Public release date: 19-Mar-2008
Finding out "Who am I?" for Korean adoptees, many of them orphaned, following the Korean War in the 1950s was a struggle when adulthood hit for many in the 1970s, but the road has since gotten smoother with exploration of their ethnic identities following two basic paths, say University of Oregon sociologists.
The two roads — usually one or the other, but rarely both — have been through extended social exposure with their Asian peers or by reaching out to learn about their cultural heritage, most often while pursuing higher education, said Jiannbin "J" Lee Shiao, a professor of sociology and associate director of ethnic studies.
Shiao and co-author Mia H. Tuan, director of the UO Center on Diversity and Community, reported their findings in the American Journal of Sociology (January). The study focused on early adulthood memories of adoptees that had been among the earliest wave of Koreans into the United States. It was a study, Shiao and Tuan wrote, that shows "ethnic exploration exemplifies how the persistence of ethnicity can depend on the individual negotiation of racial inequality."
The researchers interviewed 58 adoptees, ages 25 to 51, recruited from international adoption-placement records. The participants had been placed into West Coast homes in California, Oregon and Washington between 1950 and 1975. The study, which includes numerous excerpts of participants’ responses, is part of a book the two authors are writing on the adoptees’ experiences.