Monday, July 11, 2016

Adoption, Hockey, and the 2018 Winter Olympics

By NiNY

I was born in Seoul, Korea in 1975.  According to the birth certificate, upon entering the world I was immediately brought to an orphanage.  My parents, a nice midwestern couple from Minnesota, adopted me and I was delivered into their arms when I was six months old.  I grew up in Minnesota, and have lived in the United States since then.  When my eldest daughter was born, in 2004, she was the first blood relative I had ever met.  That occasion also marked the first time in my life that I ever felt any interest in even seeing the land of my birth.  My wife and I plan to make that dream a reality when we travel to Korea with our two kids, around the 2018 Winter Olympics.

You know, when you distill a life down to the main points, it doesn't seem like much.  But that's okay.  I'm 42.  I have a wife, two kids, three dogs, one fish, a house, a job and a car payment.  I don't have anything of note to complain about.  I lead a happy, if unspectacular, existence.  I'm comfortable.  With who I am, with my life, and with my place in this world.  I've come to realize that I'm not on this planet to end hunger or cure cancer.  I'm not here to save civilization.  But I believe that still means that I can make a positive impact on my little piece of the world.

I never had a gaping hole in my psyche for the lack of information about my biological parents.  I think part of that is nature - you're born needing that information or you're not - and part of it is nurture - my adoptive parents would certainly have supported any interest I had shown in tracking down that part of my history, and I never felt they valued my presence any differently or less because I was not their biological son.  I have two younger sisters, one of whom (the middle of the three of us) was also adopted, and the youngest of the three of us is the biological by-product of our parents.  My middle sister was born in Minnesota and put up for adoption by her birth parents.  She did have a desire to trace her biological history as far as she could and our parents were extremely supportive of this initiative.

Introspection has led me to truly believe that I harbor no ill-will towards my biological parents.  Their decision to put me up for adoption allowed me to lead this wonderful life.  Would I have met my wife and had my children if they hadn't put me up for adoption?  Obviously not.  You see what I mean?  But there is no doubt that seeing my kids triggered some reaction in me that suddenly I was interested in at least seeing Korea, where that interest did not previously exist.

Supporting this, the greater society in which I grew up never made me feel different or inferior due to my race.  I was never the victim of an overt display of racism.  In fact, the one time race was a major issue was when I used it to my advantage in applying to colleges as a non-caucasian.  Once, in high school, a friend who was also an adopted Korean, invited me to his Korean kids group meeting.  I distinctly remember feeling conscious of my race for arguably the first time, surrounded entirely by other Koreans.  For better or for worse, in my mind's eye I identify myself as either a-racial or at least no different than my caucasian family and friends.

A cursory search for information on Korean adoptees reveals a wealth of information on the topic.  Apparently the diaspora of Korean kids roughly between the 1955 and the 1990 was a big deal - it is estimated that over 200,000 Korean kids were adopted and brought west to the U.S (Haruch, 2014, para. 4).

Which got me thinking about my story and its relative uniqueness.  What are the main ingredients?  Korean, adoptee, hockey, winter Olympics.  Over the next year-and-a-half, I'm going to explore the Korean diaspora and its impact on America.  I'm also going to report on our plans to go to Korea, what we learn and what we're anticipating.  Then, I'm going to deliver a first-hand account of the experience of returning to your homeland as an adult and a parent.  All against the backdrop of the 2018 Olympics.  As a Minnesotan kid, hockey became my favorite sport, and still is today.  The journey of the Korean hockey program will also be a focal point of this year-and-a-half journey.

I don't know how this is going to unfold, but I am looking forward to the adventure.

References

Haruch, S. (2014).  "In Korea, Adoptees Fight To Change Culture That Sent Them Overseas."  NPR, para. 4.  Retrieved from: http://www.npr.org/sections/codeswitch/2014/09/09/346851939/in-korea-adoptees-fight-to-change-culture-that-sent-them-overseas

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