Korean adoptees (1950s- ), or KADs as they are called, are children from Korea who were adopted and grew up overseas. There are more than 150,000 of them, most of them in America, though a surprising number are found in Scandinavia. You see them in other Western countries too.
Most of those in America were placed with white families and were brought up white. They talk white, act white, have white friends, go to a white school, have white parents and may even have a white name.
And yet they do not look white.
Because of white racism it means that they are stereotyped by whites, that growing up they get called names, that white children, those darlings, pull up the corner of their eyes at them. It means whites will never truly accept them as they are. If they are girls, it means they do not look like what America sees as beautiful.
And so, many do not feel like they belong, they feel out of place in America.
Some go to Korea, to the country where they were born, where everyone looks like them. But most do not feel like they fit in there either. While Korea feels bad about sending so many of its children away, the KADs are too American to be Korean.
So they become lost souls, many of them, white on the inside, yellow on the outside, caught between two worlds, never truly belonging to either.
There are three main ways they deal with this:
- They try not to think about it and try to fit in as honorary whites.
- They learn about Korea. It helps but it does not become a part of their daily life.
- They seek out other KADs, people who understand them. They come to see themselves as KADs, as something neither white American nor Korean but something new.
In the 1950s Korea started sending children overseas to be adopted. Back then it was torn apart by war and very poor. But even as late as the 1980s one Korean child in 100 was being sent overseas. And even now in the 2000s, as rich as South Korea is and with South Korean women having only 1.2 children on average, even now one in 200 is sent overseas. Only China and Russia, much bigger countries, send more children.
South Korea is not proud of this and wants to stop the practice completely by 2015.
In America white parents at first were told to bring up their Korean children in a completely colour-blind fashion, just as if they were white. But that meant these children faced white racism completely unprepared and with no one to turn to who understood. Often they were the only Asian person at school or in town!
The common wisdom now is to teach the children as much about Korea as possible. Not sure where that leaves the racism bit, but it has to help to know where you are from and be proud of it.