If you haven’t seen this yet, check out ALL LOOK SAME.
The premise is that you take a test and try and determine if the
individuals in the photographs are Chinese, Japanese or Korean.

You will likely be surprised at your ability to determine who is who. Here is what creator Dyske Suematsu has to say about why he created this test:

One evening at a Japanese restaurant, my girlfriend,
Roxanne Wolanczyk, and I were talking about her facial recognition
problem. She has a problem telling white people apart even though she
herself is white. Interestingly she has a better time with telling
Asian people apart. Then I thought of creating a web site that tests
people’s facial recognition ability. She thought it would be more
interesting if the site was about telling Asian people apart. And, this
is how this site came about.

I’ve always thought that it was one of those urban myths that you
can tell different Asians apart. Especially if I can’t see what they
are wearing, I don’t think that I can tell them apart. And, I’m an
Asian myself. I’ve been living in the US for over 15 years and I’ve
heard some people tell me I definitely look Japanese, while others
thought that I don’t at all. Some people boastfully claim that they can
tell the difference no problem, while others quietly admit that they
can’t. Even with those who claim they can, is it really true that they
can? Maybe there is something to be said about someone saying "You guys
all look the same!" Or, maybe they just don’t know any better. This
site, therefore, is a way for me to demystify this issue once and for

Yes, I have taken the test. Brave souls, if you feel like sharing your test scores, I’ll share mine . . .

Delving into my psyche

Inspired somewhat by a conversation at Twice the Rice, I looked up my astrological sign. I’m a Saggitarius,
but almost all my life considered myself more of a Scorpio. Maybe it
was just a while since I looked into my sign traits, but after looking
at the link, decided maybe I was a Sag after all.

Some elements of Sags seem to apply to me – or at least, in my idealized version of what I’d like to think I am – for instance:

Sagittarians are truth-seekers, and the best way for them to do this
is to hit the road, talk to others and get some answers. Knowledge is
key to these folks, since it fuels their broad-minded approach to life.
The Sagittarian-born are keenly interested in philosophy and religion,
and they find that these disciplines aid their internal quest. At the
end of the day, what Sagittarians want most is to know the meaning of
life, and if they accomplish this while feeling free and easy, all the

While the process of exploration is what fuels Sagittarians (and
translating that to others as a teacher and philosopher), they need to
be aware of their tendency to procrastinate.

However, I haven’t put much credibility into astrological signs.
Again, that I think is largely a matter of my adopted status and not
ever knowing if my birthday was real.

Before I went to Korea in 2000, I visited a psychic. One of the
questions I really wanted insight into was if my birthdate was real.
This psychic seemed to think it was close to the stated birthdate, and
when I went to Korea I found out that most likely, that is my real birthdate.

However, without knowing the time, I can’t have a real chart done.

A few years ago, I was doing some research into the Myers-Briggs
personality types. I found out I was an INFJ. I got curious and went
back to my notes on my "type" and here is what I found:

INFJ – The Portrait of the Counselor Idealist (iNFj)

INFJs are deeply concerned about their relations with individuals as
well as the state of humanity at large. They are, in fact, sometimes
mistaken for extroverts because they appear so outgoing and are so
genuinely interested in people — a product of the Feeling function
they most readily show to the world. On the contrary, INFJs are true
introverts, who can only be emotionally intimate and fulfilled with a
chosen few from among their long-term friends, family, or obvious "soul

While instinctively courting the personal and organizational demands
continually made upon them by others, at intervals INFJs will suddenly
withdraw into themselves, sometimes shutting out even their intimates.
This apparent paradox is a necessary escape valve for them, providing
both time to rebuild their depleted resources and a filter to prevent
the emotional overload to which they are so susceptible as inherent
"givers." As a pattern of behavior, it is perhaps the most confusing
aspect of the enigmatic INFJ character to outsiders, and hence the most
often misunderstood.

The Counselor Idealists are abstract in thought and speech,
cooperative in reaching their goals, and directive and introverted in
their interpersonal roles. Counselors focus on human potentials, think
in terms of ethical values, and come easily to decisions.

Counselors can be hard to get to know. They have an unusually rich
inner life, but they are reserved and tend not to share their reactions
except with those they trust. With their loved ones, certainly,
Counselors are not reluctant to express their feelings. Indeed, because
of their strong ability to take into themselves the feelings of others,
Counselors can be hurt rather easily by those around them, which,
perhaps, is one reason why they tend to be private people, mutely
withdrawing from human contact. At the same time, friends who have
known a Counselor for years may find sides emerging which come as a
surprise. Not that they are inconsistent; Counselors value their
integrity a great deal, but they have intricately woven, mysterious
personalities which sometimes puzzle even them.

