Korean adoptee winner in “secret identities” superhero contest

Secretidentities_hush According to Angry Asian Man, fellow Korean adoptee and activist Juli Martin, blogger at Grinding Up Stones (and fellow knitter) is the winner of the Secret Identities superhero contest for her entry Hush.

Juli's description of her superhero:

as a newborn, Jane was adopted from Korea by a wealthy white couple at
four months. After unexpectedly having two biological children, Jane's
adoptive parents feel they have no use for her, and when she comes out
as bisexual at age 13, they kick her out. She is shuffled through the
foster care system until aging out, at which point she moves to The
Center, a cooperative home for homeless LGBTQ youth. Abandoned so many
times, she now calls herself "Jane Doe."

Jane is a
queer femme woman, slim build, 20. Her black hair is cut choppy and
asymmetrical, streaked with electric blue. Her style is edgy and
futuristic, in black, gray and blue.

governmental wheeling and dealing put The Center in the hands of
multibillionaire Elliot Rush, whose biotech firm GenFX needs secret
human testing. Believing the residents of The Center are “throwaway”
people – people no one will miss – Rush uses them as human guinea pigs.

serum takes prexisting traits in the host and amplifies them to a
superhuman level, operating under the theory that if a body has a
predisposition towards a certain ability, enhancing that trait will
give the individual intuitive control over it. Jane has a keen
emotional awareness that allows her to read people, situations,
feelings and intentions, so when exposed to the serum, her body reacts
by amplifying her existing emotional intelligence. She becomes
telepathic, and in addition to being able to read others' minds, she
can speak to them in their thoughts and share images or sounds. When
experiencing strong emotions, these feelings "radiate," positively or
negatively affecting those around her.

Because it is not
immediately known what powers are developing within each subject (and
how), Jane's telepathy allows her to learn more about Rush's intentions
than subjects were supposed to know. Using her abilities, Jane informs
the others that Rush plans to destroy them once he has the data he
needs. She and the others secretly develop their powers and plan an
escape. Their plans are interrupted, however, when Rush, suspicious of
Jane, separates her from the others.

While being held by
Rush, Jane learns that he has called for armed reinforcements. She
pleads with the others to get out and leave her behind, but they
refuse. Instead, they risk everything to rescue her, and when the
battle is over, Jane feels claimed and protected for the first time.
From that moment on, her commitment to the others and ensuring their
safety is solidified.

Rush manages to escape the
fighting, but not without sustaining severe burns in the process, and
slips into a coma. When he awakes, he has been disenfranchised by his
company and insane from a virus in his skin grafts which ate away the
logic and reason portions of his brain. Engraged, he begins to assemble
a crew of bio-engineered villains to seek revenge and destroy all who
inhibit his rise to power.

SI The Editor's description of why they chose Hush:

loved the uniqueness of Hush's background–how many other lesbian,
transracially adopted superheroines are there in comics? Not
enough!–and the rich emotions at play in her characterization. We did
end up editing aspects of her power and origin, however, both to make
her code name make sense and to bring her power away from that of other

We also liked the notion of turning a vulnerability
into a power: In this edit, Jane goes from self-imposed isolation and
emotional repression to becoming superhumanly empathic; we thought that
it was really interesting that such an ability would turn her into a
formidable opponent. Think about it: If you could instantly read a
person's emotions and responses, and react with exactly the right
physical or verbal cue, you'd be both a killer hand-to-hand combat
artist and a devastating manipulator, wouldn't you?

For more about Secret Identities: The Asian American Superhero Anthology, click here. Please support my fellow Asian American writers and artists!

Remember, those of you who have adopted Asian children, it is important for them to see all kinds of powerful and strong representations of Asian Americans!!

Hague Convention – double standard?

Although I don't have time to write an in-depth analysis or critique, I wanted to post a link to this investigative report in my local newspaper. My only comment really is that once again this is really about adoptive parents being victimized. The articles have the tone of "buyer beware" and completely lack any real discussion of the true victims in all of this, the babies and children who are pawns between families who want to adopt and the unscrupulous people unethically procuring children for these families.

Part 1 was unavailable until today, and here is part 2.

Part 1: Burned by a Baby Broker

An Edina woman victimized by adoption handlers in Guatemala has learned
hard truths about the international marketing of children.

Part 2: Adoption treaty sets up double standard in U.S.

System meant to protect parents and children doesn't bar unaccredited agencies from doing international adoptions.


