Mi Chin – DOB April 16, 1965

In the photo above, Mi Chin is the baby. The other girl is the woman I met today, and the boy is the brother. The woman holding Mi Chin is the mother, and the other woman is the maternal aunt. Here they are taking a vacation at the East Sea (facing Japan).

Today at KoRoot, with Pastor Kim, I met the sister of Kim Mi Chin. She asked that I spread the word about her lost sister amongst adoptees so she and her brother might be able to find her. They have been looking for literally decades.

Mi Chin’s birthdate is April 16, 1965. After the parents divorced and the father remarried, his new wife put the three children in the Jinae orphanage in Paju. All the siblings were in the orphanage from November 1967. They experienced Christmas with American soldiers (They had donuts! chicken! amazing toilets!) etc. while there. Then one day in May 1968, the stepmother suddenly showed up at school, not the orphanage, and picked up the two older kids.  But Mi Chin was not there because she was too young to go to school. For some reason the stepmother left her at the orphanage even though she picked up the other two kids, and when the family came back to get Mi Chin later, she was already adopted and gone.

It appears that Mi Chin was adopted not through an agency, but directly by the adoptive father, who seems to have been a U.S. serviceman.

Kim Mi Chin and the adoptive father left Korea from the Kimpo Airport on a Cathay Pacific flight Sept. 6, 1969 Sept. 15, 1969. The father’s signature on this travel document looks like “Frank M. xxx” The last part is illegible to me. Can you read the name at the bottom? Do you know who this is?

The U.S. passport number is 27887. A friend from the military tried to check this at the State Dept. It is a real passport number connected to a real person, but they wouldn’t give any information on how to reach her.

Mi Sun, the elder sister, has a lot of memories of the orphanage because she was nine years old at the time. Her stories are funny and heartbreaking at the same time. Her feeling of helplessness and sadness as she watched her little sister suffer in the orphanage, and then disappear, has followed her, it seems, throughout her life.  She says she just wants to know how Mi Chin is doing and wants to see her just once before she dies. She is a really wonderful person and I hope that we can find Mi Chin.

If you know anyone who might be Kim Mi Chin, please send me an email at jjtrenka@gmail.com. I will meet the sister again on Monday, and we’ll try to look through some more records here in Korea to find out who “Frank” might be. Mi Chin, they are so eager to hear from you, and they hope that you will welcome contact.

Update:  Mi Chin’s sister sent the picture below with this explanation, which was translated by Emily Cashell. Thanks Emily!

최근에 미진이가 입양갔던 당시의 고아원에 가서 수십년전 귀한 사진을 한장 구했습니다.

I recently went to the orphanage from which MiJin was adopted and found this precious photo from years ago.

저희가 알고있던 미진이 보다는 한 일년 반정도 시간이 흐른때의 모습인것 같고 출국하기 불과 두세달 전이라 추정 되는 사진입니다.-69년 여름으로 추정-한국나이 로 6살이고 서류에 있는 나이로는 다섯살입니다.

The girl in the picture looks about a year and a half older than the MiJin that I knew. I assume it was taken only 2-3 months before she left the country so it would have been around the summer of 1969- Korean age 6, documented age 5.

이 사진에서 왠지 나와 같은 유전자가 느껴집니다.

Looking at this picture, I feel that we have the same genes.

가운데 흑인미군이 두아이를 안고 있는데 그중 아래를 보고 있는 아이가 미진이 인것으로 거의 확신 합니다.

In the middle of the photo is a black soldier embracing two children. I believe that the child who is looking downwards is MiJin.

손목에 시계인지 팔찌인지 를 차고 있는것 같고 그것을 보고 있는듯한 모습니다.

It appears that she is looking at the watch or bracelet that is on her wrist.