Beneath the quiet exterior, INFJs hold deep convictions about the
weightier matters of life. Those who are activists — INFJs gravitate
toward such a role — are there for the cause, not for personal glory
or political power.

INFJs are champions of the oppressed and downtrodden. They often are
found in the wake of an emergency, rescuing those who are in acute
distress. INFJs may fantasize about getting revenge on those who
victimize the defenseless. The concept of ‘poetic j ustice’ is
appealing to the INFJ.

Accurately suspicious about others’ motives, INFJs are not easily
led. These are the people that you can rarely fool any of the time.
Though affable and sympathetic to most, INFJs are selective about their
friends . Such a friendship is a symbiotic bond that transcends mere

INFJs have a knack for fluency in language and facility in
communication. In addition, nonverbal sensitivity enables the INFJ to
know and be known by others intimately.

Writing, counseling, public service and even politics are areas
where INFJs frequently find their niche. Usually self-expression comes
more easily to INFJs on paper, as they tend to have strong writing
skills. Since in addition they often possess a strong personal
charisma, INFJs are generally well-suited to the "inspirational"
professions such as teaching (especially in higher education) and
religious leadership, but overall, INFJs can be exceptionally difficult
to pigeonhole by their career paths.

Prophetic, huh? writing, counseling, and public service?

Gee, Ma, I guess I found my calling. Truthfully, this description is almost a dead-on accurate portrayal of who I am.

Take your own Myers Briggs or read about the different personality types
Personality Page
Type Logic Profiles
Keirsey Temperment

A sigh of relief

Last night at 10:30 pm. CST, my "show" was on. I conveniently had more important things to do, namely, support my friend hw, whose concert happened to be the same night. At 10:30 pm CST, I was at the lovely and charming Moscow on the Hill
with a large group of friends for the after-show party. I remember
looking at my watch almost exactly at 10:30 and thinking how relieved I
was to be there instead.

I’ve now had a chance to view the Searching Seoul
update. Well, it wasn’t quite as painful as I’d expected it to be.
Because it is only a half hour show, they had to cut out a lot of the
original piece. Which means you only see me crying half of the time I did in the original.

The "update" part was actually all right. There was still too much
hyperbole for my liking – for example, in the introduction to the
"update," Jason Davis (the reporter) says we came home "bitterly disapointed." Not just disapointed, but somehow he decided I was bitterly
disapointed.He also said that we were "two baby orphans" when I was in
fact, almost 3 years old when I came. Also, he perpetuates the idea
that all adopted Koreans are the result of unmarried women. While that
may be the case in the past 15-20 years, it is not the reason the
majority of those of us in our 30s-50s were sent out for adoption (but
that’s another post for another time).

Oh, and he called a plate of galbi, bulgogi.

At any rate, I felt I came across as much more put together and not
such a sap. Plus, I like my hairstyle much better now. It was so short back then!

is supposed to be sending me DVD copies of both the original show and
the updated version. I will let you know when I get copies made. But
until then, here is a chance to see it online. Warning: it’s very slow
and the resolution is pretty bad (at least it is on my computer).

For those of you with internet explorer, you can view each segment
online. This will only work with IE or Netscape. Click on the links
below for each segment, and then once on the page, click on the VIDEO
link. I would be happy to hear your feedback.

For segment 1: "Return to Korea" .
For segment 2: "Going on national television"
For segment 3: "Returning Home"

Such a tease!


Here is a link to the promotional video of my "Searching Seoul"
documentary, which will be aired on Saturday night at 10:30 pm. in the
Minnesota/western Wisconsin area (you will need to use explorer or
netscape to view the video).

Searching Seoul Video

Can you ever go back home again?

Six years ago, Jason Davis traveled with two Minnesota women who
were among the first Korean children to be adopted by Minnesotans, as
they searched for their birth families.

They came home from South Korea empty-handed. Now, join Jason Davis
as their dramatic story continues … find out what happened -after-
the trip that changed their lives! That’s Saturday night at 10:35 p.m.

I will let you know if and when I get copies made.

Lost in translation

I could hardly contain my glee when I came upon this blog. Hanzi Smatter: Dedicated to the misuse of Chinese characters in Western Culture.

