An excellent long-ish form piece from The New York Times offers an overview of the Korean-American adoptee community, and how many of them have decided to move back to the country of their birth:
“Lovell was one of the very few female adoptees I heard about with a Korean boyfriend. He’s a musician who tells her he is ‘not a typical Korean guy.’ Still, ‘he scolds me, saying, “You should be doing this,”‘ she said, imitating a paternal voice. Laura Klunder also pointed out the various ways gender roles are ingrained in daily life: Female adoptees are often viewed as masculine when they wear clunky shoes and carry their own bags of groceries — a sharp contrast to the young Korean women in high heels, short skirts and meticulously applied layers of makeup. Koreans also consider it unladylike for women to smoke in public. And if a handyman arrives at a woman’s apartment to fix something, he will often ask to speak to the husband. ‘In the U.S., I feel my race,’ Lovell said. ‘Here I feel my gender. This is what it must have been like in the United States during the “Mad Men” era.’
For many adoptees, those cultural divides — coupled with the fact that they can’t speak the language, a frustrating and often heart-wrenching obstacle in their own birth country — solidifies the feeling that they hover in between: not fully American, not fully Korean. Instead, they live in a third space: Asian, Western, white, adopted, other. It’s a complicated place but not always a bad one. ‘I am, maybe, in a way, proud of my in-betweenness,’ Lovell recently wrote me in an email.”
The number of adoptions from South Korea is far lower than it used to be (and many children went to Western Europe as well). That said, it’s still a fraught subject that brings together the thorny issues of Korean sensitivity to how poor the country used to be along with a cultural attitude that, plainly speaking, an adopted baby could never be a “real” son or daughter, and would be better off in a completely different country.
The whole piece, written by an adoptive mother herself, is excellent.