당시를 생각하면 미군이 어느 아이를 점찍었다 하면 그 미군은 방문 할때마다 옷, 구두, 장난감 등 그 아이만을 위한 특별한 선물을 가져다 주곤 하였는데 그곳에서는 미군이 보는 앞에서는 그아이에게 입히고 신기고 가지고 놀게 하고미군이 가고나면 다 거두어서 보관 했다가 그 미군이 방문한다 하면 다시 꺼내서 치장을 시키곤 하였지요.

As I recall, the American soldiers would each have a certain child that they would bring clothes, shoes, toys, etc. to when they came to visit. When the soldiers came, the children would be dressed in those clothes and shoes, and they would play with those toys. After the soldiers left, the things would be collected for safekeeping until they came again.

사진에서도 다른 아이들은 단발머리에 고무신인데 반하여 미진이로 추정 되는 아이는 머리에 물발라 가르마 타서 빗어주고 예쁜옷에 카바양말에 구두를 신고 있으며 게다가 손목에도 무엇인가를 차고 있는등 특별하게 치장을 해 놓은것으로 보아 아마도 양부가 신경쓰고 있었던걸로 생각 합니다.

The other children in the picture have cropped hair and rubber shoes, but the girl who I presume is MiJin has had her hair parted and combed. She is wearing pretty clothes, dress shoes, and also has something on her wrist. It looks like she was especially dressed up. (I think her adoptive father must have payed special attention to her. )

아이의 생긴모습이나 또래의 정도나 추정연도나 당시의 상황으로 보았을때 미진이라는 심증이 강하게 느껴집니다.

(I strongly believe that this child’s appearance and age match that of MiJin at the time.)

이사진을 첨부 한다면 미진이가 아마도 이사진은 알마볼수 있을걸로 생각 합니다.

If this picture is posted, maybe MiJin will recognize it.

지금 올려져 있는 사진은  미진이가 기억하지 못하는 아기때의 모습이므로 그것만으로는 자신이라고 확신을 갖기는 어려울것 같습니다.

The picture that is uploaded now is from when MiJin was a baby, so if she sees only that picture, it may be hard for her to confirm that it is her.

지금도 남동생과 저는 미진이 일로 옛 사람들의 연락처를 구하고 연락해보고  만남을 약속하고 진행중에 있습니다.

혹시라도 사진 한장이라도 더 확보할수 있다면 또 첨부 부탁 할께요.

My younger brother and I are in the midst of finding contact information for people from MiJin’s past, contacting them, and setting up meetings. If we come across any other pictures I will send them to you.

미국인이 우리의 사연을 접할수 있게 되었으니 단 1프로의 희망이라도 더 있지 않겠습니까.

If Americans come across our story, I can gain even more hope.

웬지 너무 지치기 전에 미진이를 만날수 있을것 같은 조심스러운 희망이 생깁니다.

I am prudently hoping that I can meet MiJin before I get too worn out.

Thanks and goodbye

I’ve been employed at Yonhap News for 3 years, 7 months, and 5 days. It has been a good run. Today is my last day and I’m feeling a little sad to leave. I’m so thankful for the opportunity I’ve been given and the knowledge of Korean history, politics, and company life that this experience has given me. Plus that, my colleagues have been great, and the paycheck, regular schedule, and benefits have really helped to stabilize my life and give me a good base in Korea.

This job is the reason why I’ve been able to stay in Korea so long — about 6 years now.  The first two years or so, which I wrote about in Fugitive Visions, were pretty rough, and I think if I hadn’t landed the Yonhap job after that, I probably would have left. (It seems that this is the way it goes for people in Korea — either something great happens for you after a couple of years and you stay for much longer than planned, or you’re completely burned out after those two years and run screaming.)

When I get done with school (1 year of language, 2 years of a master’s degree in public policy), I’ll be 41 years old. Achieving your dreams is done better late than never!

One more day left of work

One more day left of work! I’ll take a couple of weeks of vacation, and then start studying Korean language in September for one year. Textbooks put me right to sleep, so that means I am actually giving myself one year to sit around and read comic books and watch movies in Korean, and improve my noraebang skills.

