how do you say, “be grateful” in Korean?


Don’t tell me:  I don’t want to know.  Because odds are, some taxi driver or other stranger has told me that, and it’s bad enough I have to feel their negative emotions, much less know what they are saying to me.

After reading my fellow KAD’s recent post about being “…fucking angry at Korea,” I have to say that I don’t need to be reunited with my family or hear another KAD botch a suicide attempt to know all about Korea wanting us to be grateful for…FOR WHAT?  And yeah, it makes me angry.  And solemn.

This is probably one of the biggest reasons I’m wary of finding my family, and kind of glad I haven’t.  I have zero aspersions as to what a pandora’s box of unpredictable and complicated new and horrible pain it could bring up.  I have zero interest in adding new obligations of strangers to my life after having been forced as an adoptee to be dependent on strangers in a strange land.  I don’t know what is worse:  to be trapped and be too young to process and express your experience, or to be a free adult and too cognizant of every thing horribly not right.  It definitely sounds like assimilation failure hell.  And abandonment in your face hell.  And decades of living the wrong life and a future of living yet another wrong life hell.  And then to have both and have not one but two continents telling me I should be grateful…

And yet I press on, casting my net.  I recently paid someone to translate a letter to Korean American t.v. and radio stations, and have begun looking for my family back in America, on the slim chance they might have emigrated.  When I can remember to get to it, as I have to many projects going, I am going to start contacting all the Korean communities in North America and Australia.  That was last week.  Not a word back in response.  So much work ahead of me.

Why?  Why do I do this when I am so atypically NOT excited to search for more family?

Because I guess I have narcissist envy.

I want to see a god-damned reflection of myself.  Just once.

I missed Gayageum class today.  I had been up to the wee hours of the morning yet again, chasing my tail on the internet on some unresolved thing I wanted to write about and slept in too late, but was actually happy to not make the commute.  The previous week I had been so happy for an excuse to leave my sleeping guests, and when they expressed that it was too bad I couldn’t have stayed and slept in I told them that I hate being around sleeping people.  Because my sleep is never restful and I always wake up early and it’s hell being awake while others are blissfully dreaming.  It’s frustrating tip-toeing around them and lonelier than if it was just the empty space of four walls.  To be immobilized and gagged is the worst.

People think adoptees who are activists or writers or repatriating, etc. are defective.  They label us as angry, because they want to discount any criticisms we have.  I’m not fighting the angry label anymore:  God damn right I’m angry.

But I’m not defective.  I’m awake.

I’m awake among sleeping people.

Worse yet, I’m awake among people playing possom.  In America.  In Korea.  Only here, I am like a zombie, unable to speak, unable to express myself, unable to do as I please.  The adoption solution was supposed to be final.  We weren’t supposed to return from the dead.  We weren’t supposed to disturb the empty tomb.  We weren’t supposed to question our deaths.

My adoptee friends often say they wish they were still in the fog;  that they wish they weren’t aware of these issues, that life was easier before knowledge.  But if you can’t name your pain, then there’s no way to cope with it and you end up doing anything ANYTHING to stop it.  And you add to the statistics that KADs kill themselves at a rate 5 times higher than the non-adoptee population.

It’s a fucked up position to be in.  A real dilemma.  With no known solution.  Because we are the first to have to sort this shit out.

I just wish the whole world would realize that adoption is existential.  It fucks with everything important.  It annihilates identity that is essential to live.   Just ask all our dead KAD brothers and sisters.   Just ask all the KADs on meds or labeled with one wrong disorder or another.  You know there’s nothing wrong with any of us.  The only thing wrong with us is our basic human rights were denied and then suppressed.

And it just. never. ends.

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6 thoughts on “how do you say, “be grateful” in Korean?

  1. The issue with international adoption is very complex and my own position is leaning more towards TRACK but I see that there are opposite viewpoint. Check this blog: http://markim-kimark.blogspot.com/2009_10_01_archive.html This particular adoptee is grateful. The more I think of this issue, the more I come to the conclusion that adoption/abandonment will never end because selfishness is a human trait. The current system is a system of selfishness not gratitude because the system was not built by adoptees. I am beginning to think the phrase “act of love” or “to give you a better life” are phrases more to mask selfishness on both sides instead of acting on the best interest of the child because no one ask the child. At the same time will any amount of social welfare stop abandonment? I think not so the solution is very complex. Maybe you can expand on this.

