Greetings to all our friends and supporters around the world! I hope you’re having a wonderful fall, perhaps with a new job or brand new start in school.
We’d like to briefly share with you what Truth and Reconciliation for the Adoption Community of Korea (TRACK) has been doing since we debuted at the GOAL conference, where we argued for a full understanding of the practice of adoption, both past and present, to preserve the rights of children and families.
We kicked off the fall season with a late-August general meeting in Gangnam. It was our first general meeting, and we are so grateful for the many generous people from the adoption community who contributed their talents and support in many ways. As one of TRACK’s strengths is involving people from outside the adoption community, we also had the treat of meeting Koreans from the democracy and labor movements, Korea’s national truth and reconciliation movement, and friends from the Burmese community who live and work in Korea.
In August, we enjoyed meeting with Korean-Americans and Korean-Canadians through the Korea Exposure & Education Program (KEEP). We also celebrated the publication of the Korean-language edition of Comforting an Orphaned Nation, which was written by TRACK’s Director of Research, Tobias Hübinette, and published through the sponsorship of KoRoot. Tobias’ book has provided the foundation of many of the ideas in TRACK.
In September, we held our first working board meeting, which was attended by TRACK staff, volunteers, and board members who include Koreans in the fields of politics, law, social work, and academia and discussed future plans, which include a shaman ceremony for the next Adoption Day in May. The idea for the shaman ceremony came about from our contact with the American Indian transracial adoptee movement in North America, where the First Nations Orphan Association now holds a “Wiping of Tears” ceremony for people who were adopted away from their families and cultures in order to acknowledge the hurt and also welcome people back to their tribes.
In Korea, the Korean national Truth and Reconciliation Commission, as well as the Comfort Women’s movement, have used shaman ceremonies to lay the souls of those who died under unfavorable circumstances rest. Shaman ceremonies are also associated with the feminine, whereas other ceremonies are associated with the masculine and the Confucian patriarchy.
Rite of spirit consolation, Jeju
In our context as adoptees, we can use the ritual of a shaman ceremony to 1) Change the meaning of Adoption Day by reminding the Korean public that there is something that needs healing. 2) The ritual will give us a direct link to our ancestors, such as our great-grandparents, to whom Koreans can appeal for help during a ritual. 3) The ritual will remind the Korean public and media that all Koreans have the same Korean ancestors, even though in this generation we have been scattered. 4) Last, we give the spirits of the adoptees who have committed suicide a companion to the underworld in the form of Princess Bari.
A legend of feminine strength, Princess Bari, the seventh daughter of a king with no sons, is thrown away and raised apart from her royal heritage. Later, embarks on a journey to locate the water of Life in the land of the dead, in part to save the family she innately cares for, but also so as to find her own identity in a culture that has relegated her to nothing more than an abandoned child.
Continuing with the schedule: In October, we participated in the National Assembly’s national audit with lawmaker Choi Young-hee. The audit is an opportunity for lawmakers to fact-find and challenge the government and the ministers. We presented a number of issues via Choi Young-hee for the National Assembly audit, including the work that we did in the first half of the year with the Korean national Anti-Corruption Office and Civil Rights Commission.
We had presented six cases of mishandling of adoptions and Korean family searches to the Anti-Corruption Office and Civil Rights Commission earlier in the year. Our tangible achievement in this project was that we were able to turn what the adoption agencies said from hearsay (i.e., “I heard that …” “The agency told me that ..”) into an official document with a government stamp on it. Using this document, Korean media reported that one agency admitted to having sent two children for adoption without their mothers’ consent, and that another two children’s parents claimed that she had not given permission for their children to be sent abroad for adoption.
In November and beyond, we are continuing to work with the Gonggam human rights lawyers as our legal representatives to design a package strategy of research, a media campaign, and legislation to address problems past and present in adoption. Our proposals for legislation will come from the white paper that we will write based on our research.
We will be asking for your participation if you have had experiences with your adoption agency that are not right. For instance, did you ask your agency for information, and they told you that there was “nothing” but were later able to find records? Did the information that they gave you about your case change time and time again? Do the contents of your Korean-language records and the records from your adoptive country match? Or is there a lot of “mistranslation”? If you have been reunited, does the story that your birthparents tell you match the story that your adoptive parents were told about the reason why you were relinquished?
In our work to provide adoptees with an opportunity to reconnect and dialogue with Korean society, as well as research and document the history of adoption, Citizen’s Info & Media Center, a Korean environmental NGO located in Chungjeongro, has been and continues to be our fiscal sponsor in Korea. However, it’s better for us to get our own official non-profit status from the city of Seoul. We just need 100 official members to apply for non-profit status.
Yoo Jongsoon, Shin Soongbong, Oh Kichul, Lee Yewon, Kim Byung-ha, have helped us immeasurably in bridging the gap between the adoptees and Korean society, and Cho Sung-joon has given us so much help in connecting with the Korean American community. All are welcome in TRACK!
Anyone is welcome to join — you don’t have to be part of the “adoption triad,” and you don’t have to live in Korea.
Please send a message to Han Boon-young, Ross Oke, Tobias Hübinette or Jane Jeong Trenka, anytime if you’d like to become a member or if you just want to know more.
Let’s work together to create a world where the adoption community and Korean society have a mutual understanding and compassion that allows them to heal to create a bright collective future.
With all warmest wishes to you,