시작이 반이다 (meaning: Starting is half the task) – Korean Proverb
While I do not speak for the entire Korean Adoptee Community (#KADS), there is an overall consenus–I believe–that has legitimate pieces of advice for Korean adoptees, their families, and friends that are coming to Korea for the first time or one-hundredth time–and the entire sum of this advice is RESPECT! First of all, for the Korean adoptees that are living in Korea both short-term and long-term you ALL must realize that we, KADS,
are treated with the status of second-to-third class citizens–often overlooked and passed up for jobs to Caucasian foreigners, held to a higher-level of expectation based upon the fact that we look Korean and in the eyes of the public are expected to understand cultural etiquette and customs, and deal with an assortment of difficulties regardless of what region or country you were adopted to and the Western influences that we bring back to Korea.
The reason I feel that this is an absolutely necessary topic to write about is due to the recent issues that the KAD community continues to deal with and with the onset of peak season approaching with the summer months. I hope this blog entry will be read and shared with others to gain a deeper understanding as this can and will effect ALL future adoptees returning to Korea!
Imagine for just a moment, whether you are an adoptee yourself or a parent, family member, or friend of a Korean adoptee, and how you would like this person or yourself to continue to be treated as though they hold a lesser quality or value to them just because of the fact that they were adopted? How would that make you feel? And, even furthermore, how would it make you feel when other adoptees returning to Korea are NOT making it any easier for the KAD community here, but actually are making things worse and more difficult! Yes, this is the struggle that many of us face, and many of us are tired of standing by watching as individuals and groups come through Korea for short-term trips acting like drunken buffoons or loud-mouthed Westerners only to leave a trail of a negative image of Korean adoptees. Yes, I understand this happens with other foreigners and Korean nationals, the major difference is that often the entire KAD community is grouped together and as we struggle and fight for more recognition from the Korean government, funding from various organizations, scholarships, and the guesthouses that are specifically for KADS, YOUR actions can and WILL determine much of what WILL happen for the future of KADS in Korea.
I've personally seen KADs that are 18-years-old to those above the age of 40 acting completely disgraceful and with no regard in respecting the KADS and/or organizations that are here to support ALL KADS, but especially those that want to come back and stay on a more long-term basis. Many of us–including my roommates, one constantly petitioning with the Korean government NOT to cut funding for KADS and my other roommate that works for G.O.A.L. (Global Overseas Adoptees' Link) in assisting with birth family searches and immigration for this NGO, as well as myself. I work with many high-ranking business executives, CEOs, doctors, lawyers, etc. and the first thing I let them know about myself is that I am an adoptee. The reason I tell them this is because I want these individuals to become more educated and aware of the numerous KADS in Korea–on average 5,000 to 6,000 KADS return each year to Korea–and I am working hard to build a great network that I can help other KADS with high-ranking clients if and whenever they may be needed!
Therefore, I do not want to continue to feel as though this is a giant lecture, I just want KADS and their family/friends to realize how MUCH THEIR actions CAN and WILL determine the future of KADS in Korea, especially when many of us that are living here are attempting to not only reconnect with our Korean roots, but there are many of us that are trying to create positive changes for current KADS and future KADS. One more example is a Saturday Night Live (#SNL) Korea skit that was mocking Korean adoptees reuniting with their birth families, and thus since then has been removed and a publicly apology has been made by the network, however, I wanted to post the official stance from the Global Overseas Adoptees' Link (G.O.A.L.) had to say regarding this particular skit that aired on television in Korea and is extremely popular. "We at GOA’L are deeply offended by the SNL Korea adoptee reunion parody that aired on March 8 on tvN and strongly encourage SNL Korea to air a public apology during their next broadcast to demonstrate their remorse and willingness to repair relations with the adoptee community, Korean birth family members, and all others that were hurt by this insensitive display of ignorance. We insist that tvN and SNL Korea take every precaution to make sure that they do not repeat this kind of callous misrepresentation again." Nikolaj Leschly, Secretary General of GOA'L, continued by stating, "It was uncomfortable because a reunion between an adoptee and his or her birth parents is for many adoptees, a very, very long awaited moment in their lives. The SNL Korea skit made a mockery of that sacred moment and that hurts." You may read the entire blog HERE and I plan to have the video of this skit in the near future.
