Archive for June, 2010


Success and Failure

This time four years ago we were not-so-patiently waiting for our homestudy to be sent to Korea. Three months earlier we’d been matched with a precious little guy, who was just waiting for us to come get him. Of course, he wasn’t waiting. By all accounts, he was being doted on by a Korean foster mother and father who provided for his needs. He had no idea the big changes that would come in to his life in just a couple of months.

We, on the other hand, were preparing for those big changes. What we’d learned in our April PIP class stuck and we’d continue educating ourselves. We were excited that there is a small Korean American population where we live; that we had access to Korean markets and even a Korean school. Connection to J’s birth culture would be important, we knew.

Now, four years later, I look back at the hopes and dreams I had then. In many ways, our family is where I hoped we’d be.

We’ve strived for our son to have contact with Korean Americans, although it’s been on a pretty superficial level so far. Even so, it’s still had an impact on him. The more he interacts with Korean Americans, the more comfortable he becomes around them. A couple of weeks ago we went into our local Korean market. The minute J saw the woman who works here, he went up to her, bowed, and said, “Anyong ha se yo.” Without prompting, and loud enough for her to hear. It was a breakthrough (before after much prompting, he would whisper it shyly) and special moment for us; one we’d hoped for.

Right now J has a lot of pride in being Korean. He loves Korean food, asks to learn the Korean language, listens to Korean pop music (he idolizes Big Bang, a Korean hip hop group), and had a blast cheering on the South Korean team during the 2010 FIFA World Cup. (Of course, the food, language, music, and football are all things we enjoy as a family; they are things that bring us together, not things that isolate him from us.) All of it what we’d dreamed for our family.

While we’ve been succesful in somethings, we’re woefully lacking in others. As we’ve continued to educate ourselves about adoption, race, and identity, we’ve grown. As we’ve grown, the desires I have for my family have grown too.

That growth has caused me to not be content with our small Korean American community. Instead, now I mostly see the 80 percent caucasian population that surrounds us. While I’m thankful for the few connections we do have here to the Korean American population, it doesn’t feel like enough.

Over and over the message of racial diversity, not living in Whiteville, comes to me–through magazines, blogs, and books. The need for our son to see himself reflected in those around him, not just sporadically but everyday. And every time I read it, I realize that we’re missing something. That when it comes to building a foundation to help our son form his racial identity, we’re failing.

The one positive spot I see in that failure is that we recognize it for what it is. My prayer is that God will bring opportunities for our family to rectify the failure.


It’s More Than a Game

Many of my readers in the U.S. may not realize it, but the biggest sporting event on the planet is going on right now in South Africa. It’s the FIFA World Cup; the ultimate in football, or as we in the U.S. call it, soccer. Football, 축구 (chuggu) in Korean, is huge just about everywhere but the United States. But recently I’ve realized that really, it’s more than just a game.

South Korea had its first match this past Saturday and the game started early where we live. But we were all up to cheer on the Fighting Tigers, and were thrilled to see them win 2-0 over Greece. Our son has a poster of Park Ji-Sung, the Korean footballer who also plays for Manchester United, in his room, so he enjoyed getting to see him play.

As I watched our son following the game, I realized how wonderful it was for him to be seeing sports figures who look like he does. Sometimes it’s hard to imagine yourself aspiring to a goal unless you can see someone you connect with accomplishing a similar goal. Being Asian growing up in America, our son doesn’t get to see a lot of sports figures who resemble him.

But recently I realized the importance of following the World Cup on a whole other level too. This event is such a big deal in Korea that what happens in it becomes part of the national consciousness. We found this recently while watching the Korean drama, I Really, Really Like You. When one of the characters felt she was being treated unfairly, she compared the person doling out the treatment to a “World Cup Argentinian ref.”

While I’m sure most Koreans understood the reference, I had to look it up. The slight happened at the 2006 FIFA World Cup and involved referee Horacia Elizondo, who allowed a goal by Switzerland that the Korean team and fans felt shouldn’t have been allowed. I found the information on Wikipedia and found this interesting:

Elizondo’s decisions have caused anger among Koreans, many of whom sent e-mails of protest to the official FIFA website. FIFA decided to take the strong step of blocking Korean Internet access to its website due to receiving too many protest e-mails from Korea. FIFA spokesman Pekka Odriozola said “FIFA’s new media department detected this organized attack coming from Korea and, basically, had to block the messages from Korea to to protect the Web site.” In addition, many Koreans have left negative comments on the website of the Swiss embassy in Korea, and one man has been arrested for threatening to bomb the Swiss embassy in Seoul.

While I might not condone such actions, these reactions show how seriously Koreans take the World Cup, and how much a part of the national consciousness this game and this event are. And that’s when I realized that for our son, the World Cup is another way to be connected to his birth culture.

My husband and I are not Korean American and so we’ll never be able to raise our son the same way a Korean American family would. But we feel we must try to give him all the advantages we can, such as learning the language, having friends/mentors who are Korean, and watching soccer (which for our family isn’t a chore, because we LOVE soccer). Hopefully the more ways we find to connect him to the Korean/Korean American culture, the less divide he’ll find with the community as he grows.


Shouts of Reds by Big Bang with Kim Yuna

The Shouts of Reds bigbang MP3 | Music Codes

This song has taken over our house! It’s the victory anthem to cheer on the South Korean 2010 FIFA World Cup team and is sung by K-pop group Big Bang with some help from Kim Yuna, the 2010 Olympic figure skating gold medalist.

Our son loves this song and must play it several times a day. He belts out the lyrics and wants to watch the video to learn the dance that goes with the song. Thankfully, we love the song too and the fact that he’s so into the Korean World Cup experience.

Be the Reds! Go Korea!

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