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076 – What Would My Life Be Like In Korea?
Episode 767th August 2021 • Who Am I Really? • Damon L. Davis
00:00:00 00:35:42

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Kim is a Korean born adoptee raised in an all-white community. She shared how she always pushed down her desire to search for her birth mother until the recent political climate brought out the true colors of her adoptive mother. I’ve heard stories of Asian adoptees having trouble making connections overseas, but Kim’s connection was quick and easy. But building a relationship through a translator, secrecy, and secondary rejection have left Kim with a broken heart.

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Kim:                            00:06               And we look very, very much like really? That was very emotional for me because growing up in a place where there weren’t a lot of other Asian people, I had no idea what I was going to look like when I grew up and now to see some existing in the world, he looks nearly exactly like me is wild.

Voices:                        00:35               Who am I? Am I am I? Who am I? Who am I? Who am I?

New Speaker:              00:47               This is who am I really a podcast about adoptees that have located and connected with their biological family members. I’m Damon Davis, and on today’s show is Kim. She called me from right here in silver spring, Maryland. Kim is a Korean born adoptee, raised in an all white community. She shared how she always pushed down her desire to search for her birth mother until the recent political climate brought out the true colors of her adoptive mother. I’ve heard stories of Asian adoptees having trouble making connections overseas, but Kim’s connection was quick and easy. But building a relationship through a translator, secrecy and secondary rejection have left Kim with a broken heart. This is Kim’s journey.

Damon:                       01:36               Kim was adopted from South Korea when she was five months old.

Kim:                            01:40               I came on a plane to New York City with a military personnel who is carrying me. And so that day, um, my family celebrates as an airplane day I think and that I commentator his Gotcha day and so really celebrate that as like when I joined the family are like our family became complete.

Damon:                       02:07               Kim grew up in Toms River, New Jersey with her brother, nonbiological also adopted from South Korea. Kim is from Incheon and was adopted through Spence Chapin based in New York. Her brother was born in Seoul and he was adopted through Holt International. Kim said there were very few other Asian people in New Jersey and even fewer adoptees that she knew of.

Kim:                            02:30               My adoptive parents did put a lot of effort into trying to educate me, I guess about being adopted and they did make an effort to try and connect me with other adoptees through support groups or agencies sponsored camp. It will say like, I am grateful that I was adopted through Sepnce Chapin because they do have a great, a close adoption services department through their agency, some of the people that I’ve worked with that are adoptees themselves, so that is a great, uh, resource, the barrier for me to access information, especially regarding my birth family and like my files Spence Chapin made a very easy and talking to my brother apparently when he tried to find out information about his birth family, it was a less straightforward.

Damon:                       03:31               Yeah, I’ve, I am not an international adoptee, but in the little experience that I’ve had in speaking with international adoptees, it’s been my understanding that the process can be incredibly challenging to try to search anyway just because, you know, there was this churning market for, you know, the, forgive my words, the removal of babies, the placement of babies and I’m just, there was no need for any kind of documentation. We were moving these babies along and it wasn’t seen as an a time to, in any way retain somebody’s identity. You know, there was really just a market for moving children into their next family. So That’s interesting that they made your records so openly available. And that’s cool.

Kim:                            04:21               Yeah. So, you know, it kind of gave me some I comfort in that I feel like my birth mother perhaps wasn’t afraid to find me or like search for me later in life because she did leave her real name and she did provide my actual birthday, which had a lot of adoptees don’t have birthdays. They have to be there, the date that they were released from the orphanage or foster care but don’t really have an idea of when they were born. And like you were saying, you know, there was such a market and people forget that adoption is a business.

Damon:                       05:08               It can be very expensive to adopt internationally. And Kim commented that she wondered where these exorbitant fees are going and who’s profiting. So growing up it was pretty obvious that Kim was adopted. She talks a little bit about the comments she heard and her first indication that she was truly different than other children.

Kim:                            05:28               My parents are white. Um, and people would always ask very blunt questions like, did you know you were adopted? Or like when did you know that you were adopted? Like, how does it feel to know that your parents didn’t want you or how much did you cost for your parents to bring you here? Don’t you feel so grateful to them for saving you from Korea? So I remember the first time that I felt my race and I just didn’t know how to handle it was when I was five in kindergarten and people were like pulling back on their eyelids to me because at that time there was a black boy in my class and myself and we really diversity in the entire grade and, and so, you know, kids can be just so cruel and I just remember being like, oh, like someone was thinking of the way I worked and I was like, well, they’re just being ignorant and prejudiced and she never used the word racist. Even in other instances in my life when I experienced racism or prejudice and eventually it was a huge falling out for us are the way that we see and experience the world in different ways.

Damon:                       07:06               Right. I can remember being that age in acting that way towards any kid, but I definitely can relate to being on the other side of what you experienced and I’m really sorry for that because that is racist and it does alienate people and you know, at fifth grade like you shouldn’t have to worry about that kind of stuff.

Damon:                       07:30               I keyed in on Kim’s comment that the different ways she and her mother experienced the world turned into a rift between them. She said the challenge of dealing with her mother’s political views were part of what drove her to search.

Kim:                            07:43               I actually first started looking for my birth family when I started having issues with my mom and it mostly came about from the recent presidential election and it just the stark difference in political views and social and moral values and I just felt like we were so different and things that were just very obvious to me in terms of like human rights and moral compass. We were like polar opposites and I just felt if I didn’t feel like physically different or as like an other category. From the way I looked, this definitely made me feel uncategorized I guess in my family, just like completely outside. I just felt like, how can I be so different and have such different views about society in the world that we live in?

Damon:                       08:50               May I ask two things? So first, what did your brother feel?

Kim:                            08:58               Uh, so my brother and my parents never got along well. I think a lot of that stems back from his adoption story. He actually had a foster family and Korean and I was in an orphanage. And so, during those very young, special years, he was able to connect with someone.

Damon:                       09:20               No, I understand what you’re saying. I’ve got, I have experience with that. Not Myself personally, but my own daughter has that very same. Does the attachment issue. She came to live with us when she was nine, so you can imagine that she was very, very attached to the life that she grew up in. So I understand what you’re saying in terms of an inability to have a, to overcome certain attachment disorder issues to people. So what then did your mother try to explain to you and you know, often when people have these differences of opinion, you get into an argument, right? You want to persuade the other side why they are wrong and you are right. How, how did that play out? Not necessarily politically, but in terms of what you gleaned from how she was expressing her views of the world. Did you come to the realization like, oh, this is how you were raised or, or this is like the sixties in which you were raised or, or whatever the thing might be. What did you glean from your conversations with her about that?

Kim:                            10:26               Yeah, I think a lot of it is how she was raised. Very much so, and a circumstance with privilege. Uh, but I’m one of the things that she had shared with my husband. She explained that I should be grateful because if she had not brought me to this country, I wouldn’t even have the ability to vote that I should like allow her to express her, own feelings and express her own opinion and whatnot. But I was just really taken aback by this idea that the saviorism and how I should be eternally grateful, like she provided the opportunity for me to vote.

Damon:                       11:17               That must’ve been hard for you to hear. Especially because she said it to your husband.

Kim:                            11:24               Oh yeah.

Damon:                       11:24               This is behind your back conversation.

Kim:                            11:28               Yeah.

Damon:                       11:29               It’s pretty clear. Kim has a deep disdain for her mother, but I hadn’t heard a single word about her father speaking about him. She did not bite her tongue.