As a transracial adoptee, fighting to be seen is an underlying current through many aspects of my existence. Not only fighting to be seen as Korean, but fighting to be seen as the child my mother relinquished decades ago.
The news of Kang, Mee-sook’s legal victory has made its way through the US and Korea. It is not your average “reunion” story. While many adoptees have found relatives via DNA, few reunion stories have been published regarding adoptees’ fight for recognition and acknowledgment. This legal victory could potentially change the outcomes of searches and reunions for other Korean adoptees.
Changing the Reunion Narrative
At first glance, the legal victory may not seem like a major win. After all, most reunion stories published are those that have a “happier” narrative. What most don’t understand is the lengths some Korean adoptees must go through to find any information about their identity, their family, their roots.
For every reunion story I have heard, there are countless stories that end just as they began, without any more information given to the adoptee. While some searches end with information freely given, many are unable to obtain more information from their adoption file. Even when more information is procured, it is often marred with lies concocted by the adoption agency.
Korean Privacy Laws
Through my own battle for information, I have come up against roadblocks. Hindered by the adoption agencies who seem more concerned about their image rather than making an effort to help adoptees reconnect with their birth families.
While I possess more information about my mother, I still only know her last name. Due to privacy laws, I am unable to obtain her entire name. Because she has aggressively marketed her restaurant, I was able to find out more information about her restaurant and her husband.
Ironically, I know more about her husband’s life because of the interviews he has given. Through one of his interviews, I found out my Halmoni was still alive in 2017 and lived with the family. This is the same Halmoni that the adoption agency told me had died when my mother was 7 years old.
Fighting for One, Fighting for Many
With Kang, Mee-sook’s desire to meet her mother (knowing her father is the key to a re-connection), I can’t help but think of how her victory could positively impact other adoptees.
My mother holds all of the information about my father. I still fear I have missed my chance to meet him. As for my mother, I have given up hope that she responds to my letters. Regardless, there are others who still hold out hope for me.
Acknowledgment: Now and Forever
Perhaps the precedence set forth by this case will transform the minds of birth parents. I understand the constraints Korean society has placed on single, unwed mothers and the illegitimate children they’ve relinquished. However, our existence still remains.
We deserve knowing our families, our lineage, our history. We should not have to fight legal battles to be acknowledged, and yet here we are. It is 2020 and adoptees are fighting for their OBCs, fighting for recognition of our lives before we were adopted.
It is past time we are acknowledged and seen, given the rights and recognition we inherently deserve.