I woke up to snow this morning, way too early in the year for snow!!

Somehow I've managed to keep up with the blog, thanks to the nifty technology of typepad's scheduling feature. Anyway, things at school and home are ramping up and that coincides conveniently with my adoption-related burnout, so I will be taking a little break here, not a forever one, but my postings will probably be few and far between for a little while.

Article about Korean “export” of babies

This article just came to my attention. It's from the Seoul Journal, and published in today's New York Times (kind of a companion piece to yesterday's piece on the stigma of single mothers in Koea).
I have some critique of this article, including that the facts seem wrong.
Six thousand Korean children a year – given up for adoption by unwed mothers or abandoned by their parents – are adopted by American families alone.
6,000 adoptions to America a year is not factually correct, and hasn't been since the 1980s. The numbers for the past decade have been in the 1500-2500 a year range.
Last year, according to State Department immigration figures, 5,742 Korean children were adopted by American families.
The number according to the State Department is actually 1,065 in 2008. See here.
But those who support foreign adoptions say very few Korean families are willing to take in children who are not blood relations. In a country where most families proudly display thick volumes of genealogical charts, where the Confucian respect for ancestors remains very much alive, there is little place for children of a different bloodline.
I think this is rapidly changing. Korea now completes more domestic adoptions than international adoptions. And people don't know that Korea used to have an accepted practice of domestic adoptions, (I read a book a while ago that described the cultural acceptance of domestic adoption pre-war. I can't find the citation but when I do I'll link it). While I think Confucianism plays a role, we can't just continue to use that as an overriding factor.
Anyway I thought it was interesting to read. The language alone and use of word choice always fascinates me. In spirit I am glad Korea is critiquing its own practices, I am disheartened that some of their facts are wrong.
Full article here.

Friday links

This week's links include two stories of Korean adoptees who received unexpected information about their birth families, and two stories of international adoption corruption.

1. This story is a good example of how we cannot always assume that children are voluntarily relinquished for adoption. This is not the first time I have heard that a woman leaves her child with the father and either the father or the father's family member places the child for adoption. In fact, I personally know two Korean adoptees where this is what happened.

From the Harrison Times: A long journey to the past.

Willie Whitescarver — once known as “Jo Kyung-Nam” — is flying
back to his native South Korea this month for the first time since he
left in 1957 as a 2-year-old. He’s going to meet his birth mother, whom
he hasn’t seen in 52 years.

The story of how the little Korean boy ended up in an orphanage
is a complicated one. According to Choi Chun-Hak’s letter, she was
married to a man who had been married twice before and had three sons.
After their marriage and the birth of their son, now known as Willie,
Choi’s husband’s second wife came back to live with her husband’s
family. Choi, who “wanted to become a worker for God,” was
uncomfortable with the situation, and left Willie in the care of his
father’s family while she went to school to study theology. At some
point, without Choi’s knowledge or permission, Willie was taken to an
orphanage, and Choi was not able to locate him and lost track of her
little son for 52 years.

2. This story is one that I have really been trying to keep my eyes on. A friend of mine who blogs at Uniting Distant Stars has been trying for a very long time now to get people's attention to the corruption involved at WACSN. Heather once volunteered at WACSN and was good friends with the founder, Maria Luyken, until Heather questioned what she saw as unethical and illegal adoption practices happening.

From Front Page Africa: Freedom at Last: 37 Liberian Kids Survive Illegal Adoption; Trafficking Denied

Members of the Liberian National Police take children freed from the West African Support Network Thursday.

Liberian children who have been kept at the West African Children
Support Network (WACSN), an adoption agency for several months without
access to their parents in violation to a Liberian government
moratorium on adoption have finally gained freedom through the efforts
of the Ministry of Health and Social Welfare, Save the Children, Don
Bosco Homes, the United Nations Children Fund and other local and
international agencies as they are now in the care of Don Bosco Homes
after been released Thursday.

Children have been placed in the temporary care of Don Bosco Homes, a
local children rehabilitation center for care until they are reunited
with their families.

3. From the Irish Times comes this story about the arrest of Vietnamese officials for fraudulent adoptions.

Six Vietnamese health officials and charity workers in the northern
province of Nam Dinh have been sentenced to jail for arranging over 300
fraudulent adoptions.

