it’s half me


It’s final mid-terms week (I say that because that’s what they call it –there’s a mid-term between school start and actual mid-terms, and then it repeats again next semester) and we work only half days.  Which comes at an awful time because I go home to my four walls and work in literal isolation, though it’s good for TRACK as I put in about 8 hours yesterday.

Between photo processing and blogging I bounce from napping to changing channels to eating too much fruit and drinking too much coffee.  And then I accidentally hit the channel where all the young beautiful foreign students are jabbering away in Korean, giving Koreans even more ammunition to belittle all of us who aren’t subsidized by mommy or their governments, who can’t pick up even basic survival words.  And my entire body is racked with the tension of a suppressed small scream and I flip back to On Style channel. (My incest therapist told me to pay attention to my body and every time I was tense.  Do you have any idea what a knot my body is here in Korea???)

Of course, there is plenty of time in this period to be cracking open the books.  But they sit there, mocking me.

It’s fatigue.  It’s walking a thousand miles to face a mountain, after having spent over four score climbing mountains. To be zapped daily with rejection to find yourself back again alone surrounded by four walls.

Who do I do this for?  My mom?  For all my (cough) Korean friends?  (they only want to speak English to me, even my one Korean friend)  Is overcoming this even worth it if all I get is this dull tool in this impenetrable culture?

It’s despair over being faced with your stolen birthright.  To fail at communicating with everyone around you reminds you how you’ve always had to walk a separate path from everyone else since the day you turned around in the market and everything you loved and knew was gone.  It’s beyond the insecurity of saying something wrong or being shy.  It’s beyond words.

Who do I do this for?  For me???

This language is the language of abandonment.  Our minds tell us we should reclaim it.  But our hearts tell us that it’s a pointless exercise, a reliving the nightmare of crying in Korean and nobody being there to answer. With every word misunderstood is an invisible beating with a blackjack.  With every word gained is a faint echo from deep inside telling Korea to go to hell.  Each. and. every. Korean. word. creates a storm of conflict in us adoptees.  What will communicating here really do for me? Except maybe have a more exquisite understanding of pain.

This hungry ghost has tape across its mouth.

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13 thoughts on “it’s half me

  1. Just curious, what was the content of the bill presented in the national assembly? Why have there been no lawsuit against Holt or other adoption agencies for withholding informations or flat out lies and fraud?

  2. I have to dig up the bill for you and add it this weekend, okay? It’s really lengthy – Jane gave a synopsis to someone the other day, I’ll have to find it…

    In answer to your second question, in Korea there is a statute of limitations for prosecuting such things, the “child” has practically zero rights, and Holt employees (and probably other adoption agencies as well) have to sign a non-disclosure agreement. Libel is a huge deal in Korea. Anything doing any damage to anyone’s reputation is a huge deal — even if it’s the truth, and there are precedents where people have lost only telling the truth about someone who’s done something proven criminal. So that, along with political influence (cough) makes Holt Korea untouchable.

    Of course there are two Holts: Holt Korea and Holt International. Holt International operates within the law, and gee, do you think that them being the first international adoption agency in the U.S. has anything to do with U.S. international adoption law being written in their favor? Never mind that the U. S. follows the Hague Convention and Korea doesn’t – it’s still okay for Holt to procure children from non-complying countries because that’s an internal thing with their “partner” — Holt Korea, and not them. Citizens can sue Holt International, but adoptee citizens can’t get the documentation to prove anything because gee, guess what? They’re at Holt Korea…who controls all the documents. And the Korean government has NO ACCESS to them.

    Being thus bifurcated allows each one to: blame the other when things go wrong, be ignorant when asked about where the money goes, and skirt international convention set up to protect children.

    I know this sounds like something from a movie, but the horror of it all is it’s how international adoption operates. Whether it’s intentional or not, who can say. In the past there was serious corruption at Holt Korea (their president was fired for this and he later became a high-ranking official in the Korean government) and there was intentional malfeasance and possibly child trafficking as a result, but now who knows? Probably not intentional – except for this messy past and us pesky adoptees always questioning the ethics of Holt’s relationships with hospitals to obtain womb-wet babies so they can provide babies the same age as the mandatory time frame babies must stay in Korea, and other such relationships, but as for the financial malfeasance (oh wait, juggling funds marked for adoptee services and spending it on promoting domestic adoption because if the domestic adoption numbers goes up then the international adoption quota goes up and that means more money sounds pretty intentional…but I digress) – this is Asia – you don’t think those relationships and systems just go away over night, do you? Easy to set up nearly impossible to destroy.

    The Korean Anti- Corruption Commission studies the international adoption agencies with an annual audit and there are things that don’t add up. But until there is hard evidence, everyone’s hands are tied.

    And you know who is to blame for a lot of this? The monied potential adoptive parents lobbying the U.S. Congress, that’s who. They care so much about getting a child, but they don’t care that children’s rights and identities are not fully protected to get them. And in S. Korea, money talks, whether it’s from a lobbyist influencing a congressman influencing the state department, or the brother of uncle Kim who used to know the president of xyz who has a stake in keeping Holt going, or the OB physician or nurse giving relinquishment papers to women still recovering from childbirth or, with some of the other international agencies, prior to childbirth.

    There’s lots of blame to go around and no one is accountable. But for me, the biggest blame goes to Holt International. They know what their screw up “partners” are doing and they look the other way. That’s just criminal neglect. They have the power to make things right and they just don’t. There’s a nice warm place for them in the after-life.