MISLEADING CONCEPTION KADS RECEIVE THROUGH ORGANIZED TRIPS:
Any KAD that has lived in Korea for any given time–interacting with the general public–has seen the genuine reality in how we are treated versus that of organized trips through guides and translators. Walking into shops you are automatically given the assumption that you should speak and understand Korean. While based upon our appearance this is an understandable mistake, however, there are SOME–not every–but some shop owners, taxi drivers, and of course the general public can treat you very cold and rude. Another KAD gave the best example in illustrating how we are treated differently versus foreigners–and this is by no means to knock my Korean friends and/or Korea in general–however, he said, "if Koreans see a foreigner attempting to speak Korean they will stand and clap, cheering and encourage you, as trained seals–his words–while if a KAD is doing the same thing. We are often looked at as if we are mentally challenged and even made fun of or ridiculed for our poor pronunciation!" A HUGE disparity even when attempting to learn the language of our descent.
10 SIMPLE RULES FOR GUESTHOUSE VISITORS
2) Realize that there MAY BE curfews for example at one it is 11pm! IF THIS IS A PROBLEM FOR YOU, then stay at a traditional guest house or hostel that does not have a curfew OR stay at a hotel! DO NOT stay at KAD guesthouses and EXPECT
TO BLATANTLY IGNORE OR HAVE THIS RULE BE EXEMPT FOR YOU!
3) WASH YOUR DISHES! (*don't treat Korean staff like your personal maids)
4) Be cognizant of noise levels (whether this be late at night/early in the morning talking and/or playing music)
5) Pick up after yourself, because surprise WE ARE NOT your mother!
6) SECURITY (both with personal items and this is all of OUR living space)
7) FOOD & TOILETRY ITEMS, these items are NOT for everyone, WE purchase these items with OUR money!
8) WHEN IN DOUBT, ASK before just doing things (i.e. unplugging or plugging in electronics, because there is a difference in the voltage/amperage most likely from your home country and this can easily blow the electrical circuit.
9) SCHEDULES, please be considerate by asking if ANYONE in the dorm may have
scheduled responsibilities (i.e. here for an organized trip and/or school, work, etc. of course the polite thing to do is ask before occupying the bathroom for long periods of times, and this is understood that this goes BOTH DIRECTIONS for long-term guests and those visiting more short-term.
10) DON'T BE WASTEFUL!
*You would like to think the last rule of not being wasteful wouldn't be an issue, but recently I was woken up early in the morning to some loud drunk visiting KAD guests just wasting paper towels tearing them off and spreading them around on the table laughing! REALLY?! C'mon man, are you an adult or what? Another long-term guest made the best comment after yelling at them later, because they not only brought in a stranger to the guest house, but he asked how old these two Australian KADs were and they said, "19-years-old," he told them, "if you are old enough to travel abroad by yourself you should be old enough to read and follow the rules, which are POSTED EVERYWHERE around the guest house." Furthermore, a social worker, whom I will keep anonymous as not to create MORE verbal abuse that the social workers deal with on a daily basis from demanding overseas KADS often, that she spoke with these two individuals several times about the rules and their lack of respect and concern for the security of the fact that this guest house is not only a guest house, but also an orphanage for more than 30 babies! By bringing in a stranger–whom granted they said was a friend of theirs, another adoptee–this 'stranger' was also intoxicated and wondered down to the Babies' Home late at night/early in the morning hours, and thus could have been a very HORRIFIC situation that could have given reason for this VERY IMPORTANT facility to be shut down if a more dangerous situation would have occurred! This is WHY it's SO very important that KADS respect these rules so strictly! Once again if you want to come to Korea and 'party it up' then please stay at a hostel or guest house for international travelers that do not have curfews nor an orphanage on the premises! The proof of this wastefulness is photographed below, while trying to keep the individuals anonymous.
NUMEROUS ORGANIZATIONS FOR KADS IN KOREA
Please realize that by being inconsiderate of these places, CAN and WILL cause them to no longer exist for yourself and future KADS! The same inconsiderate KAD that disrupted our living environment for an entire month, after several of us discussed things when this person left, we realized that several of us had the same feelings toward him, that none of us discussed among one another because we did not want to seem as though we were 'ganging up on him' or because we felt that maybe 'I'm the only one feeling this way.' This person, whom is nearly 40-years-old also has–once again in my opinion–been deceptive in meeting with many of the above organizations with possible future intentions of creating his own for-profit KAD organization! While there are plenty of arguing and problems with every organization–both for KADS and not–the problem with this is that this individual will be disrupting and destroying what many of these organizations have worked hard to do thus far. Again it's not perfect and there are plenty of changes that need to be made, but as an entrepreneur, I feel that when someone has a negative track record with failed businesses and questionable ethics, this is a formula for disaster.
