I’m writing my own memoir. How do I get it published?

Getting your work published is a mixture of luck, timing, skill, and hard work. There’s no magic way to make it happen, but you can find some good companionship in both people and books as you embark upon your publishing journey. I’ve met some of my favorite people in writing groups around the Twin Cities–check out The Loft and SASE. Now, please meet some of my favorite books!

On publishing itself:

On the writer’s craft and life:

In addition, please check out the valuable information on the Poets & Writers Web site.

How do I go about searching for my Korean family?

I never had to search; my Korean mother found me way back in 1972, much to my American parents’ surprise. So I haven’t had the personal experience of searching, but here is what I know:

Sunny Jo wrote a great pocket-sized book about the search process called Birthfamily Search and Reunion. Online registries are located at GOAL, InKAS, and GAIPS. I recommend contacting both GOAL and InKAS for assistance in your search; GAIPS is a newer organization and as I understand it, they have mostly been doing counseling for birthfamilies.

In general, I think you have to be REALLY PERSISTENT. The Korean agencies (and Koreans in general) are more responsive to the phone than they are to email. Just keep calling and calling and calling even if it feels pushy and rude to your Western sensibilities. Don’t forget that the people who work in the agencies are Korean and they view you as a FOREIGNER–plus that you were never supposed to come back!! Don’t take anything the agencies say to you regarding your story or their rules as purely factual, but rather the interpretation of the day. Also, no matter how conscientious your agency is in your adoptive country, they are still dependent on the information they get from Korea. There are many stories of adoptees who have found their birthfamilies despite their agencies saying there was no hope at all. Conversely, I also know many adoptees who have searched but who were unable to find anyone.

Regarding the media and those reunion shows: They are providing, after all, entertainment –not social services. (Sadly this is only possible because the adoption agencies are not providing adequate social services for us.) Contact GOAL for information on how to get on those programs.

Some adoptees feel that if they make the decision to search for their birthparents, they are somehow betraying their adoptive parents. I look at it like this: people get divorced and remarried all the time. When you gain a stepfamily, you integrate them into your family life–and it doesn’t mean you love your other family any less. So I think the same about having a Korean family–it’s just an opportunity to expand your relationships and love more people! I think adoptive parents who are secure with themselves and their roles as parents are able to see it the same way.

On living in Korea

Korea has the world’s 10th largest economy–it’s no longer poor and war-torn. Seoul is similar to New York, only the K-Town never ends! Here are some basic facts about visiting Korea that your adoption agency tour guide is probably not going to tell you:


Why spend $80-$100+ a night on a “Western” hotel with disgusting carpet that has been walked on with SHOES? (YUCK.) Lodging is available at KoRoot for ADULT ADOPTEES and their guests. It’s about $15 a night. It is like a very, very, very nice hostel. There is no praying required! However, males and females bunk in different rooms.

So if you want to sleep with your opposite-sex partner, get a “motel.” In Korea, the word “motel” connotes impropriety, but these days married couples use them as a place to get away from the kids and in-laws for a few hours or a night. Motels are cheap, safe, and clean. You can find them ANYWHERE in Korea, and depending on if it’s a weekday or weeknight, you can crash for about $30-$45 per night (after 8:00 PM). Tiny beverages, giant TVs, toiletries, and internet are often included. You may be able to negotiate a deal if you stay for a couple of weeks.

If you are tremendously cheap, you can sleep in the sauna (jjimjilbang) for $7-$10 a night.

Gositels and hasukchips can be found in any university area. You can rent them by showing your passport and paying about $300-$400 in advance per month. You get a shared bath, private small room to sleep in, and sometimes food. Hasukchips (boarding houses) always provide food, while gositels sometimes provide rice, soup, tea, and kimchi. There’s no reservation required; just walk around and ask to see rooms until you find one you like. Click here to see what they look like.


It’s possible to not starve in Seoul for about $10 a day. If you want to eat very well and eat a lot of “foreign” food, that’s a different story. Don’t worry about planning where you’re going to eat; there are restaurants EVERYWHERE.

I don’t think it’s possible to be a strict vegetarian in Korea. Prepare to at least eat some seafood friends. And, there is no getting away from white rice!


Korea has a wonderfully developed and cheap public transportation system. You can take a train, bus, or taxi nearly anywhere. Addresses don’t mean a lot in Korea, so bring a map with you if you think you might get lost. Taxi drivers can look at maps and figure out where to take you, and if you have a phone number to where you’re going, he can call the other Korean person and get directions if you get lost.

