As an adopted Korean American raised in Danville and Chico, Yun
Jin Carson says she “tried hard not to acknowledge that I’m
not white.” As a student at CSU, Chico, she continued to
struggle with issues about race and adoption.
Carson had been sure she was destined to be a professional musician.
She majored in music, with an option in piano performance. “But
as time progressed, I found that studying music didn’t make
me happy,” says Carson. “It didn’t help me understand
the things that I really wanted to know about.”
During her last semester at CSU, Chico, Carson enrolled in a multicultural
and gender studies course taught by sociology professor Nandi Crosby. “The
class helped me to understand the political nature of identity
and inspired me to learn about the ‘adoptee collective’ that
I had never imagined existed before,” says Carson. “I
came to the conclusion that whatever angered me as an individual
about racism, sexism, and classism was always in direct relationship
to my identity as a Korean American adopted female.”
Four years ago, Carson changed her name from Susanna back to her
birth name, Yun Jin. In 2003, she traveled to South Korea and met
her birth mother. She has since met her father and her half sister.
Carson, who now lives in Seoul—a city she enjoys exploring—is
part of a small but growing movement of adult Korean adoptees who
are challenging South Korea’s international adoption policies.
She is a member of the organization Adoptee Solidarity Korea. “The
idea isn’t to stop adoption where it acts as emergency relief,
but to stop it where it has become parent centered more than child
centered—where children have to unnecessarily leave their
countries and cultures behind,” she says.
South Korea’s high rate of international adoptions (see below)
is the result of many complex social issues. “One reason
so many Korean children are sent abroad is because of the country’s
treatment of single mothers, including an unwillingness to support
them, ostracization from their families, and a lack of employment
opportunities,” explains Carson. “There is an emphasis
on marriage and women’s roles as wives, mothers, cooks, and
housekeepers. These social expectations make it difficult to be
a single, working mother.” The culture’s stigma against
nonblood relations joining a family leads to fewer domestic adoptions. “I
need to be well versed in social structures in order to change
the hearts of people in Korea so that they are more willing to
adopt domestically,” says Carson.
Carson earned a bachelor’s degree in music in 2004; she is
also certified in piano pedagogy. In Seoul, she is taking Korean
lessons, teaches English classes, and edits a newsletter that publishes
Korean adoptees’ perspectives. In a year or two, she hopes
to return to the United States to attend graduate school. She would
like to study sociology with an emphasis on race and gender issues. “I
would like to learn about organizing, so I can take that back to
Korea and help improve the situations for children in need of being
adopted,” she says.
Lisa Kirk, Public Affairs and Publications
South Korea and International Adoption
- Since the 1950s, more than 150,000 South Korean children have
been adopted outside their country. Americans have adopted about
110,000 of those children.
For decades, South Korea was behind only China and Russia in
international adoptions. Recently, Guatemala moved ahead of South
Korea in international adoptions.
In 1990, South Korea was the primary country from which U.S.
citizens adopted, about 37 percent of U.S. international adoptions.
In 2001, South Korean adoptions dropped to 10 percent of the total.
Americans adopted 1,630 South Korean children in 2005, according
to the U.S. Department of State Web site.
Sources: www.adoptioninstitute.org and travel.state.gov