Once again I try to write in ways to keep the individuals anonymous, but I need to refer to them to provide very clear examples of what has or is happening within the KAD community in Korea. As I silently observed this individuals level of disrespect I also noticed that he made several female KADS quite uncomfortable with what one female described as, "being cornered and harassed with very personal questions." Several male KADS felt this older person was preying on young naive female KADS both in Korea and within the social media groups on Facebook. Instead of choosing to erupt like a volcano on this person–possibly saying something I would truly regret later, I silently, or in his words through "passive-aggressiveness" just tolerated this person in the last 10-days to a week before knowing he would be leaving. When we did have a private conversation, every thing I brought up was twisted by him through a very condescending tone, which I already knew would be the case based upon this person's character, and thus choosing not to even waste any more time or energy in trying to reason with this person through respect and clear communication. The words of ,"so you, and others that live here feel that you have more entitlement to this place, huh' and 'you are just being nitpicky, and if I wanted to be nitpicky, I could also find areas to be nitpicky about too." Nice response, I'm sorry! I suppose waking up at 4am and Skyping without headphones where people can hear BOTH-SIDES of the conversation in the common area waking EVERYONE up IS being both nitpicky and feeling as though WE–that live here–are feeling a sense of more entitlement to the place. I would think ANYONE that experienced this same situation would agree that it's not either of these, but a lack of respect for others! The only other topic I was able to bring up was the fact that I even cleared more space in the dorm for this person to place their shoes as they constantly left them just inside the entrance to the dorm and anyone walking in would nearly trip over them! I politely asked that he place them out of the way of the narrow entrance walkway. Once again I was given a retort of being called 'nit-picky' with this request, instead of apologizing and owning up to the fact that this is COMMON SENSE. These were just a few of the very reasonable and logical issues that I brought up and based upon this person's response, I was given was erroneous and ridiculous replies of a defensive nature, that's when I made the decision that I felt the need to no longer waste time trying to talk with someone that I have never in ALL of my travels or life have seen someone make such absurd excuses, instead of just owning up to them.
Another KAD said she sat and talked with him for more than an hour and later realized that not once did he ask her a question, but constantly talked of himself and tried to impose his spiritualism on her. Ok, I don't care what you believe, but when you are two-faced and try to act self-holy on any level, I think most of us find that absolutely annoying. I don't want to keep dragging this on sounding as a complainer, but again I hope these examples demonstrate what 'characters' we have within the KAD community that show up at the guesthouses. The last thing I will mention is–once again your freedom of beliefs is a privilege for everyone–however, my issue was the fact that this person would act like a chameleon when it came to people's beliefs. If someone said they were agnostic, guess what here comes a sharing of that belief. If someone said they were Christian, he would suddenly pull out these hand-drawn images of Jesus with some words of random inspiration. However, when asked about his belief in Christianity he admitted that, "I do not believe Jesus Christ was the Son of God or the only way to heaven is believing this." Ok, fine you believe that and that is your choice, however, then why are you handing these drawings out. To me, this shows once again the deceptiveness of this person's character and it's like someone handing out the Book of Mormon that later will admit, "oh I don't believe any of this whatsoever." Well then WHY are you being such a fake person?! Seriously, I know you all have heard this, but just be yourself. Stop pretending and being two-faced, especially through deceptive methods. The freedom to debate and discuss is great, but when people act in such ways, of course this is something that tells much about a person's character, or lack thereof, in my opinion.
In the end, after this person was FINALLY departed from the guest house and we all began to speak more freely about our feelings, that's when we realized several of us had the same understanding of this person. Several weeks later, we were notified that this person may be coming back to Korea to try and begin a for-profit organization and once this rumor became more of a reality EVERYONE remaining in the guest house said they would rather move out than spend more time with this person. Therefore, once again just because we are all KADS does not mean we all share a deeper connection of friendship, especially when that other person has no respect for others. Unfortunate situations occur like this regularly, but we–that live here–have once again chosen to stand up and say that this person WILL NOT force us out. Currently we are almost at full occupancy, and guess what, there is complete cohesion within the guest house, because we have RESPECTFUL guests!
SOME SUGGESTIONS FOR FIRST-TIME KADS VISITING
KOREA AND HOW IT MAY EFFECT YOU
Once again, as an entrepreneur that has owned several businesses–all of which were successful on different levels (successful in a profitable manner if that matters so much)–the advice I give to other aspiring entrepreneurs is the same for KADS. For example, if you want to own a restaurant or hostel, if you've never even worked in one and you think it would be fun, go and work in the industry, especially if you want to be a business owner by working in various positions from the lowest position to the highest, and at least have some passion or interest in what you are doing, not just doing it for the sake of making money!
