Recently, I had an article published in the Korean Herald talking about my adoption and my recent travels to Korea. I have been contacted by a few readers who have had similar experiences as myself or unique ones to share.
One of hte readers, Mari Cochran, made a comment to my original post. I would like to pull and excerpt from her comment to discuss further. I hope she doesnt mind, but I think since it was posted as a comment that it is "public domain"? If not, then please let me know and I will change the post.
Mari recently wrote:
"The "us" - American-Koreans who have gone through the same thing - living in America, looking Korean, a mixed hybrid of both cultures - never truely fitting in to either culture. I have met many of "us" out there and we share a few things in common other than our experiences - we love to travel - I think it is because we can't quite identify completely with a particular culture so that we constantly float around, looking for it. Even after returning to Korea (as he did and I did), you still don't fit in because you can't talk the language - even the way we walk, dress, handle ourselves in a crowd is different from a native Korean. We don't get hung up about adoption and not knowing all the facts as other kinds of adoptees seem to - we have the same attitude as many koreans - it happened, it's in the past, get over it and move on. I think Koreans are as a culture pragmatists - we've been pushed and pulled by our neighbors so long that we have developed a thick skin and in a way, developed our own unique independent attitude that has passed down through the bloodlines."
After reading her comment, I was wondering if she was talking about only Korean adoptees or also American born Koreans? At the beginning of the comment it appeared to be both, but at the end of the comment its definitely geared towards Korean adoptees. Which lead me to question, do Korean adoptees feel/experience differently from American born Koreans?
I think yes and no. In the aspect of "wanting to return to Korea for the experience" and then also the "not fitting in when they arrive to Korea" they experience fairly closely what adopted Koreans experience. However, the general experiences from these two groups may overlap they are definitely different.
More often than not, the American born Koreans (just for clarification, kids who were born in the US to Korean parents, or maybe moved to the US when they were very young, where they don't remember Korea) usually speak Korean. Which gives them a huge "step up" over adopted Koreans who I think typically may not speak Korean. If they do speak Korean it is because they had to learn through formal training versus speaking it at home.
Language is one of the biggest factors which separates cultures, which is why I think there is a big difference between these two groups. I wonder if the "drive" to learn about Korea, Korean food, language, and culture is more so in adopted Koreans than American born Koreans because they are further removed from it? I know this "drive" to learn about Korea is really strong in me right now. I wonder if it is as powerful as it is because I grew up so far removed from it, that now its like a counter-balance for all of those years where I didn't experience Korean culture? Compared to an American born Korean, who may have the same "drive" but not as strong because they have had a little more exposure to it than I have?
Maybe Im crazy, and I don't know how you would be able to measure someone's "drive" or motivation towards something. Or maybe its just person to person. I wonder if all Korean adoptees experience what Im feeling right now(a strong urge/drive/motivation to learn and experience as much Korean stuff as I can) at some point in their lives? I know if you had asked me this 10 years ago, I would have laughed. 10 years ago, I had no interest in Korean culture.
I especially like the last part of Mari's comments, how Korean adoptees are also different from other adoptees. Also how we seem to have this "thicker skin" that has been passed down our bloodlines. I wonder if there are any studies on adopted Koreans. I see a lot of similarities in what Mari has written and what Ive read from the few other adopted Koreans I have met. I wonder if adopted Koreans have somehow developed a "culture" of our own. We don't have our own language, or our own food, but we all share a common life experience that only we know about. We share this drive to identify with a culture, and to learn about Korea, and to someday return to the motherland.
Something unique about this "culture" that adopted Koreans might have, is that it was not formed as a group. With the exception of Minnesota, which oddly has a large population of adopted Koreans, our "culture" originated individually amongst each one of us, on our own. This is kind of reverse of how "culture" is traditionally definited. Usually its a common thing amongst a group of people. However for adopted Koreans it has had to develop in each of us individually and when you look at our group as whole you find this "culture". I guess it is very fitting that this "culture" of adopted Koreans is untraditional and has had to adapt because of our unique situation, similarly to how untraditional our experiences have been and how we have had to adapt to our surroundings.
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