While the vast majority of
adoptions from Vietnam are legitimate, there have been question marks
over some unscrupulous operators after the US embassy in Hanoi last
year accused the Vietnamese authorities of failing to properly control
the country’s adoption system, and said it had found evidence of
corruption, fraud and baby-selling.

The officials were found to have filed false papers to allow as many as
266 babies from poor families to be adopted, many by parents in France,
Italy and the US.

4. Last week I wrote about "motherland" tours. In this link, reporter Jenny Hurwitz and her sister, both Korean adoptees, go to Korea on one of these tours and experiences the heartache of looking at their adoption files.

From the Times-Picayune: Reporter returns to orphanage, learns truth about birth family.

5. Finnish study says internationally adopted youth feel "at home" in Finland.

From the Helsinki Times.
Personally, I would like to see more information about this study. What
age were the participants? I'm actually quite skeptical.

else I see often in studies of international adoption in European
countries is this common theme of how international adoptees are seen
as being "better" than immigrants. I find that piece quite disturbing.
There is an article in the Laura Briggs/Diana Marre anthology titled "We do not have immigrant children in this school, we just have children adopted abroad."

Children who are adopted to Finland from abroad grow up identifying
themselves as Finnish, according to new research. For adoptees whose
appearance sets them apart from native Finns, growing up different can
be a trying experience. The study also found that, in general, Finnish
attitudes towards international adoptees are more positive than towards

“In group interviews, some adopted youths even said that their
cohorts considered being adopted as a cool thing,” says researcher
Heidi Ruohio, whose study on the experiences of international adoptees
in Finland was published by the Family Federation in August. She also
conducted in-depth interviews with adult adoptees who have grown up in
Finnish families.

        full article is here.

New York Times article about single mothers in Korea

Group Resists Korean Stigma For Mothers On Their Own
 by Choe Sang-Hun
Published: October 7, 2009

Ms. Choi and other women in her situation are trying to set up the
country’s first unwed mothers association to defend their right to
raise their own children. It is a small but unusual first step in a
society that ostracizes unmarried mothers to such an extent that
Koreans often describe things as outrageous by comparing them to “an
unmarried woman seeking an excuse to give birth.”The fledgling
group of women — only 40 are involved so far — is striking at one of
the great ironies of South Korea. The government and commentators fret
over the country’s birthrate, one of the world’s lowest, and deplore
South Korea’s international reputation as a baby exporter for foreign

Read the article here.

Representations of Transracial Korean Adoption in Children’s Literature

From Sarah Park's website . I am excited that this work is out there and it will be interesting to see if anyone tackles other subjects in children's adoption books (China, Ethiopia, etc.)

Representations of Transracial Korean Adoption in Children’s Literature

Abstract: This dissertation examines and analyzes
representations of transracial Korean adoption in American children’s
literature published from 1955 to 2007.  Since the 1950s,
more than 200,000 Korean children have been sent from South Korea to
North America and Europe to be adopted into previously all-white
families.  Over 110,000 were adopted into the United States.  Representations
of transnationally and transracially adopted Koreans have appeared in
over fifty American children’s books since 1955.  Early
titles depicted orphaned Korean children in need of homes in order to
promote the new phenomenon of transracial/transnational adoption.  More recent titles depict adopted Koreans’ experiences in the United States.

Based on my analyses of fifty-one children’s
books, autobiographical writings by transracially adopted Koreans, and
my observations during an international adoptee conference, it is clear
that this literature does not holistically mirror the experiences of
transracially adopted Koreans.  Most of the stories were
written with the implicitly didactic purpose of describing and
explaining adoption, often at the expense of engaging readers in an
aesthetic reading experience.  Picture books uniquely tell
stories through both text and illustrations or photographs, but there
are often contradictions between text and image in depicting this
experience.  In the more spacious format of the novel,
authors idealize and validate adoptive mothers while de-maternalizing
and invalidating the person of the birth mother.  Text
and illustrations depict adopted Korean children as Other by the
circumstances of when they are told about their adoption, the ways in
which they are named, and their isolation from other adopted Koreans.
My research provides a categorical framework for critically thinking
about the types of adoption literature produced for children and gives
insight into the characteristics and uses of ethnic and adoptive
children’s literature.

For more information, visit Sarah's website here.


Here is a story from the Korean Herald about the film Resilience by filmmaker Tammy Chu. It premiered this past weekend at the Pusan International Film Festival.