I was feeling a little nostalgic about going to work for my last evening shift. (I still have to work in day shift on Monday). Today the garage door worked, so that meant I got to ride my bike to work today and pass by my favorite places. Here you can see that Gwanghwamun is finally visible again after years of restoration. You can see Gyeongbok Palace through the door.

Gwanghwamun is pretty much all new, but there are some historic stone objects that they incorporated. Here’s the animal called “Haetae,” which is used around temples and palaces to protect them from fire. (They should have had more of them around orphanages!)

“Haechi” is the name of the haetae who is Seoul’s mascot. Here’s Haechi in action.

A view of Gwanghwamun from Sejong-ro, which is the main thoroughfare in downtown Seoul. Click here to see wonderful photos of the same area and buildings back in the Joseon Dynasty (before Japanese colonial occupation).

Funny little potted hydro garden in a park, with Gwanghwamun in the background.

And here, a pond with the prettiest lilies.

Independence Day is this weekend! Mansei!

Nothing to say

Turns out that I didn’t completely understand what the guy was saying on the phone yesterday (in Korean) and four people, including a camera crew, turned up to do the interview. Luckily I am not vain, because I was of course completely unprepared to have video and cameras rolling. At least my hair was clean (though still wet).

People seem to want to talk a lot about adoptees and identity. They asked what advice I might have for elite Korean children who are studying overseas in boarding schools, and how to overcome their identity problems.

At one point I struggled with identity a lot, but that’s not so interesting to me anymore. Actually, being a “writer” is also not interesting to me now anymore either. I have basically nothing to say about identity or writing craft. I suppose that is a pretty disappointing response for people who came all the way from the south side of Seoul to interview me because I am an adoptee and a writer.  I put in a plug for support for the unwed moms, etc., and I hope that makes the final cut. For me, the issues are the only things I’m interested in anymore.  Less focused on navel, more focused on world.  I started writing the only book that has been published in Korean about 10 years ago, so it’s I suppose natural that they should ask questions that would have been significant during that time in my life.

Another one of the many subjects that came up was where I was raised, and why didn’t my adoptive parents make an effort to connect me with Korean people? How can I sum up Frazee, Minnesota, in a way that Korean people will understand? I went through all kinds of explanations — about how I didn’t meet a Korean adult until I was 23 years old, about how Frazee is a rural place and Minneapolis — where one might have been able to find some Koreans, just maybe, in the 1970s — is at least 4 hours away by car. Next time, I think I should just say, “Do you know where Frazee is?”

They’ll say, “No.”

And then I can say, “Why do you think that is?”

“Why?”

“Because there aren’t any Koreans there!”

Here’s the thing that I do miss from Frazee:

Sisters of the Sled Dog

Yum! Giant vats of warm stuff floating in gravy served up by nice white ladies!!  Sometimes I do my Minnesota grandpa accent for the amusement of adoptees I know, but I think Koreans just have no idea about rural northwest Minnesota. That’s fine, they don’t have to and there’s no reason why they should. But it just makes explaining things a little hard, especially when they are just focused on my privilege as an English speaker (never mind that I can’t even have a real conversation with any of my family members). Maybe I should be more writerly and come up with some clever similes just for Koreans.

“Being an adopted Korean in rural northwest Minnesota is like … ”

is like …

like …

International adoption is not like a study abroad program.

Your wealth is not like my family’s poverty.

Writing is not like a fashionable designer dress that I put on when I want to , since I have no other dress to wear.

These questions you’re asking me make me feel like I am supposed to cook a grand dinner for the Korean empress when all I have is a box of instant cheesy potatoes.

Actually, I have no words for the level of annihilation and amputation that I experienced as an adoptee. My head has been cut off and I have one hole in my chest, where my family relationships used to be, and one hole in my gut, where Korea used to be. I’m trying to fill up the holes up with kimchi since my family doesn’t fit in the hole anymore, but honestly, I do not like kimchi. I really like cheesy potatoes, but I’m lactose intolerant. Do you get what I’m saying? Could you shot me please?