This is something that my friends and I talk about all the time.
Especially on our list of gripes: white people who get Asian characters
tattooed on themselves. Especially if they turn out to be wrong, a lá Ms. Spears, whose tattooed Chinese symbol for "mysterious" actually reads "strange." (Prophetic, huh?)

You’ll have to scroll down on the blog to see the fantastic and
hilarious true translations of the Chinese or Japanese characters these
poor blokes have tatooed on themselves.

This is something I have a little experience in, as I also tattooed
a Korean word on my back, with a slight misinterpretation (luckily for
me, it worked almost to my advantage – I like the "true" interpretation
better than what I’d originally wanted). Yes, this photo below is mine.

So – just a fair warning to all you tattoo-philes who want to get some FAsian
(that’s Fake Asian- thanks Mudeng) tattooed – it’s pretty much
permanent unless you want to go through the expensive and painful laser removal program.

Secret Asian Man: part II

Another episode in the life of Secret Asian Man by Tak Toyoshima. This piece reminds me of one of the jokes we Korean adoptees were saying at the 2004 Gathering in Seoul. Wow, there was a whole lotta beautiful Korean adoptees at the conference. My group was fond of saying, "Be careful who you sleep with – they could turn out to be your [biological] brother/sister." Again thanks to Tak for permission to post his comics.

Baby fever & manifest destiny

Last night, I had to interrupt my regularly scheduled weekly potluck because I was an invited speaker for a Foster-adopt support group for a local county child welfare agency.

This agency facilitates what is called the "Adoption Option"
program. Basically, it’s one of the few ways a prospective adoptive
parent is able to get a young child without having to go through a
private, domestic adoption. This program allows prospective parents to
be foster parents first, and if the child(ren) are not reunified with
birth parents or biological extended family, the foster parent gets to
"keep" the kids. It’s pretty much the only way to get a newborn out of
the state system. Two of the foster parents brought their babies with;
one was 12 days old and the other was a 6-month old, both born with a
positive toxicology for crack cocaine.

The statistics for Minnesota are that approximately 80-85% of all
newborns and infants (1 year or under) are reunited or go to relatives.
Both of the families last night had previously fostered babies that had
ultimately been reunited or placed with relatives; in fact, the couple
with the 6-month old had fostered four babies. They had just been given
the ok to adopt this current cutie and had filed the petition to adopt
that day.

Our state currently has over 1400 children who are considered "free
for adoption." (I hate that phrase – although it’s supposed to connote
the legal status of the child, as in the birth parent’s rights have
been terminated, it sounds more like a version of "How much is that
puppy in the window" to me).

But I digress. Back to the "Children under the guardianship of the Commissioner of the State of Minnesota."
Currently, there are 125 of the 1400 children listed on the state’s
website of available children and most of these kids are older
elementary and teen aged kids and a lot of them are part of a sibling
set. So even though the Adoption Option program is about as
heartwrenching and uncertain as one can get, I can understand why so
many parents are eager to take that route in order to get that
"precious baby."

I will admit right now that I acknowledge I do not have a personal
understanding of what it is like to have infertility issues, so I can
not speak from that space.

I do understand the idea of wanting a baby – babies are so cute.
That’s why they’re used to sell radial tires and stuff. Who can resist
a baby?

But in my cynical way, I have to wonder what is up with the
obsession to put yourself in such a risky situation and have your heart
torn up again and again in order to parent a baby out of the foster
care system. There are hundreds upon hundreds of children in our state
foster care system that need homes. I see them for years on the lists.

I think it is because of this ideal of what a baby represents. For
starters, it’s a chance for an adoptive parent to indoctrinate more of
their own "nurture" over the kid’s "nature." An 8-year old, for
example, has already had 8 years of god-knows-what. Pain, neglect,
possibly abuse, chaos. To adopt an 8-year old (or a 16-year old) means
that as a parent, you have much less control over that kid. There is
more of a history that kid has to deal with and their personalities
have "set in."

If you believe in that kind of stuff.

See, I don’t believe that an infant comes with a clean slate. Babies
recognize their names at 3-4 months. They recognize their birth
mother’s voice immediately upon birth. Studies have shown that infants
removed from the hospital and placed with foster or adoptive parents
have higher cortisol levels (indicating stress) for their entire first year.

I also believe that all people are born with their personality
features. The rest of life is about either nurturing or trying to get
rid of those features we (or our parents or society) like or don’t
like. I’m not saying this is an excuse to throw ones hands up in the
air and leave our children to raise themselves or anything like that.
Parents are hugely influential and it is a parent’s responsibility to guide and teach their children.