I drive in Korea because I live in the countryside, but Korean logic for road signage is different than Western logic. And the price of gas will make you cry (about $70 for one tank in my Hyundai Sonata). Unless you absolutely must go somewhere off the beaten track, I wouldn’t recommend driving.

Important things you might need to buy

Medical services are amazingly cheap in Korea compared to the U.S. A visit to the doctor including labs and prescription medicine might run you about $30, depending on what you need. Doctors speak English; desk staff may or may not.

Contact lens solutions are widely available (Alcon and Renu). There’s no need to bring large amounts of beauty and hygiene products in your suitcase. Contacts and prescription glasses are cheap and of good quality in Korea.

In general, I’ve been able to buy anything I want in Seoul (except clove cigarettes and good Chinese food). Imported products are available but expensive, as they are everywhere.

Favorite building in Korea

The McDonald’s building in Sinchon! YES you can go to the dentist, gynecologist, and skin doctor all in the same building. And then get yourself a shake.


OK, my critique of the usual thousands-of-dollars tours is that they have no relevance to everyday, contemporary Korean life–and besides, admission to all those palaces and temple is usually only about a dollar anyway. Heck, if you go in through the back gates, there’s no admission fee at all!

If you come to Korea, try to get away from all the palaces, temples, orphanages, and unwed mothers’ homes and see how ordinary Koreans live. Spend some time looking at people in the subway. On your way out from Holt Children’s Services and Travel Agency, grab yourself a bottle of soju at a convenience store, and then take a right across the big intersection and walk down to the Han River to enjoy the walking/biking paths. Check out the newly renovated Cheongyecheon area, which restored some natural life to Seoul. Or explore a neighborhood to see what kinds of housing people live in. You can experience Korean university student nightlife near Hongik University, Ewha University, and Sinchon (close to Yonsei and Sogang). You can see the rich part of Seoul in Gangnam and Apkujeong. And of course, don’t forget to take a trip outside Seoul to enjoy the beautiful countryside.


If you need something more than a tourist visa, consider the F-4. Most adoptees can get an F-4 Visa, which gives overseas Koreans almost all the benefits of citizenship. In my everyday life, what is most important about the visa is that I can live and work here indefinitely. You can apply for it while in Korea (at an immigration office), or you can get it through your area Korean consulate. Warning: in order to get the F-4, you have to renounce your Korean citizenship. Adoptees might still legally have Korean citizenship but not know it.

Settling in

The adoptee-run organization G.O.A.L. can make your stay easier by helping you with any problems, informing you about language scholarships, and introducing you to the other 100-200 of us who have repatriated to Korea.

Many adoptees live in the Hongdae, Ewha, Gangnam, and Sinchon neighborhoods of Seoul.

4 responses to “FAQ

  1. Hi, Miss Trenka,
    I am a student writing a thesis on international adoption. I found the website


    quoting words you put in your essay “why write.”

    I am interested in the essay and I tried the link given on that website, but the essay is not there anymore. I wonder, Miss Trenka, where I can find the essay “why write.” ๐Ÿ™‚
    Thank you for taking your time reading my email.

  2. Hi-

    I just wanted to say how much I love your books, and your blog, and how much they have helped me as an adult adoptee, how strange and scarey and comforting it was to see my thoughts and feelings finally printed out, in black and white.

    I do have another question for you, or anyone on this forum. It is fantastic that Korean adult adoptees can reclaim Korean citizenship, I was wondering if you (or anybody) would know whether adoptees from other countries (specifically Italy) can reclaim citizenship? I just can’t find any info, and it is very difficult to get an appointment with the Italian consulate.

    thanks, for all your beautiful writing, and courage and intelligence

  3. The true zen master apprentice

    Hey there, nice read BUT there is decent Chinese food in Seoul, just go to Daelim, exit 12. Or let me take you there ๐Ÿ™‚

  4. Melinda Warren

    I just watched and was wondering…why do you no longer speak to your adoptive parents? Is your sister with you in Korea? I just found this blog and just ordered your books. You are a true inspiration!

Thank you for visiting my blog. I no longer have time to update this blog regularly, but I appreciate your comments, even though I cannot respond to all of them. All comments (except spam) have been allowed to go through unmoderated since June 16, 2014. Any comments you see prior to that date have been read and approved by me. Thanks again, and wishing you peace and blessings.

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