I think that’s why it appeared that I had nothing to say today.

Adoptee goes to work

Well, dang the garage door for being broken. I couldn’t get my bicycle out so I had to take the bus to work today. Here I go walking from my house to the busstop. (I identify as the pink beaver. My friend does not like the pink beaver because her name is “Loopy” and she conforms to gender stereotypes. Well, OK, I can see that. But anyway this is the song that is often in my head when I’m just walking around.)

I got off the bus at Gwanghwamun station and started walking. What did I see? Oh goodness!!

UNICEF campaign to save the African and Southeast Asian children! All you rich Koreans — pony up to save the poor, poor children of other countries!

Across the street from the UNICEF campaign — the Body Shop is campaigning to “Stop trafficking of children and young people.” Underneath it says in Korean, “Campaign to protect the human rights of children and youth.” (아동 -청소년 인권보호 갬페인).

Naturally, I went into the store with some TRACK flyers and said right back at them, “인권보호 갬페인 입니다!” Campaign to protect human rights! They looked at me like, “wtf”?

La la la la la la la la la laaaaaa …

Then I walked down the stairs into the subway to cross the street and stopped at a coffee shop to get an iced coffee and a snack. La la la la la la la la la la….. HEY! Why do you guys keep wrecking my la la la happy inner song? (sound of needle scratching record — screeeeech!)

Me: “Why is it called ‘Bushman’?”

Cashier: “Because it’s from an English movie.”

Me: “What does Bushman mean?”

Cashier: “It’s from Africa.”

Me: “Well, is it called that because it’s a flavor?”

Cashier: “No, it’s because it’s black.”

When I got to work, I let my co-worker try out some of my Bushman Bread. She said the Bushman Bread tastes like the bread they have at the Outback Steakhouse. She’s a Korean American and she said she lets all this kind of stuff slide in Korea, but she also shared this old, but still relevant article, on Nazi decor in Korea.

Closer to work, I walked by the American Embassy. You can see how well the Korean police guard American interests. These guys are the military police, so they are made up of young conscripts.

Here you can see their new SWAT vehicle.

And then I walked two more blocks and I was at work.

La la la la la la la la la la……..

I think I am going to do a crazy interview with a Korean newspaper tomorrow. I just found out that the reason why they’ve been trying to get a hold of me is because they want to talk about the importance of English education and globalization.

Yeah, so I will just use it as an opportunity to do some public education or at least a 1-on-1 educational moment with a Korean journalist. Let’s talk about how my English got so good and I got so globalized.  Why not, I don’t mind a good challenge after lunch.  La la la la la la la la la la laaaaaaaaa……

Kimchi: the other white meat

I don’t blog so much anymore, but I was cleaning some pictures off my phone tonight. So that’s why I got three new blog posts in one day, plus a fabulous new header that shows me just going for my inner angry ajumma. I am blossoming into all that I can beeee!!!!!

Anyway, I sometimes get the sinking feeling that a lot of Koreans don’t really get the minority consciousness thing. I wonder why that is?

Here’s a closeup of the “Black boy” mascot on this Lotte ice cream …

that says “Black Crunch” in English and “Black Coon” in Korean. Black. Coon.

Found on the street in Hongdae in an open air street market. I was only interested enough to take a picture because it was in Hongdae. I’m used to seeing blackface figurines in bars where the theme is “jazz.”

Oh hey! This one finally made it online just so you can see how stupid it is:

Now, here’s a good one. People descended from Mongolians needed to use an “Indian” motif so they could sing about an arrow.

Now, which adoptee wants to explain to Koreans about the racial discrimination and stereotypes in Western countries? Do you really think that Korean culture is all steeped in ancient Confucianism blah blah blah, and that they really know what they’re doing when they send us to foreign countries? So many time I’ve listened to Koreans talk about what they think is America and I’m just thinking, “You must be kidding me. It is taking all my physical energy just to hold my puke in.”

Now go cleanse your ears with some Public Enemy!!