I just read an article in the NY Times about a 41 year old woman, an adoptee, who went back to Korea in 2004, and who, apparently, has been a leading part of the campaign that eventually lead the country to change its laws, so for the first time ever it's actually stipulated, that the country should reduce international adoptions of Korean children.
The government provides stipends for domestic adoptive parents and single mothers who wants to keep their children, and there has to be a period of at least 6 months wherein a child is sought to receive domestic adoptive parents before it is made available for international adoption. New mothers also have to spend the first week after giving birth with their child, while receiving counselling about the possibilities of keeping the baby before she can relinquish custody.
These are not breaking news changes, the law was changed a while ago, but they are still pretty spectacular to a country that used to be recognized around the world as one of the leading baby export countries, and a society that still bears a deep-seeded prejudice against single mothers, and who still sees domestic adoption as a threat towards the all-important family blood lines.
I didn't know any specifics about who has been part of the movement to get the laws changed, but I did assume adoptees were involved, and in hindsight I'm not surprised if the driving forces were US.
Considering how many Korean children have gone to the US over the past decades, I always feel a little remiss when I get the urge to make generalizing statements about US adoptees cos obviously there are also lots of happy-about-their-lives-and-adopted-families adoptees in the US, but let's just say that when I hear about am unhappy adoptee, I'm not surprised if he/she turns out to be American, and I'm even less surprised if their story is one about being one out of a few or maybe even zero Asians for most of their lives, teasing and bullying, adoptive parents with shocking little understanding for and/or willingness to learn about what it means to be adopted, identity-crisis and self-loathing, and lots of emotional adult torment and turmoil in relation to both self, adoptive parents, birth parents, Korea, and adoption.
I dunno, as I said this of course in no way covers all US adoptees, but after years of talking to adoptees not only from the US, there has been enough cases to.. make me less surprised.
This wasn't meant as defining a box for US adoptees, what I was trying to explain was merely that I didn't know this woman was American, and that upon learning about both her identity and her personal story, I didn't feel surprised at all. Which made me think.
About US society, and US adoptive parents, and how US adoption procedures were 40 years ago. It certainly sparked new questions for my own parents about what the process where for them back in the day.
And it once again made my heart swell with love and admiration for one of the most caring and loving adoptive parents I know cos she just happens to be American to boot.
It also struck me how often I actually hear about US adoptees my age or even older, who've found their birth family.. Here, it's rare for me to hear about reunions for people more than 25+, whereas adoptees in their teens/early twenties can have it almost easy in regards to searching due to the drastic change in file information nowadays.
That might also be because more adoptees here seem more content and maybe therefor unlikely to even feel like they wanna search? So statistically speaking there will be a smaller amount here. I dunno.
But when I hear about reunions and people still being riddled with all kinds of frustration and anger afterwards, I always get just a teeeeeeny tinge of surprise before my sanity takes over and remind me that not all adoptees are the same - even though we do share a remarkable amount of similarities.
It's not that I'm naive enough to think that, "if I could only meet my birth parents all my problems in life would magically disappear", there are scars too deep for that, and I'm realistic and know enough to know that cultural differences could make everything even more complicated, and add a whole new level of hurt to this - in fact, the possibilities have sometimes make me question whether or not I really do wanna meet them.
But I do. Cultural and language difficulties aside, to be able to hear why from their own lips, to know how they've been, to be able to ease their minds and tell them I am happy, to know if I have siblings, to see how and where they live..
To be able to look into the face of another human being and suddenly know what that feeling of recognition feels like, that everyone else probably never even think about when they look at their family.
I wanna know what that feels like.