Recently I reflected that X and myself really aren’t so far apart on our views. I have come to believe that “justice” is both hard to define and probably a fool’s pursuit. We can’t change what has already been done and must learn to live comfortably with it. We can work to improve the future for those that follow us, but it can’t undo our abandonment or heal us. We must come to terms with our history, our lack of history, and all the trauma that formed us. But I wouldn’t be so cruel as to say as he does, “Quit yer whining.” Cryng is part of the healing process, and maybe that’s why he can’t heal.
Well, a few days ago X showed up on facebook adoptee groups putting his opinion out there again, not really discussing, again., and giving the same old story – that not only were mixed-race adoptees saved, but that racism is still a problem and stigmatizing is still a problem and that Koreans don’t want to adopt these problem children so international adoption is still necessary.
I didn’t have time to respond at the moment and now can’t find his comment because THERE ARE TOO MANY FREAKING ADOPTEE GROUPS ON FACEBOOK to keep up with. So, I will respond here.
We should ask ourselves first, “Is there, in fact, such a problem,? then if yes, “Is the problem nearly so large as to warrant evacuation measures?” and, more important still, “Why is this still a problem?”
In today’s Korean society, couples put off having family for career ambitions, couples divorce prior to conceiving, some travel abroad and marry foreigners, some marry visiting foreigners, and some who don’t have the status or skills to woo an eligible Korean woman import brides from other countries. Korean ethnicity is no longer homogeneous. The orphanages are not filled with half-breed children, they are filled with children who have dysfunctional parents or orphans whose extended family can’t care for them or children in respite care whose guardians are having a temporary rough time. Then there are the Holt orphanages filled with special needs children. The children sent abroad for adoption are infants, sent away to hide a family’s shame and jettison the weight which will prevent a woman from succeeding because she has no other options without family support. We also see personalities in the media rising in popularity who are mixed race. They are not feared nor reviled, they are thought of as beautiful and exotic. We know those raised in Korea did not have an easy time growing up here, but because of them society is becoming more tolerant. What if they, too, were sent away? There would not be this progress being made, that’s what.
X believes that Korea is an ignorant society that can’t change, and so intervention by the West is necessary to “save” its lesser citizens. This is in stark contrast to what I’ve experienced living here. I’ve never witnessed a place and people that changes so rapidly in my entire life. Change IS possible, and it IS happening at lightening fast speed. It just seems slow to impatient adoptees because we want to see change in our lifetime, or even more unreasonably, in the small time we are involved with Korea. The reason X can’t see this is because he’s old. He makes his living from the older, wealthier, most self-serving, conservative Koreans who have a lot at stake if society becomes more liberal. He is out of touch with youth culture. He also is holding onto the canonization of his savior Harry Holt because the entire identity he’s created for himself pivots around being saved. Now, as a war baby he has the right to love and admire Holt – but what happened to him didn’t happen to most of us – and I’m not going to argue that as a war baby he wasn’t saved – he was – but that isn’t the case anymore.
International adoption does not save anyone from Korea. What it does do is provide the means for racial cleansing. What it does do is allow for the disposal of less than perfect progeny. What it does do is allow families to not answer for shame that maybe they deserve to bear responsibility for. What it does do is provide a really painful means to regulate women who do not follow the prescribed moralities set up by the patriarchy which subjugate them . What it does do is give the government a free pass to ignore their social responsibilities. International adoption maintains and nurtures the very ills it means to save children from. It is the catalyst for relinquishment. It is the grease that oils the perpetual machine, this vacuum. And what we are seeing in Korea is what will happen in the rest of the source countries of the world unless we put some brakes on the madness and find ways to show people that every color is beautiful, all children are perfect in God’s eyes, and that our wayward daughters are still our daughters and our grandchildren are still our grandchildren.
4 thoughts on “please stop – your saving is killing us”
This is such a good post because it tackles head on what the specific problems are. In one corner of the world. These may not be the problems operating in int’l adoption in China or India or Ethiopia or Russia (each has its own IA challenges associated with its own culture and history) but this is enough for someone wondering what to do and thinking about adoption in this ONE place. Certainly, it ought to give any PAP serious pause.
I don’t think people can grasp the world of international adoption by putting all of it down as corrupt. Because while it may be mostly corrupt, people will be mostly moved by understanding the factors operating in the place where they expect their child to come from. (Yes, that sounds like consumerism–I’m just presenting the mindset.) This has just come home to me recently, that it’s all really personal. Grab a person who is on one pipeline and describe for them how that pipeline *got to be* and the incredible injustices that created it and you have their attention. Paint the whole process as awful and they just tune out, though I imagine 80% of programs deserve their embarrassing time under the microscope.
Thanks again for your measured and wise words. I always love reading what you have to say.
Thank you, Jess.
While I agree that the problem of the lives of mixed-race children being in jeopardy may (have been) be only a Korean scenario, the problem of international adoption creating a false solution and /or a temporary solution becoming institutionalized until it is the defacto solution is a valid worry regarding programs in most of the other source countries of the world.
The forces of the entitled will always create a vacuum towards the consumer, at the expense of the source country’s development into a self-sustaining and civilized society. The strength of this vacuum depresses real efforts at local solutions. The very presence of the adoption option helps create orphans…
For the consumers, most of the time adoption works, but at what cost? So many costs are never factored in, and easily dismissed.
But I totally agree with you that crying that international adoption is corrupt only stops the conversation. I also think that most programs are done with the best of intentions. The problem, which always seems to arise, is when the ends starts to justify the means and a few pesky ethics are ignored. It’s a slippery slope for good intentions, and ripe for exploitation.
I just wish people could look past their own stories and needs long enough to really consider the ramifications of and how complicated and messy international adoption is. I wish adoptees and adoptive parents and the whole world would think about how adoption is born of tragedy, and that the goal should be that adoption is no longer necessary, not to increasing it or bemoaning its reduction.
International adoption should never be more than truly temporary aid and should never be a replacement for a country’s social services, nor should it contribute to a country violating the human rights of its own citizens. Whenever implemented, it should be done so with an eye to become obsolete as the real needs and source causes are addressed.
The international adoption agencies in Korea need to stop inventing work and get the hell out so we can make a better society.
Gah! I had a long response to you and it got eaten up by a sudden bad internet connection–my cat pouncing on the wireless. (I know you’ll sympathize.) Excellent comment, more later.
Perfectly put, as you often have. Always comes in handy when I am trying to explain how I feel about these things to various people.
I regularly have conversations with friends that will start out with something like “so and so is thinking about adopting from (some foreign country). Could you give them some advice?”
“Just tell them I said they shouldn’t. In the least, they should thoroughly study the subject. Not just listen to the agencies and other adoptive parents.”
“But what you did was such a wonderful thing!”
“It was for ME, but it wasn’t the best choice for my children.”
“But where would they be if you hadn’t adopted them?”
“They would still be here, but with another family. But they should have stayed in Korea.”
And on it goes. Eventually, I get them to read stuff like yours and if they actually care, they begin to understand.
So yeah, it’s good that you write about it.