This picture shows South Korean babies given up for adoption. Between delivery and placing them with a foster family, these infants usually spend their first few weeks in the adoption agency’s nursery, where a handful of caregivers look after them.
Faces of Adoption
A photojournalist, herself a Korean adoptee, presents the very intimate moments shared with her by birth mothers, adoptive parents and adoptees.
story and photographs by JEANNE MODDERMAN
It was clear when I started this project on Korean adoption that I could not be an objective photographer. That didn’t mean I wasn’t going to try. As a Korean adoptee trying to tell this story, I wrestled with how I could document all perspectives. I wanted to portray the facts, but also capture the humanity of this sensitive topic. I admit my adoptee status granted me special privileges in photographing this project. I was able to gain access to very personal and intimate moments because the subjects took comfort in the fact that I had some understanding of the situation. Still, I was unprepared for much of what I witnessed.
I’m not sure you can ever prepare yourself to watch a mother give away her 5-day old infant and the absolute despair that ensues, or see an adoptive family meet their daughter for the first time, or witness an adoptee reunite with her birth mother after searching for seven years. These experiences directly affected my own adoption story. After meeting one of the birth mothers, she made me promise to search for my own mother. It’s what she hoped her own child would do.
I wanted to cover the longing of many adoptees to return to their birth country and the result of some making their lives there. There is a large community of Korean adoptees from all over living in South Korea. As one who lived there for over a year, I can attest that it’s a time filled with complex feelings and emotions, often a struggle to decide how you fit in, but also a security in being with people like you. Working on this project opened my eyes to the many faces of adoption and allowed me to see it from new points of view. From the birth mothers, to the foster mothers, to the adoptive parents and, of course, the adoptees, there are so many stories out there waiting to be told. Continue Reading »
Language of Love
Letters between an adoptee and her birth mother.
by NICOLE JOHNSON
When I began the search for my birth mother in the spring of 2010, I was excited, yet also worried and scared. I was adopted at age 3 by a white couple in Iowa who raised me with all the love in the world. My adoptive parents supported me as I decided in my 30s to do a birth search.
After filling out numerous forms through my adoption agency, Holt International, I got my U.S. adoption file. It was overwhelming. I was alone at home sitting in front of my computer sweating bullets. I didn’t know if the information in the file was going to be good or bad. I sat there for a few minutes before opening it.
I found out the ages of my birth parents. The things that I was doing at the age I was adopted. How I was developing and growing. I read the details of how and why I was surrendered to Holt by my mother. I had to reread it a few times. It said that my mother and father met and lived together. She got pregnant, and my dad eventually cheated on her. I read in the file that my birth mother told the social worker in Korea that my father and she separated, though he loved her deeply. I instantly began to cry.
As I sat there, I felt the love of my birth mother just through this document. It took over six months before I got my file from Korea, and then in March of 2011—about a year after beginning my search—I received my first letter from my birth mom, an independent woman who now runs her own small restaurant. Here are the first letters exchanged between my birth mother and me. Continue Reading »
One of the top law firms in South Korea said it will provide free legal services to Korean adoptees overseas who want to return to South Korea and regain citizenship.
Kim & Chang signed a memorandum of understanding on Monday with adoptee advocacy group Global Overseas Adoptees’ Link (GOAL).
“We will focus on how to protect Korean adoptees’ rights who want to return to their home country,” the firm said in a statement. “We will support their lawsuits or other legal activities in case they face such challenges as nationality and labor status issues.” Continue Reading »
Is There Anybody Out There?
This past spring, L.A.-based rapper and Korean American adoptee Dan Matthews began searching for his birth parents. What he found would change his life. An album and web series, both to be released next February, document the dramatic story about loss and discovery, identity and family.
by STEVE HAN
A beam of light blinded Dan Matthews for a second as he pushed open the squeaky door of the adoption agency in Seoul. After a moment, four people came into view. They were sitting around a table, and one of them abruptly jumped up, ran to him and embraced him.
It was his mother — his birth mother. A slight woman with kind eyes, she started sobbing uncontrollably, and didn’t stop for almost 20 minutes.
Matthews was meeting her for the very first time, but he didn’t shed a single tear.
“This will sound heartless, but I had no emotional attachment,” Matthews recalled.
Born Park In Soo, Matthews was 8 months old when Lynne and Jim Matthews adopted him. The Caucasian couple raised him in Camarillo, California, a quiet suburban town about 50 miles northwest of Los Angeles. They were the ones with whom he celebrated birthdays, played catch and who taught him how to ride a bike. It wasn’t until March of this year when Matthews, an L.A.-based rapper who goes by the name DANakaDAN, wondered if it was finally the right time to search for his birth family. Continue Reading »
One adoptee’s journey in search of her lost past, and the connections (and disconnect) she found.
by KAM REDLAWSK
While looking at the Detroit skyline from my tiny studio apartment, I made the impetuous decision to visit Korea. This would be my first time back in 20 years, since my adoption at age 4 by a white family in Michigan.
It was the summer of 2003, and I booked my ticket two weeks before departure. This was also the period when the mysterious weakening of my legs had begun (the first signs of my genetic neuromuscular disorder that now confine me to a wheelchair), and this hastened my sense of urgency, despite feeling nervous about traveling alone.
Fortunately, once I got to Korea, I wouldn’t be alone. A group of devoted classmates from my design college, which had a large number of international students from Korea, had offered to host me that summer and show me around my lost country. Back in college, I began inadvertently making friends who looked like me, and consequently tossed into “Korean life.” As someone who grew up in a predominantly white community, including my own parents and siblings, this sudden surge of similarity made me curious, and I jumped in with both feet—from learning all about Korean cuisine to Korean dramas and even going as far as teaching myself Hangul (the Korean alphabet), just so that I could read and memorize popular Korean songs to surprise my friends during karaoke outings. Continue Reading »