"A Work In Progress"
The Experiences of the First Generation of Korean Adoptees
Survey findings detail challenges of ethnic identity, discrimination,
and issues of search and reunion
Contact: Jamie Moss
(Washington, D.C., September 9) -- They pioneered intercountry adoption, and
now the first generation of Korean adoptees are giving the world the benefit
of their varied experiences growing up in a country where they were
immediately identified as both "foreign" and adopted.
Today, the Evan B. Donaldson Adoption Institute, in conjunction with Holt
International Children's Services, released the findings of a survey of adult
Koreans who were adopted between 1956 and 1985 and who are currently
attending the International Gathering of the First Generation of Korean
Adoptees in Washington, D.C.
The findings of the survey address many important issues of adoption. Among
EXPERIENCES WITH DISCRIMINATION -- 70 percent of the respondents reported
racial discrimination, ranging from simply irritating to truly traumatic,
when they were growing up. Many respondents reported that their adopted
families struggled with this issue.
SELF-PERCEPTIONS OF ETHNIC IDENTITY -- The majority of the respondents
reported that their views of themselves ethnically changed as they became
adults. Over time, the respondents were far more likely to identify and
further explore their Korean heritage. One respondent noted that she was
"still shaping" her identity and another revealed that she is "still a work
INTEREST IN SEARCH AND REUNION -- The respondents were divided on the
issue of searching for their birth families. While 22 percent of the
respondents had searched or are searching for their birth families and 34
percent were interested in doing so, 44 percent were uncertain or not
interested in searching.
The lessons learned from this unique group of Korean adoptees -- the first
and largest group of international adoptees in this country -- are
essential," said Madelyn Freundlich, executive director of The Evan B.
Donaldson Adoption Institute. "The survey chronicles the rich and varied
experiences of Korean adoptees from adult perspectives. It provides important
information about issues of race, culture, ethnicity, identity, and family.
We should remember that these adoptees and their families did not have the
benefit of the many adoption resources now available. Their insights are
especially meaningful now as growing numbers of people adopt from overseas
and create multi-ethnic families."
The Washington conference -- which is being attended by more than 400
adoptees -- is co-sponsored by Holt International Children's Services, The
Evan B. Donaldson Adoption Institute, The Korea Society, and also-known-as,
inc. The conference is September 10, 11, & 12 at the J.W. Marriott Hotel in
Washington, D.C. "One of the most exciting parts of this conference is
bringing these Korean adoptees together with members of the Korean community
in the United States and providing them with opportunities to experience
their Korean culture," said Fred Carriere, Vice President of The Korea
The attendees will participate in workshops and activities that acknowledge
the individual adoption experiences and encourage dialogue on issues such as
cultural and racial identity and search and reunion; provide an historical
overview of Korean adoption; and offer tributes to birth and adoptive
parents. Parts of the conference will be available on the Internet at
"Approximately 141,000 Korean children were adopted by families in the United
States and Europe between 1956 and 1985 and this survey is of only a small
number of those individuals" said John Williams, President & CEO of Holt
International Children's Services, the largest adoption agency involved in
Korean adoptions. "That said, the survey provides us with much needed and
valued information that will benefit both professionals and families involved
with intercountry adoption."
In addition to the survey findings, another substantive product has emerged
as a result of the Gathering. The anthology, "Voices from Another Place", c
aptures the creative talents of Korean adoptees through writings, artwork,
poems and prose. "In most instances, the creative energy of these people is
intricately tied to their ethnicity and Korean culture. Their works reflect
both their adoption experience and their Korean heritage." said Susan Cox,
Vice President of Holt International Children's Services. "The anthology is
yet another way for these adoptees to share a common life experience with
The complete survey findings are available at www.adoptioninstitute.org/proed/korfindings.html.
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