Out of respect for fellow adoptees involved with the project, I refrained from publicly expressing my opinions when I heard about the Korean American Association of Minnesota’s (KAAM) plans to create a Korean Service Center. Privately, I expressed cynicism. Given KAAM’s and one of its member’s track record, did these adoptees really think that KAAM would continue to treat them as equal partners? I pointedly said to one of my friends, “You know that you’ll eventually be thrown under the bus, right?”
My rhetorical question unfortunately was spot on. The week before the Korean Service Center fundraiser, I received a phone call from a friend who expressed disbelief at the drastic turn happening before h/her eyes. (“This was sold to me as a partnership. So much for that. What a waste of my time.”) A few days after the event, I received a request from another friend who wanted to meet to talk through what happened at the shindig. She felt betrayed and manipulated. (“Kevin, I trusted them. I’ve trusted them for a long time.”) Shortly thereafter, another friend told me over the phone that one of the other non-adoptee attendees casually said in Korean, “Oh, they’re those adoptees who are helping out.”
Out of respect for these fellow adoptees whom I respect and admire, I’ll now publicly express my opinions about the Korean Service Center. Firstly, the center is a little too little, a little too late. Where was the center during the heydays of Korean adoption? Where was the center when the Korean adoptee community and their families needed it the most? Isn’t the idea for the center a bit anachronistic? It’s the end of the year 2012, not the end of 1992.
Secondly, what a waste of effort and resources. From what I understand, at minimum $100,000 will have to be raised every year for operating expenses. Right. How’s that going to happen? Currently a culture of philanthropy doesn’t exist in the Minnesota adoption community. Just ask Lutheran Social Services (LSS) and Children’s Home Society & Family Services (CHSFS), two established organizations which are beyond elated when they can raise $50,000 at an event. Besides, if $100,000 could be raised yearly, wouldn’t it make more sense to use the money for needed resources? As a proud Korean American, I appreciate the heritage I carry within me as much as the next person. However, what interests me more is how we as a community can address the severe lack of mental health services. Families and their children are struggling to find adoption competent resources.
Lastly, the manner in which the Korean Service Center fundraiser went down is completely inappropriate. If organizations such as KAAM recruit the help of Korean adoptees by telling them that they are equal partners, the adoptees should be treated as such throughout. Overall, Korean adoptees should always be treated as equals. Period. We Minnesota Korean adoptees have earned that right over and over again. Moreover, we, in conjunction with adoptees from other communities and various other allies, are helping to lead the way in adoption research, mental health, education, policy, literature, arts, theatre, film, and activism. Minnesota adoptees, not adoption agencies or the KAAMs of the world, have made our state a hub of adoption again. It would serve us all well to start fully recognizing that.
My history with one of KAAM’s members began in March of 1984. She was one of my social workers. She greeted me at the Minneapolis/St. Paul airport and introduced my seven year old self to my adoptive family. She also visited me at my adoptive family’s farm a few weeks after my arrival to the States. I vividly recall something she said to me then: “These are your parents now. You need to respect them.” Reflecting the spirit of that statement, I would like to say something to my former social worker.
We Korean adoptees are your equals now. You need to show us the respect we deserve. And this fact should make you proud. As an individual who dedicated her life to bettering the lives of children, it should please you to know that many of the children whose lives you touched have become leaders in the community that means so much to you.
Support us as we lead.