Life is a series of collisions with the future; it is not the sum of what we have been, but what we yearn to be.
– Jose Ortega y Gasset
Besides being a global traveler that has spent time in both Europe and Australia–obviously much easier as both an American and Western cultural countries–but I have also had the privilege to have lived in 19 different countries throughout Central and South America, South East Asia, and more than a year in Korea. Another thing that I would like to mention is that I have lived and/or stayed in over 300 hostels or guest houses internationally, therefore, in some ways I feel as though I've become a bit of whether you want to use the term expert or seasoned-veteran when it comes to communal living, and as a KAD (Korean-Adoptee), the decision to move or even visit Korea as a KAD by coming to Korea is not only something that should be YOUR choice–without that of a family member's pressure or encouragement–but more importantly your decision to move here should be carefully considered. Throughout living in Korea, primarily in a guest house with other KADS, I have experienced a variety of KADs from around the world. Yes, some people are actually surprised to learn that South Korea has the largest number of children adopted internationally since the Korean War of the 1950s, but that on average between 5,000–6,000 KADs return to Korea each year, whether that be for short-term, longer-terms, or indefinite relocation. Therefore, as a KAD and based upon MY EXPERIENCE participating in several KAD programs in Korea as well as, obviously, meeting lots of KADS from all over the world, just as anything there has been both positive and negative experiences.
First of all, the reason I HIGHLY insist that family members and/or friends DO NOT encourage other adoptees to return to Korea–even for a short trip through an organized program–because this is NOT, let me repeat that NOT, a typical vacation-style trip to us, whether accompanied with family members/friends etc. Often, I have witnessed personally, the emotional struggle and even breakdown of individuals from all ages! Secondly, please DO NOT encourage KADs to begin the process of searching for their birth family! This is HIGHLY important and needs to be an individual decision, because you MUST be:
1) Emotionally prepared for the potential outcomes–yes some are positive but I have witness and again experienced several unfortunately that have been negative and this can be a crushing blow to a person's psyche and even push them off a very fragile edge they may already be on–with or without you knowing it or signs being shown.
2) Continue to remember that no matter whether you are a parent or sibling of a KAD, even myself having two sisters that are Korean adoptees, I have asked them if the have any interest in searching for their birth families or visiting Korea, and they are still undecided, and therefore, I will not continue to bring up that subject.
And secondly, I know that when many KADs meet one-another, we often share the same story of growing up in predominantly Caucasian communities, therefore some of us have had limited contact with other KADS in our life, and of course we share this commonality with other KADS, BUT this does not mean that you need to be best friends with every adoptee you meet. I have been guilty of falling in to this preconception upon both my first one-month visit in October 2013 joining a small group of KADs as part of the Eastern Social Welfare Society (#ESWS) Home–to–Home Program, which was specific to an organized one-week trip of activities, which focused upon the fact that all nine of us were here to meet our birth families for the first time.
The advice I give to other KADs is; if you wouldn't hang out or spend time with this person without the knowledge of knowing they are a KAD, then why do you feel the need to continue to spend time or trust someone JUST BECAUSE of the fact that you both share this aspect of your past?
Finally, I do not want to discourage any KADs from participating or considering moving to Korea, but I think that these 15 suggestions may be things that you have hopefully already considered, or will be helpful suggestions in general to make moving abroad a more pleasant experience with ease! I know that I often stay very busy either with traveling or running and operating my own businesses, but please feel free to EMAIL ME, however I want to apologize in advance if I take quite a while in responding. This often may be due to issues that are not just due to a busy schedule, but can also be due to limited technologies in areas that I may be visiting through my travels. Also, if you haven't taken time to navigate a bit through my site I have created a LINKS PAGE FOR KADS, that may be helpful for you and/or others.
THE BAD: Through my personal experience of global travel (35 different countries at this point, living abroad in 19 of them) as I mentioned of Western countries, not just English speaking countries, but Western ones, since most KADs were adopted and grew up in Western countries, in my opinion there is the largest difference as you hear between the East and West dichotomy. It's not just language but an entirely different mindset, cultural differences, etiquette, and social expectations.
THE GOOD: Korea, in my opinion is the SAFEST country I have traveled or lived in–even for a megacity such as Seoul, which is the world's second largest metropolitan area with over 25.6 million people, or a city that is twice the population density of New York City–and when I mean safe, I consider things such as; petty crime or theft (i.e. pickpocketing), sexual harassment or gender equality (yes, Korea like most of Asia is still a patriarch society in a lot of ways, but changes are occurring, however, keep this in mind as a feminist or strong female).
I would like to also mention that above ANYTHING, in Korea, like most Asian countries it all about respect! Therefore, speaking loudly as Americans often are known for can be seen as extremely rude plus many other levels of etiquette. As I said, organized tours with other KADs are not a true indication of living in Korea as a KAD, because as sad as it may sound we are treated like SECOND-CLASS citizens! Yes, you look Korea, you have Korean pride and often a strong bond to this country as a KAD–this is normal and natural and the commonality that ties us all together as KADs regardless of where we grew up in the world–however please keep in mind that YOUR actions affect those of us KADs that are living in Korea, and because Korea is still very much a homogeneous society, often the only or first interactions that other Koreans may have with KADs can be negative and thereby stereotyping us as an entire group! So PLEASE be aware of this fact, because at some point in your life you may want to return whether for future short-term stays, long-term, or indefinite, and thereby in doing so YOUR previous actions have consequences or repercussions either positive or negative.
When I say treatment like second-class citizens, for example my roommate Jacob that has lived in Korea continuously for nearly or more than two-years explained it as, "if a white person tries to speak Korean other Koreans will stand around and encourage and clap like trained seals would, but if a KAD does the same, you're looked at as if you are mentally challenged (the non PC version, retarded) because of how you look, you are thereby EXPECTED to understand cultural etiquette, customs, and of course the language. And, even when you try and speak Korean, obviously you have an accent, and they look at you as to why this is the case and question you! Plus as much as KADs will continue to say 'I'm Korean' which is true, to most Koreans you are still viewed as a foreigner, PERIOD.
(*TO THE RIGHT) There is a PDF that describes HOW and WHAT items are allowed to be sent to Korea as Care Packages, including packages can be sent to Eastern Social Welfare Society Agency in Seoul and picked up if you give them advance notice, but more than anything it describes the process and you can use the ESWS address in English as an example of how to fill out an address correctly for Seoul.