Saturday, January 21, 2012

Risk and benefit

A friend and fellow adoptee recently sent me the link to Voice of Love, a project to encourage the elimination of Korea’s international adoption quota in order for more children to be adopted overseas. The project is seeking Korean adoptees and their families to record a video of themselves discussing how their lives have been ‘blessed’ by international adoption. It is hoped that these videos will influence Koreans to change policy once they see how lives have been positively impacted by adoption.

I understand what this campaign wants to accomplish. And I understand why. The reality is that Korean society has not embraced the notion of domestic adoption. Yes, domestic adoption does happen. Organizations such as Eastern Social Welfare Society promote domestic adoption, but it’s largely a topic still stained by stigma. It is my understanding that many Koreans who adopt domestically try to adopt an infant as young as possible and may not even tell the child that they were adopted. Bloodlines are paramount. Korea, to this day, is one of the most homogenous nations. Single parenthood is looked down upon because it disrupts that patriarchal lineage which society works so hard to preserve. I think it is a culmination of these societal beliefs that leaves many Korean children in an orphanage or foster care. I can understand why Voices of Love wants to help them because their circumstances are certainly sad.

And yet, I hesitate at the thought of participating in the campaign. Voices of Love is one perspective and one potential solution to a social issue. It is not the only one or, necessarily, the right one. Then again, I have no clue what the ‘right’ one is. Does anyone? It’s complicated. I’m not sure that I would be comfortable turning my life into a PSA and, especially, such a one-sided one. The campaign is asking for 30 second videos. What can be said in half a minute? I love my family. They are, without a doubt, my family. In so many ways, I have had a good life so far. I have had opportunities to thrive and I have been loved deeply. I suspect these words are the kind of words Voices of Love is hoping an adoptee will offer to their effort. They’re all true words, too. The truth is that my life has been good.

But the truth is also that my life has been with struggle. It continues to be. This past year has been one of the hardest for me as an adoptee filled with hurt, frustration and questions. So many questions. There is both risk and benefit to being an adoptee. And maybe the hardest thing of all to accept is that we don’t get to choose to be an adoptee. It is something we inherit through the decisions of others. Of course, the extent of our struggles varies greatly. Some may never ask the questions that others grapple with their entire lives. Some adoptees have experienced terrible abuse and isolation at the hands of their adoptive families. What reason do they have to participate in something like Voices of Love? International adoption is not the only answer and it is not without errors.

There are no easy answers. And the questions I come back to in this moment are these: what do those children in Korea need? What decision will benefit them most? To be able to grow up in their birth country without a family in the traditional sense? To grow up across the ocean missing out on their birth country, but with a family? No matter what path is taken, there is always risk and always benefit.


  1. Soo, I'm really glad you wrote about this. I've been trying to write about this same thing, minus the Voices of Love, for a good month now, never willing to publish it. I sit with you in my opinion, weighing the pros and cons, but never able to make a decision on whether or not international adoption should continue or be stopped.

  2. Hey Megan, thanks for your comment! I sat around debating whether or not to post this as I'm sure there are people reading this who would gladly support Voice of Love. Just trying to stir up a little ambivalence.