  3. If you cannot sue Holt International how about exposing them publicly like tv or the newspaper. Change the law so that the women giving up her child for adoption have ample time to think and not be influence by external forces. Give real help to unwed mom so she can raise her child. It seem to me there is help but placing the person in Jeju is just lip service and Korea’s way of hiding shame.

  4. Ha ha! That’s EXACTLY what the law revision is all about my friend!

    I’ll post the particulars after I get them from Jane…

  5. It’s very difficult, because they do not have access to their original birth certificates, are given amended (fake) birth certificates like us, and are barred from identifying information about their biological parents. However, they actually had birth certificates (Korea and many countries do/did not) and their identities are legally protected – even though most states do not allow access to them once they have been adopted, even as adults, which is being fought against as a civil rights issue and also a medical issue. To this day in Korea you can be legally swapped at birth with no documentation…

    Finding family is very hard in any country when you don’t know your original name and history (and adoption agencies) obscure things. Fortunately, there are a lot of people search resources, genealogy listings, private investigators and now social networking. There are also registries where family seeking each other can post, as well as forums.

    A few of these resources exist in Korea, but they are NOT TRANSLATED, maintained or cross-referenced and the language and culture barrier is HUGE making independent search for all intensive purposes impossible. We Koreans have state-subsidized but badly managed post-adoption search services that the adoption agencies must by law provide — but we can see how badly managed they are and there is a huge conflict of interest – and it is subject to triage due to the poor allocation of resources – and the adoptees are subjected to adoption agency policies in the absence of regulation here. And social networking is out of the question when you are illiterate…

    Then there are the search and reunion t.v. shows which exploit adoptees on both sides of the ocean. The ones in Korea are often the only thing that works.

    U.S. adoptees are our allies/comrades in this but most of them agree that international adoptees are heartbreakingly handicapped by time, distance, language and culture in ways they can never be. Just to consider such a search can consume a life’s savings, for instance. Many of us have only one shot.

    My case with Kim Sook Ja is unusual in that it goes back to the U.S. So now I am in the same position as a Korean biological parent searching for their child…and also facing the near hopeless scenario of the passive registry system — where you get put in a file and wait until the other person actively searches. Now ask me if I trust that my request for contact would actually be delivered some far-off decade from now when Kim Sook Ja actively seeks her biological family, if ever. Like Holt is going to want to contribute to yet one more adoptee discovering they have every reason to be pissed at them! Because these things are not handled by a third party they can control everything and why would they do anything to hurt their image?

    And you know most of those reunion stories? The other party isn’t actively seeking. They’re trying to live their lives and dealing with their losses in private. But then someone finds them and they are on their way to some kind of resolution.

    I wish I had saved it, but somewhere I read about the history of confidentiality laws and it eloquently described how they were not put in place to protect the biological parent, even though that is how they are purportedly used today. They were put in place so the child would not have to suffer the social stigma of being found out to be adopted and were not meant to be a secret from the child.

    Anyway, here is some background from the U of Oregon’s excellent, excellent Adoption history website:
    http://www.uoregon.edu/~adoption/topics/confidentiality.htm

    Here is the adoption law revision text you asked about earlier: http://justicespeaking.files.wordpress.com/2010/01/decpublichearing.pdf

    Jane’s synopsis given at the last screening of “Resilience”

    First, make the adoption special law be available not only for the primary protection necessary children, but also for all the children age under 18 years old. (Extension of category)

    Second, make the overseas and domestic adoption permitted by the court. (Permission system)

    Third, impose the one-month careful deliberation of the nurture and provide a chance to make a better decision to birth mothers. (30 days deliberation)

    Fourth, establish the Central Adoption Supervisory Service and strengthen the government’s supervising function about the adoption. (Watchdog role)

    Fifth, strengthen the post adoption service by making it easier to have the information of their birth to the adoptees.(The right of Adoptees to know their birth information)

    If we amend the adoption special law, there will be a way to ratify the Hague Convention, which is an international standard of the international child adoption. And there will be a possibility of cancellation of reservation article 21 of the UNCRC. By these actions, we Korea can truly be part of the ‘advanced country’ about children’s and families’ welfare.

  6. WE DON’T KNOW. There are 800 bills before the legislature right now. Hopefully ours will float to the top because Korea will be in the spotlight again with G-20 coming up and compliance with the Hague Convention and the UN Right of the Child should be more important to them.

    I think many things will pass simply because of Korea’s declining birthrate and aging population. But the status quo (cough) has their tinterhooks into the government on some basic issues surrounding protecting the adoption industry vs. children’s rights, so we’ll see.

  7. It seem to me at times in the u.s. as well as Korea dogs for more rights than children. This has to change. Hope all the revisions pass.

  8. Yes and thanks!

    Of course you may have heard that children in the states were first protected from abuse under animal protection laws, because animals couldn’t be abused but parents could do whatever the hell they wanted to their children…come so far, so much further to go.

    Jane’s worked on those revisions for two years. I can’t imagine that kind of dedication…I wish I could focus my anger half as positively…

  9. If it’s any consolation for you: at some point during your struggles with your “new” language (assuming you continue to struggle and not just give up), the synapses in your brain WILL finally manage to re-wire themselves — and you will experience a sudden leap in cognition and/or speaking ability. I promise you this. And the process will continue to repeat — each time become progressively less and less difficult — until you become merely a troublesome foreigner who can speak and understand korean passably well.

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