COMMON ISSUES NOTICED AMONG VISITING KADS
2) EMOTIONAL CONNECTIONS: Just because you meet a KAD doesn't mean you have to be their BFF and have an instant connection. I often ask other KADS, "if this person weren't a KAD would you still want to be BFF's with them or trust them and spend so much time with them?" If not, then why do you feel the need to surround yourself with negative individuals or those that may be deceptive by nature? I completely understand it's OUR connection as KADS to gravitate to one another, regardless of nationality, but I've also seen this backfire in a very large way.
3) STOP THE HARASSMENT: I've learned that disconnecting myself from negative people in life is often necessary, and this is the same when it comes to other KADS. I'm sorry but if you've been blocked on Facebook AND Kakao this generally means I'm not interested in communicating with you–this again seems to be something that should go without saying–however, an example, the inconsiderate nearly 40-year-old KAD that disrespected OUR living space for nearly a month was blocked and yet still continued to email me through an extremely condescending manner by continuing to preach at some level of his zen-guru-isms because this individual–I feel–cannot stand not being loved and admired by everyone. Sorry, but I view this as a sign of a lack of maturity along with this person's actions. Therefore, leave and others alone when you are blocked! Get the hint!
3) GIVE US SPACE: Sorry, but once again you need to safeguard your emotional status, because visiting Korea for KADS is NOT a 'typical vacation' but has far more reaching effects of us–generally–and in doing so it can be difficult in coping with all of these feelings, especially when you can't even express them or understand them yourself. For example, I know when I first came to Korea I had a lot of support from family, friends, even my girlfriend at the time asking me all types of questions, wanting to communicate with me–which was extremely wonderful–however this can also be extremely overwhelming and add the stressful emotions we are already experiencing. When it came to family and friends, I told them I need to process all that I am going through first, before I can even explain or tell them what I am feeling. Therefore, my advice for family members, friends, other KADS even that are wanting to be supportive during these times is to realize that not communicating is not a means of ignoring you, but it's OUR time to process things that are unbelievably difficult to understand ourselves.
4) LISTEN MORE: Recently, we had #IKAA (International Korean Adoptee Association) Gathering in Seoul and one of the individuals that has been a long-term resident of the guest house has sadly put it into jeopardy! It was only after an hour long discussion with General Management of the Guest House Manager that convinced the adoption agency NOT to shut down the guest house, because this stumbled back to the guest house with two other adoptees at 4am, and I just happened to be awake as I often get up very early to get some work done and as the elevator doors opened it was like seeing three people with 'deer in the head light looks' of absolute shock! They quickly scurried into the girls dorm room, since she is currently the only one staying in there, and they were in the room for about 15-20 minutes. First of all, this is a CLEAR RULE that states NOT BRING BACK NON GUESTS, because again this is NOT a typical guest house but also an office building and most importantly an orphanage for the Babies' Home! What was just completely DISAPPOINTING was the next day when both the Guest House Manager and I confronted her, she claimed they were only helping her back because she was so intoxicated. Sorry, but there's LIE #1, because I've seen this person stumbling in way worse on her own. Also, if they were so concerned to get her back safely then why did they need to rush into her room at 4am for 15-20-minutes? There was no introduction, because in my personal opinion this female guests was "sneaking" in others to stay to sleep in her dorm room that she knew she could keep secret, until I was sitting there working away at 4am! BUSTED, LIE #2!
5) SELFISHNESS: Once again with this same individual that tried sneaking in guests, in the same week we counted four different individuals near the property (two girls climbed six flights of stairs to try and get in while at about 12:30am a long male adoptee was trying to get into the kitchen door that is locked also on the sixth floor) When I opened it he was surprised and then left. Later, when we confront this person again, her attitude was one of complete selfishness sadly. We told her, "listen, we love you and we aren't trying to act like your parents, but your actions over the past week have been highly questionable with the number of strangers that are showing up here just after IKAA ended AND the fact that you were telling people that you can get into the building AFTER the supposed curfew! LIE #3 she denied this, but I still have proof from a Kakao message from both the person she told and confronting her about it! When we told her that General Management was and still is HIGHLY considering closing the Guest House to adoptees, her attitude was SERIOUS, "well, I'm planning on moving out in October or November, so whatever." Yeah, so basically her attitude is that she doesn't care what happens since SHE is moving out and IF her actions cause the Guest House to become closed down for ALL future adoptees, she doesn't care! We never did get to tell her that IF the people she had been bringing back had been intoxicated and wanted to break into the Post Adoption Office, which happened at Holt several years ago by a group of adoptees, that she would be help responsible both LEGALLY and there could also be CRIMINAL charges brought against her by the adoption organization! That is why they have began reviewing ALL CCTV activiting 24/7 and once we told her this, she knew she was caught in possibly LIES #4, 5, 6...who knows! It's so sad, because again many adoptees often fail or just don't care enough that THEIR ACTIONS have LONG-LASTING effects for current adoptees living in Korea as well as those that want to come to Korea in the future!
