Wednesday, November 24, 2010


Something big is happening in Korea now. The North has attacked the South and the world is on alert. I have no idea what's to come - how many will end up dead, how many other nations will end up getting involved, what it means for the future of the Korean Peninsula. I do know that when I read news of the attacks, my heart sank into my stomach.

I was born in Gyeongsangbuk-do in the east of South Korea. My birth certificate just lists the county so it's possible I could hail from a tiny fishing village, or from Daegu which is one of the biggest urban centers in the nation. Anything is possible, and it's the uncertainty of it that makes me a bit sad sometimes.
I'll never know who my biological parents are. I sort of envy "homemade" people who can look at their parents and know with absolute certainty that they have their mother's nose, their father's eyes, and facial bone structure just like Grandpa's. On the other hand, it's nice to know I dodged the bullets of wavy/curly hair and ahem "strong" noses that both my adoptive/real parents have. I don't have to shave my legs, my hair is effortlessly straight and manageable, and I have a symmetrical face with small features. Thank you, blood-mom and blood-dad.

I applied to donate eggs for money in college, and was turned down because of my lack of family history. While it's probably not a bad thing that I didn't go through with the egg donation, it was brought to my attention that I don't know if any of my blood relatives carried hereditary conditions or illnesses that could spring up later. I'm not bipolar or an alcoholic or diabetic and I never get sick. Despite having abused my body for years stuffing it with junk food and wasting 4 years smoking cigarettes, I am proud of my health. Thank you, blood-mom and blood-dad.

"The story" is that my birth mother couldn't take care of me and gave me up so that I would have a better life. She was 40 years old when I was born and I have a feeling she and my birth father were not married and possibly not even together as a couple. Maybe he raped her. Maybe she gave birth and thought I was ugly or something. I don't know. I'll never know. But I do have a pretty darn good life and I'm proud of her for giving me up. I got to grow up with loving parents who planned for my existence and wanted me in their lives. They raised me well and taught me that it's okay to live your entire life with split identities.

People give us shit for being white-washed as if it's our fault, something we did wrong. As if looking Asian but being raised by non-Asians is somehow criminal and inferior to a "real" Asian-American upbringing. Sometimes "real" Koreans look at us and feel pity, like we've been cheated out of our destinies. I feel humble and lowly in a room full of bilingual Korean-Americans as if I am an impostor. It's irrational and it shouldn't be, but it is. Just in my few experiences on flights and layovers in Korea or on Korean airlines, I feel nothing but idiotic talking to Koreans who could be my fucking cousins or something in English, Japanese, even German. I haven't been traveling in Korea because I am terrified of how stupid it feels to be in your birthplace and not be able to understand anyone or speak the language. It's a two hour boat ride away and I've used every excuse in the book not to make the journey. I don't think I'm ready.

1 comment:

  1. You shouldn't feel stupid about not understanding Korean. Even though we were born in Korea, we were raised in America and taught English. No one expects us to be fluent in Korean. We're Americans. Even Korean-Americans fluent in Korean will still get the stank eye that their Korean's not perfect and they're just too American. To be honest, being adopted is a get out of jail free card. Most people I've met are happy that I'm making an effort to learn Korean and are excited to share Korean language and culture. I'm not sure who gives you shit for being adopted. I think it's all how you interpret things.

    Koreans will sometimes say, "I'm sorry" after they hear you're adopted but you shouldn't take offense to it. It's not "I'm sorry you were illegitimate" but instead "I'm sorry that our country was so poor that your parents could not keep you." Even though we were raised by wonderful, loving families, the fact is that we were adopted and brought up in a foreign country. Family and blood relations are extremely important in Korea so I've come to understand the sentiments behind their sympathy.

    When you're ready to come to Korea, let me know. You can watch me butcher the language.


What's up?