I don't want to find my biological family
By Elle Green on June 20, 2014
I tended to exploit my origins during interviews, but the real reason I chose teaching English in Korea over Japan (since I had studied Japanese in college) was that I knew I could get a permanent resident visa.
In order to get that visa, I had to dig up all my adoption papers. Naturalization certificate, amended birth certificate, certificate of adoption, adoption record. Fill out some paper to formally renounce my Korean citizenship and change my name (which proved unnecessary).
And I actually read my stuff for the first time.
Three things stood out.
- I'm the same height as the biological mother. That was kind of cool to know, though maybe not that surprising, since I'm around average height for an Asian woman.
- I was given up for adoption ten days after birth.
- And the woman had listed her name on the official documents.
I was never interested in anything "Asian" growing up. Chinese food (Korean was unavailable around town) horrified me as a child.
My Halloween costume one year was my Korean dress (not sure how/why I had it). Some people might call that racist. I think I'd laugh myself silly if Asians ever dressed up as Pilgrims for Halloween. It would be creative. Or if Korean girls celebrating Halloween in Kyungsung, Busan dressed up as "white girls." Anyway. I will secretly scorn you if you speak to me of "reconnecting with my roots." Culture comes from your parents, and I grew up making homemade sauerkraut, spaghetti sauce, and haluski.
But I think every adoptee, even ones like me, go through that phase in childhood where they wonder and think about searching. To put it in a shallow nutshell: some move past it; some always wonder. I moved on. It was idle curiosity. My life and my choices define me; not someone else's.
I met an older adoptee in Korea who'd married a Korean woman, was raising their child there, had gone on a television show to try to find his biological family. He was born in the seventies, when things were even more secretive, and he had zero information.
So I felt some irrational guilt that I had a name I was doing nothing with.
Korean names might offer no clues if adoptees are arbitrarily named by the agency, and some might not know where they were born. I have a name, a place, and an uncommon surname, much more than most.
Though knowing what I do about Korean names now, I think the given name listed might be the product of a typo, fake, or just really strange. But it's something.
"Do you want to find your birth family?" People ask that question so casually. Like, within the first minute of meeting me casually. Do they think it's polite to ask, for some reason? Do they think I should? It's maddening. It's not a question to ask a stranger.
There's that idea that all it takes is searching and finding. But some reunions are not possible due to culture. Being an unmarried mother carries such stigma that the woman's family might not even know - and she still doesn't want them to. There's the language barrier. The obvious weirdness associated with meeting a stranger connected to you only by a genetic tie.
Plus the unexpected bits. Like if your biological parents were eventually able to marry and you had full siblings out there. I've heard of that. Or if you were the youngest, given up for adoption due to other reasons. I've read about cases like that.
And the fact that I simply don't want to, just feel some obligation because I could relatively easily and therefore should do so before it becomes increasingly likely that she's passed.
I couldn't help wondering what would happen, walking around Busan, if I saw someone that looked familiar. I saw over a hundred students each day and looked their faces. I rarely saw someone who looked that much like me superficially, but we aren't always the best judge of that. But so many little girls I saw had half my older (adopted, also Korean) sister's face. That was weird. One of my students did kind of look like me at age nine. Resemblance heightened by the snarky attitude. I liked her.
I thought about getting my adoption record from the agency in Seoul. Was forestalled by the fact that the crowds annoyed me, and felt a little nervous about actually having it. I do regret not going through with it. . .mostly because it's mine, I'm entitled to it, and I can only get it in person. If I go back to Korea, I'd like to hit up Seoul for that reason.
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