It was very interesting and ultimately a little heartbreaking to see
this room full of hopeful, caring and eager foster/adopt parents. I am
in awe of these parents who are willing to do everything in order to experience having children.

They have a lot of fears about how their kids will end up. They
wanted reassurance and a map to help them make sure these kids do well.
I can’t offer any pat answers. There is no single way to do this work
as a parent.

Adopting a baby doesn’t mean that a parent gets to forget that the
child has a history and a past and a biological connection to another
family. It is like trying to claim a stake on some virgin territory and
placing a flag in the ground, saying, "this belongs to me."

Except that territory does not really belong to you. There is no manifest destiny when it comes to people.

This is all we get?

Wendy_wuHere’s the thing: I’m all about having Asian Americans represented
in mainstream entertainment, provided they’re not just lame,
stereotyped, one-dimensional misrepresentations. My kids told me today
about the new Disney Channel movie, Wendy Wu: Homecoming Warrior.

"That sounds like a stereotype" I said.
"Yee-aah" was Lucie’s reply.

I went to the web site.

First, there’s the incredibly chinky music. Then, actress Brenda Song does some kickin’ martial arts animation.

Here’s what the promo says:

Wendy Wu is a popular teen whose goal is to be homecoming queen. But her life takes a dramatic turn when she finds out she’s a reincarnated Chinese warrior
and is needed to save the world! Undercover Buddist Monk Shen (played
by Shin Koyamada) has important business with Wendy – she doesn’t know
it, but it is her destiny to battle the evil Yan Lo. Shen must train
Wendy so she will be able to defeat Yan Lo and keep the world safe for
another 90 years.

But Wendy is too busy for that nonsense – she’s trying to make sure she beats Jessica Dawson and is elected this year’s Homecoming Queen! Find out if Wendy defeats Yan Lo, watch the premiere of the Disney Channel Original Movie Wendy Wu: Homecoming Warrior !

It seems to me, Disney went through their archives of tired, old,
stereotyped plot lines and decided this was one to offend both Asians
and girls. I mean, really – Wendy is too busy to save the world because
she wants to be Homecoming Queen?!?

I want to say something witty and sarcastic and make some important commentary on how this is so not the kind of image I want my kids to see. But I’m just too.darn.tired to take this one on.

Searching Seoul Update

Set your tivo, folks. Searching Seoul is set to air on June
17th at 10:30 p.m. If you are from MN or WI and you happen to catch it,
I’d be interested in your thoughts.

We caused a little bit of a ruckus last Wednesday, after all our
neighbors saw the KSTP-Channel 5 van parked outside our house. Mike and
Phil (from the news station) filmed us doing such natural things such
as: walking the dog, sitting on the stoop, playing with water balloons
and looking at photos.

It’s hilarious to think that so much staging is involved in order to show us as being "natural" on t.v.

I asked whether this would be available to be purchased through the
station, but they said no. However, I will get a DVD copy and am free
to make copies and "give away" as many as I want. So I will check out
the costs of copying and shipping – check back on that one.

I am extrememly nervous about seeing my face on tv again. First,
because it was a time in my life when I was just one big bundle of raw
emotions. And at a time in my life when I wanted to present myself as
so put-together, the whole world (it seemed) saw me as this sad, sap of
an adoptee. And a clue for those who have never dealt with the media –
it’s so hard to control them. You can say all the things you want and
one thing that’s iffy and sure as hell that one thing will be what’s
aired. And just like the Korean television producers, I’m sure it’s no
accident that I’m crying in a majority of my airtime.

It’s such exposure! The other thing that makes me cringe thinking
about this, is that I was so new and naive about so many things – I’d
never been to Korea before, so in a way I was kind of robbed of that
first experience. Having a camera in my face isn’t exactly a stellar
way to see your birth country for the first time. I didn’t want to have
all my emotions on camera! So, although I feel I’m portrayed as
emotional in this documentary, I also feel that I held back a lot, and
in a way that’s bad. I needed to be able to process and feel my way
through this experience.

In the end, I guess I feel it was still worth it. As an outside
viewer, I’d really have appreciated seeing it, especially if I was a
newbie to the adoption identity process. I guess it’s just hard to have
your life in a fishbowl and open to such scrutiny.

I just hope that this is the end of my 15 minutes. I think I’ve had enough of "reality tv."