  2. Good points.

    You know, though, I’ve never met an adoptee who said they were grateful who didn’t concurrently hand me adoptee rhetoric, such as they were saved from a terrible life. These things are unknowns. They were most certainly removed from a difficult life. And most were sent to a very comfortable life. But I would also call them liars if they can say the very act of being transported to a radically different world with total strangers didn’t have some very deep negative effects. Effects so deep they can’t even reach it themselves enough to talk about it.

    And as long as one international adoption is allowed, then a vacuum will remain in place. And Korea and all the other child exploited countries won’t ever have to address their domestic issues. Adoption is a win win solution for international adoptive agencies and the governments of those sending countries. But it’s a loss for their societies and a huge scar for each child, even if they end up with a decent outcome.

    The other thing I feel is often confused is being thankful and being made to feel grateful. I can be thankful for someone’s good intentions and not being hungry, etc., but to be pressured by society (and too often the parents themselves do this without even knowing it) to be grateful is grossly limiting. Being put in our place in this way is something biological children rarely experience.

    One thing that’s amazing coming to Korea is the children here are NOT MEEK. They are loud, expressive, sometimes obnoxious. They are uninhibited. Nobody is telling them to be grateful. When everyone is Asian, nobody is forcing them into an Asian ideal. And the Asian ideal of Asian ideal is radically different than the western idea of Asian. I envy those kids that. I was reigned in at every opportunity until I quickly figured out how to regulate myself. I went from jolly and outgoing to reserved very quickly.

    Truth be told, I am not well educated on social welfare in other countries. But many Scandinavian and European countries have such superior services that abandonment is practically unheard of.

    In the United States we still have abandonment. This has just resurfaced in a few states after an almost total elimination, but it’s still illegal in most states. And the thing that regulates that is society. Americans are so critical of parents who abandon their children, that it is socially prohibitive to do so even if it is legal, so cases such as these are very rare. In addition, America and Australia both have histories of unwed mother’s homes and a lot of coersion to give up children for adoption occurred there and in hospitals. It was called the “baby scoop era.” And it was later deemed unethical and such practices were codified and shut down.

    In Australia there was a Truth and Reconciliation Commission held on the violation of civil rights in the taking of aboriginal children for assimilation programs. The government has since apologized for this horrific form of ethnic cleansing to the survivors of this trauma. Just this past month it was announced that one province in Australia will be giving a formal apology to unwed mothers who lost their children due to coercive practices during the baby scoop era.

    Korea is similar in values and practices of America during the 50’s’ and 60’s during the baby scoop era. Korea is IN its baby scoop era right now. Hopefully near the end of its baby scoop era. Values do change and laws do change, and not necessarily in that order. Just the past week it was announced that domestic private adoptions must require a court order due to some really heinous displays of children used as commodities. People here are beginning to see that children need more protections written into law, and that family clan infrastructure is not adequate. As Korean society is beginning to dispense with many family obligations and burdens and re-evaluating what family is, hopefully the stigmas of shame, etc. will lessen as well. Things are loosening up.

    It is also the era of the child. Baby-making promotion is everywhere. Children are spoiled rotten. The children are fawned over and fretted over. All energies from parents go towards their children. The era of spare the rod and spoil the child is ending here as well. And, I believe more attention is being paid to child psychology and the child’s perspective and happiness.

    In addition, the children in Korean orphanages are there because they are older due to bad family circumstances or special needs. Improved social services would greatly reduce the orphanage population. International adoption does little to improve their lot, because most adopting people want infants.

    A lot of adoptees want to find some way to mitigate their own unease about adoption, and visiting orphanages and talking about adopting does that. Hell. I used to do that. I tend to think that a lot of adoptees are not looking past their own nose. Otherwise, they would see the difference between support for unwed moms and the children occupying the orphanages.

