- Family and Parenting»
The Culture of the Korean-American Adoptee
I notice them first when I see them with their families in restaurants. They stick out to me impossibly when I watch a flick or documentary. While they may not think about it much themselves, when they see me, they think the same thing:
"Another Korean-American adoptee!"
Okay, I might not think about it in those terms, but there's a certain kinship that I feel with other KAAs. I don't even have to know them to feel a connection to them because I know that we've experienced a lot of the same things just because we are Korean and adopted in the United States.
When I was a child, my mother used to seek out other families with adopted Korean kids, and she would take us to events that celebrated Asian cultures and traditions. I didn't think much of it at the time, and neither did my brother, who is also adopted. I think having him around helped me think less about it because I always had someone like me there.
Anytime I find myself in the presence of other Koreans - REAL Koreans who are familiar with the culture and language - I feel terribly out of place and a little fake. I have never believed in taking advantage of affirmative action because I feel that I haven't struggled with racial issues enough to warrant the benefits.
A few weeks ago, I participated in a anti-recall campaign and found myself in the presence of a group of Korean volunteers, who immediately noticed that I am Korean and proceeded to speak to me in the language. Of course I could only respond in English and admit that I couldn't speak Korean. However, the leader of the volunteer group really took the time to talk to me and ask me about my background. When he learned that I am adopted, he referred me to a group called AKA, or Association of Korean Adoptees. As soon as I clicked on the homepage for this organization, I immediately felt at home with the words describing the mission: "The Association of Korean Adoptees of San Francisco (AKASF) is a nonprofit organization supporting the needs of adult Korean adoptees in the SF Bay Area through community outreach, cultural enrichment and social gatherings."
"Every Korean adoptee has a unique adoption story. AKASF members pledge to respect other members' experiences. Adoption experiences are owned by the adoptee, and only he or she may share that story with others.
The group listserv is a dynamic forum for members to explore the various issues surrounding international adoption through discussion and debate. While AKASF does not endorse any of the posts as positions supported or held by the association, it does recognize that every member has the right to post to the listserv. Members post to the listserv understanding that their messages will be read only by AKASF members. AKASF requests that all members honor this confidentiality."
While I enjoy telling my story to others, it would be nice to be with more people with whom I could just "click." There was a girl in my fraternity in college who was also a KAA, and while our stories were a little different, there were enough similarities for me to feel like we were a little like sisters. I also attend social events through my adoption agency, where there are often many other adoptees with whom I can bond and relate.
I understand now that this is a feeling most people have with people of their race; I see African-American people at my work bond almost automatically, while I cannot achieve this relationship with my Korean-American co-worker... He's not adopted. All of the classes that I've taken on race and ethnicity and multiculturalism has helped me to the place I am now.
I want this feeling more often, and as I'm beginning to discover this more and more, I felt the need to write this and explain it not just to myself, but to others.
Korean Adoptee Thinks She's White
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