Original title: Hun er vred – vidnesbyrd om transnational adoption (2014).
Publisher: Forlaget Gladiator, Denmark.
SHE IS ANGRY about being an import.
She is angry about being an export.
She is angry that adoption agencies in both sending and receiving countries make money off transnational adoption.
She is angry to read in Outsiders Within — Writing on Transnational Adoption that South Korea brings in more than 15 million dollars annually through the mediation of transnational adoption.
She is angry that adoption agencies proactively seek children who can be given up for adoption. They should, of course, help children out of unsafe environments, but to be on the actual lookout for children who could be given up for adoption is taking it too far, she thinks. In her opinion, there should be a bigger focus on directly helping the parents of vulnerable children, to avoid separating those children from their parents and their original culture.
She is angry to hear a rumour that the American adoption agency Holt International Children’s Services is looking for new markets, including North Korea, in which they could find children who might be given up for adoption. Holt International Children’s Services already mediates adoptions from Bulgaria, China, Ethiopia, Guatemala, Haiti, India, South Korea, the Philippines, Rumania, Thailand, Uganda, Ukraine, the US, and Vietnam. If the regime in North Korea were to collapse, North Korea could also be added to the list. It’s probably safe to assume that the agency would like to see the North Korean regime collapse so they could gain access to a great new market.
She is angry that adoption these days seems more like a matter of finding children for parents rather than finding parents for children; that’s how a phenomenon such as child harvesting emerged. Adoption agencies wouldn’t need employees to convince vulnerable parents into giving their child up for adoption if the demand for children didn’t exceed the supply.
She is angry that the demand for children exceeds the supply.
SHE IS ANGRY with the interpreter for not communicating what her biological family is discussing. She has to pretend to be worried about one of her biological parents being sick in order to get Kyong Hee to tell her what they’re discussing.
She is angry to discover that her biological family is talking about a vacation they’re planning, a vacation that cannot include her because her older sisters haven’t told their husbands about her.
She is angry with her older sisters for not telling their husbands about her. She can’t help but take it personally, even though she knows they’re not ashamed of her but of their parents, who gave her up for adoption.
She is angry with her sisters because they’ve decided to never tell their husbands about her.
She is angry with her biological parents for accepting her sisters’ decision.
She is angry with her biological mother for telling her to put her sisters’ needs above her own; that she’s just one against her sisters, and they are four.
She is angry with herself for not putting her biological family’s needs above her own.
She is angry with her biological family for not putting her needs above theirs.
She is angry with herself for not making it a demand. Rather than letting her sisters decide whether or not to tell their husbands, she should have demanded that her sisters tell their husbands about her. It would have been in accordance with Korean culture, she thinks, if she had phrased it as a demand.
She is angry at Korean culture.
She is angry at American culture.
She is angry that most of the world has been Americanized.
She is angry that South Korea has been Americanized. She has a hard time imagining a country that the US has affected more than South Korea.
She is angry at the United States of America.
She is angry with her biological father for praising the US. She’s aware that he belongs to a different generation, a generation that sees American soldiers who served in the Korean War as heroes; still, she cringes whenever he applauds the country. It’s the same with Korean adoptees in the US, Andrew says, when she tells him that her father says things like “USA no. 1.” Those who belong to the older generation of Korean adoptees in the US are grateful to have been adopted, whereas he, part of the younger generation of adoptees, thinks of transnational adoption as American imperialism.
She is angry about American imperialism.
She is angry about imperialism.
She is angry about Eurocentrism.
She is angry about colonialism.
She is angry about transnational adoption being a modern form of colonialism.
She is angry with herself for considering transnational adoption to be a modern form of colonialism. Just because white Westerners adopt children of non-white parents in a vast majority of cases, that doesn’t automatically make transnational adoption a modern form of colonialism.
She is angry with herself for not considering transnational adoption to be a modern form of colonialism. Like it or not, transnational adoption rests on a colonial past. People’s reasons for adopting are rooted in the same beliefs that led Europeans to colonize large parts of the world in the 16th century. Back then, Europeans thought they knew what was best for the native population; today, Europeans think they know what is best for children born in Non-Western countries.
She is angry with those who think they know what’s best for children born in non-Western countries.
She is angry with her adoptive mother for assuming she knew what was best for her. How could she not see her adoptive mother as a colonizer? She no longer feels comfortable following her adoptive mother around in Denmark. Walking next to her adoptive mother only emphasizes the fact that she has been colonized. When they walk together on the street, it’s apparent to everyone that she was adopted by her mother. The balance of power is unmistakable.
She is angry with herself for thinking of her adoptive mother as a colonizer.
She is angry with herself for thinking that she’s been colonized.
She is angry that she’s been colonized. It may be true that she grew up with better educational opportunities in Denmark than she would have had in South Korea, but at least she wouldn’t have been colonized. This is not to say that she’d rather have grown up in South Korea—it is, generally speaking, a waste of time to walk around regretting not having grown up in another country—but being a Korean adoptee does come at a high price. In his discussion paper, “What Is Danish Racism?”, Kim Su Rasmussen, a scholar of philosophy and cultural studies, writes: “The psychological and existential effect is that the colonized individual will eventually consider themself as an ‘other.’ This experiencing of oneself as an ‘other’—where the colonized individual both views themself and experiences themself the same way the colonial power perceives the colonized individual—is what Fanon describes as ‘cultural alienation.’” Kim Su Rasmussen continues: “The colonized person is, according to Fanon, confronted with a choice between identifying completely with the colonial power and rejecting it altogether, in an attempt to complete an extensive process best conveyed by the expression to go native.” In all honesty, she wonders whether it’s even possible for her to, in Fanon’s words, go native; whether it’s possible for her to become Korean-Korean, whatever that means. Maybe it’s not meant to be taken that literally, Andrew says when she tells him about the concept of going native. Maybe just moving to South Korea is enough, he says.
She is angry at anyone who thinks she moved to South Korea because she wasn’t comfortable enough in Denmark. Her moving to South Korea is about understanding her own history and, by extension, South Korea’s history; about having any access at all to a history that is hers.
She is angry with herself for assuming that Korean adoptees moved to South Korea because they weren’t comfortable enough in their adoptive countries. Korean adoptees remigrate for many reasons, adoption researcher Lene Myong explains to her over a Skype call, and those reasons don’t necessarily have anything to do with their sense of belonging in their adoptive countries. She says that some Korean adoptees who grew up in the US, and who are fluent in English, have more job opportunities in South Korea than in the States. She finds it interesting how remigration breaks with the idea that transnational adoption is a movement from one country to another—from the sending country to the receiving country. When Korean adoptees choose to move to South Korea, it paves the way for transnational adoption to be understood as a migration that isn’t necessarily completed when someone arrives at their adoptive country.
She is angry that she doesn’t feel comfortable in her adoptive country.
She is angry that she doesn’t feel comfortable in her country of origin. Although, to be fair, in some ways she does feel more comfortable in South Korea, and in other ways she feels more comfortable in Denmark. For instance, she feels more at home in the South Korean landscape than in the Danish; somehow, the mountains seem better suited for her temperament than the flat, Danish countryside. In South Korea, she has a feeling of disappearing into the landscape, something she hadn’t felt since that time in Greenland. Of disappearing into something greater than herself.
Excerpt from SHE IS ANGRY – A testimony of transnational adoption
published with permissions from the author and the translator