Helping Korean adoptees understand their culture of origin
International adoption comes with special challenges for the adoptees, who will be likely to have questions about their country of origin when they grow up. In past decades, the “policy” of many adoptive parents, and the advice often dished out to them, was to integrate the adoptee into their new culture, sometimes to the point of not acknowledging that other culture is also a part of their identity.
Now that adoption is universally seen as more of a triad where there is more openness about birth parents and, in the case of international adoption, culture of origin, adoptive parents may try to help their children understand the country where they come from. If you are hoping to adopt a child from Korea, you’ll have your work cut out for you if you want to understand the country – it is extremely different from western culture. I
f you’re currently going through the adoption process, you might not suffer from pregnancy signs and symptoms, but you can do your “homework” to try and understand Korean culture better. Now, I’m the first to admit that I have no more than a passing knowledge of adoption and its particular joys and challenges. I am not an adoptee or an adoptive parent. I did, however, “adopt” Korean culture – I spent five years in the country, and came to love its culture and people after an initial, very hard adjustment period.
Here are some key parts of Korean culture that you can introduce your child to in a fun and lighthearted way. Celebrate Chuseok Chuseok is the most important holiday in Korea, and perhaps particularly relevant to Korean adoptees. Family members get together to discuss and honor their ancestors. Koreans often return to their hometowns and tend to the graves of their ancestors, and pay respect to them with a special display of food and rituals. At Chuseok, a custom that dates back to the Korean kingdom of Silla, new clothes are also bought for the whole family. This is a great time to talk to your child about their birth family (what you know of them) and discuss Korean customs and history. Hanbok Hanbok is the national dress of Korea. It represents the Korean way perfectly, and is stunning to look at. Young children are bound to fall in love with hanbok – which makes a great birthday outfit for both boys and girls.
Camps for Korean adoptees In the United States, some adoptive agencies that are involved in Korean adoption organize summer camps that give children the opportunity to meet other Korean adoptees, and to take a closer look at their culture of origin. Watch Korean television Korean film and television is of particularly high quality. It’s famous historical dramas, including Dae Jang Geum and Queen Seondok, offer a glimpse into life during the Joseon dynasty and the Three Kingdoms period. They are great for older children (unlike western series and films, Korean dramas are full of drama but never have any nudity!). They might even pick up some Korean from television – my kids did! For younger children, cartoons are also an option. Learn about history Korean is a country with an exceptionally long and interesting history, which is little known in the west. Understanding Korean history means understanding current society a lot better.
The short version? Modern Korea developed after the three Kingdoms, Goguryeo, Baekje, and Silla were united into one. After a long period in which Korea developed as one nation (largely influenced by Confucian ideology), Japanese occupation, and then the Korean war, created North and South Korea. Reading about it is fascinating for anyone, and will be of particular interest to Korean adoptees.
Everyone’s road to motherhood is different, and we all face our own obstacles. At Trying to Conceive we provide as much information on the topic of trying to get pregnant, fertility, women’s health and adoption as possible, to hopefully make the journey a bit easier to navigate through. Our ovulation calendar is an online tool for women who are hoping for a baby – ovulation calendar helps them detect days when they are most likely to conceive.