I, along with Mr. Harlow's Monkey and my two kids, had the extreme pleasure of meeting Mrs. Noh in 2007 and participated along with her in the first-ever birth mother protest. Just now, I was looking at a photo of my son playing with her daughter outside the restaurant where we shared lunch together along with several other Korean mothers who relinquished their children for international adoption.


'Resilience' looks at often-ignored mothers of adoption.

By Matthew Lamers and Shannon Heit

Behind the glamour of adoption, new beginnings and happy reunions,
there is another, darker side of loss and separation for birth mothers,
birth families, and adoptees that is often left out of the discussion.

Popular culture mostly fails to take up the issue from the
perspective of the birth mother. What factors forced the decision to
give up her child? Were there other options? How has she coped since?

Filmmaker Tammy Chu asks those questions, but also considers the
feeling of separation from the side of the adoptee and the sometimes
life-long journey to find identity and belonging.

The official film website is here.

Actions speak louder than words

From the "You said it better than I could" shelf, I would like to bring your attention to this great list that atlasien from Upside Down Adoption created in response to a question posed in last week's Racialicious post about Rebecca Walker's quote on adoption.

A reader named Melanie asked,

 "what are the options then for orphans living in any country, including
the US? As a person who simply wants to be a parent and is completely
not interested in doing so biologically, how can I work towards justice
and transparency in the US (where I live) and in other countries where
orphans/orphanages/adoption is concerned?

…I am genuinely interested in what POCs and/or those against transracial
adoption feel is the best way to serve children, any children who are
orphans. As a perspective AP, I read a lot of criticism of adoption but
very rarely does anyone move or point to a solution. Maybe there isn’t
" (comment #37).

Atlasien has kindly given me permission to post her response:

The options for children in crisis are: living with parents,
living with extended family, living in a group home or orphanage,
living in foster care, some sort of guardianship arrangement,
independent living with supports, informal or formal adoption. Or a
combination of any of these. Adoption is sometimes the best solution,
but most of the time, it’s not. And one thing I learned in the last few
years that surprised me… although foster care is generally better than being in a group home, being in a good group home is much better than bad/inconsistent foster care.

Things you can do in this country:
– Get educated about issues in domestic adoption/foster care here in the U.S.
– Actively work to dispel myths about domestic adoption/foster care here in the U.S.
– Volunteer as a CASA (Court Appointed Special Advocate, called Guardian ad litems in some states)
– Volunteer at a group home as a mentor
– Become a foster parent (a good one, not one of the bad ones)
– Become a social worker (a good one, not one of the bad ones)
– Advocate for specific, targeted, effective reform in the system.

For international adoption:
– don’t adopt internationally unless you have strong ties to that
country (e.g. your ancestors are from there, your relatives are from
there, or you can speak the language)
– don’t adopt from any country where you can’t keep easily keep the
child in contact with many people closer to their culture of origin.
– if you adopt internationally, work to establish contact with your child’s biological family.
– educate yourself, work to dispel myths and also try to combat the silencing of adoptees and others in mainstream media
– take adoption corruption seriously
– support homegrown organizations working for social change in the
country; don’t assume that foreign-led organizations and foreign
charity leaders understand the whole picture.

Overall, putting charity and adoption hand-in-hand is dangerous. It can be insulting to adoptees… adoptees should ideally be wanted; they should neither be a living penance, nor a prize for winning a moral contest.

If you want to work for an NGO, work for an NGO. If you want to
adopt, adopt… and acknowledge and try to deal with the ethical issues

One foster care adoption blogger I follow once wrote “You can only save a child once. After that, it’s called parenting.”

I love that quote, because I actually don’t think it’s possible to take the salvation narrative entirely
out of adoption. In fact, if the adoption wasn’t about “saving” in some
way — if the child would have been better off without adoption anyway —
then that’s really, really unethical. But the salvation narrative
should be limited and contextualized; it shouldn’t drown out the
child’s own story, or the story of their original family (which is
usually more about tragedy than salvation).

Quote from a book I’m currently reading


"Transracial adoption helps individual children by placing them in permanent adoptive homes, but it does nothing to repair the web of racial injustice that makes so many black children available for adoption in the first place."

— Hawley Fogg-Davis, The Ethics of Transracial Adoption.

ETA: Although this quote is about domestic transracial adoption of black children in the U.S., it could easily be changed to:

"Transracial/transnational adoption helps individual children by placing them in
permanent adoptive homes, but it does nothing to repair the web of
racial/social/political/government injustice that makes so many children available for
adoption in the first place."