Adoption is a popular theme in Korean movies and dramas – it shows up all the time.
This year (last season) the big draw was the movie Ski jump, (or Take Off ) which was about a Korean American adoptee who competes in the Olympics ski jump competition under the Korean flag.
Having missed it, I did get to enjoy several adoptees talk about its accuracy in portrayal of the returning/searching adoptee’s experience. They said it managed to show what a tight spot the adoptee is in, trying to balance being sensitive to their adopting families and their first families. They thought it was better than the typical Korean melodramatic portrayal of adoption, but it painted adoption from a distinctly Korean lens to comic effect (from an American’s point of view) such as one dialog where the lead character calls his American parents and instead of asking, “How are you?” He asks, “Have you eaten?” in English…
This year there’s another Adoption movie, Rabbit and Lizard / Maybe, which focuses on a Korean American adoptee who returns to Korea to search for her birthmom and falls in love with a cab driver dying of heart disease. (of course, he’s dying) No reviews yet from the adoptee community whether or not it portrays her anguish and culture shock in a realistic manner or not…I’ll bet language isn’t an issue…
I guess the main criticism of the many many films with adoption in the story is that adoptees come back from their foreign lands a troubled mess, there is little account of their true struggles here in Korea dealing with how Koreans receive them. Most of the adoptees in the films are domestic adoptions, and they are portrayed as pitiful or wildly successful and cold hearted. As a side product I may assemble links to these movies and dramas, but I’ve no time myself to watch them all.
Waking up early the other day I caught one on t.v. An adoptee from America and this woman having an affair with a married man start to have a friendship. Was it before or after he carried her on his back? Of course his broken self attracts her. Of course they have zero problem communicating, and of course his Korean is perfect. Some pretty touching (and melodramatic) scenes of him finding his mother’s mausoleum and then turning to her for, well, you know.
Interestingly, the formulaic elements that seem to be in most romantic Korean movies are all there in every Korean movie with adoptees: the guy carries the girl on his back. (chivalry) someone dies.(tears) there is always a love triangle. (tension) The formula works, but I wish they would allow a little reality to insert itself now and then.
That’s another reason why I’m so looking forward to A Brand New Life thursday. Finally, a dramatization about adoption based on reality. I only wish it would stay in Korea longer so more people could watch it.