  3. “And the Asian ideal of Asian ideal is radically different than the western idea of Asian ” So true. I found this to be very disturbing when I immigrated here. I can even expand on this. Many westerners think that Asians are intelligent but uncreative and I thinking to myself, how is that 1/2 the current inventions have its origin in the Far East. We used paper, gunpowder, the compass etc hundreds of year before the western world. We are very creative and intelligent people, just look at the student body at MIT. I am going to stop here before I a break my computer.
    “In addition, the children in Korean orphanages are there because they are older due to bad family circumstances or special needs. Improved social services would greatly reduce the orphanage population. International adoption does little to improve their lot, because most adopting people want infants.” Exactly my point on selfishness. I think adoptive parents use noble phrases as an excuse to fill a void in their lives. Otherwise many of these older children would have been adopted as well. Seldom do people act out of true altruism toward some strangers.
    You know your idea of adoptees descending on the National Assembly may hold some potential. I wonder what they will do if some 25,000 adoptees all show up at once on the steps of the National Assembly with foreign medias? Can this be somehow organized?

  4. No. Because most of the Korean Adoptee Diaspora is in shell shock and putting all their energy into daily coping in countries they still feel alien in or spitting out their parents adoptive rhetoric. Plus, it costs money to come to Korea. For many it only happens once or twice in a lifetime, and then it’s only a superficial homeland tour.

    This idea has been bandied about before – with great, great, passion. But most adoptees are, naturally and understandably, NOT activists. Because reacting or being an upstart disrupts a long hard-fought peaceful (socially) existence. And adoptees also fear rejection to a greater degree than the general population and are less likely to position themselves where they can risk that in their families and communities.

    You know, that is one of the exquisitely sick things about international adoption: it disperses and isolates. And for those populations like Minnesota or Sweden, they have a higher measure of community monitoring and rejection to deal with, so speaking up there means both higher external and internal censorship.

    It also takes organization and money, and the major organizations with the largest adoptee base (because they can afford staff and services) has adoption industry money supporting them AND being on their board of directors. So they can’t bite the hand that feeds them and can’t be turned to for mobilization.

    Non-profit organizations, in my opinion, are just like big business, only their books are cooked in such a way that nothing is called a “profit” but given a new name or allocated to a project which magically eats money. Charity is so often merely a front for preserving selfishness. And charity is great because you don’t have to pay taxes. But charities still manage to play dirty politics, and the money which might be called profit in a for-profit instead gets funneled into dirty politics.

    The adoption industry calls itself a charity but runs like a shady business. A really smart shady business: that divides and conquers, infiltrates the opposition, adjusts swiftly to criticisms, has lawyers to make sure they use the most ambiguous language, and diversifies its operations. They are geniuses really, these international adoption agencies.

    Here’s a a workshop offered by Holt from a seminar schedule for the adoption industry from 2008

    http://www.jcics.org/AC2008_Schedule.htm#5A:%20Is%20Adoption%20PC

    5A: Is Adoption PC? Anti-Intercountry Adoption Trends in the Media,
    Cyberspace and the Adoption Community
    Susan Cox, Holt International Children’s Services, Inc., and Kathy
    Sacco, Family and Children’s Agency
    Friday, April 11, 2008 (11:15 am – 12:30 pm)

    Historically, adoption has been portrayed as a way of protecting and
    saving children from inadequate environments. Recently, there has
    been unprecedented criticism of intercountry adoption as an ethical
    practice. These criticisms have manifested themselves in the form of
    anti-adoption groups, websites, blogs, scholarly critiques and media
    representations. This presentation will provide an overview of
    anti-intercountry adoption trends and explore their substance and
    methods of dissemination. The presentation will include the emergence
    of the adult adoptee community and their impact on intercountry
    adoption. Finally, it will offer participants recommendations for
    responding to these message in the areas of public relations, policy
    and practice.

    They watch everything we do. They even had an intranet website called “Rapid Information Process” devoted to tracking the opposition which stopped being active in 2009. (probably due to better technology)

    So we are stuck awake while others sleep. What will it take to wake adoptees up? How do we reach them all over the globe? And how do we convince them that what happens in Korea has something to do with what happened to them? And that it can change for the better? It’s like broadcasting a television public service announcement to the Amish. They won’t hear it because they’re not plugged in, and even if they were plugged in, the adoption industry and the power industry are best buddies.

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