6) TAKING ADVANTAGE OF OTHERS: Another recent situation that people don't realize happens actually more often then you would expect was about a month ago a 35-year-old adoptee arrived in Korea on a one-way flight that he actually had broken into his wife's house while she was at work, stole her credit card to purchase the flight, packed a backpack with about three pairs of clothing, and then went directly to the airport and showed up at the adoption agency around 10pm seeking to be reunited with his birth family! He had no US bank card, credit card, but just under $100 USD. Well, rally the best we could there were NUMEROUS individuals involved in helping this person such as the adoption agency noticed he was not a stable individual and could not have him staying at the Guest House with the Babies' Home so they had to pay for him to stay at a nearby hotel. The next several days, multiple organizations were involved in helping him get into the Emergency Housing for adoptees, where he had a private room for 90-days with the option for an additional 90-days. Several of us bought him things like shoes, since he showed up in busted up sandals, got him a phone, he was given clothing, a phone, a T-money card with credit, and about $400 a month plus some money after contacting his birth family that he suddenly showed up in Korea. However, the dishonesty and taking advantage of situations came when he would spend nearly $200 in a week or less and when questioned about what he purchased he would try to avoid answering this. Also, as his F4 Visa was being processed, which he only had about a week to go before receiving it, after NUMEROUS people pleaded with him to wait until he had received at least his visa because if he chose to leave Seoul to live with his birth mom, which told him when she came to Seoul that she was a typical 'Tiger Mom' and that growing up she would make about $100 a month and only spend about $20 so savings is one of her big rules. Well long story short, he left Seoul with the full knowledge that by doing so IF he were to return he would not be allowed back into the FREE emergency housing, no more monthly living allowing by one of the non-profit agencies, and other organizations legally would NOT be able to even be in contact with him as he would now ONLY be limited to work with KAS (Korean Adoption Services). Well NOT EVEN 24-hours after he left, his birth mother questioned the money she gave him went and then kicked him out of her home, so he returned to Seoul seeking help, but as we said we weren't able to help him his only contact would be the Korean Government Agency. Sadly, he has also been banned from several properties of agencies for adoptees and he was SPECIFICALLY told after arriving back in Seoul wanting FREE housing and money that he was not allowed back on the property and IF he were to try and come back that they would not hesitate and they would call the police and he would be charged with trespassing, put into a detention facility, have a criminal record, be deported, and be held responsible for paying back the U.S. Government for his flight. Once again it just breaks my hear to share these stories, but PEOPLE this is often the TRUE reality that we deal with ALL the time in Korea!! And people, wonder why it's so hard for us that live here to gain more respect and acknowledgement from the Korean Government?! What's sad is that there is more funding for Chinese or those from the Philippines, which I'm not saying they shouldn't but the fact that WE are Korean-American, Korean-French, Korean-Australian, Korean-Danish, Korean-German, Korean-Dutch, and the list goes on....So once again YOUR ACTIONS WHETHER YOU CARE OR THINK ABOUT IT OR NOT HAS EFFECT ON FUTURE ADOPTEES. PERIOD!
POSITIVE ACTIONS BY KADS IN KOREA
SEARCHING FOR OUR BIRTH FAMILIES IS A SENSITIVE DECISION
Anyways, I want to share more about Jacob and the positive impact that both he and G.O.A.L. continues to do for all KADS by sharing an excerpt, "Today is the day that I’ve been dreading for the past two months. I needed to renew my F-4 visa at the Seoul Immigration Office (서울출입국관리사무소) in Mokdong, Seoul. Normally this immigration office is always crowded and there are always long lines of foreigners waiting to apply for visas...Please also keep in mind that normally February and March are the busiest and worst times of the year to go to the immigration offices due to the new school year for Korean universities and English academies. Therefore, there tend to be a lot of English teachers and foreign exchange students going to get their work and student visas throughout these two months. Since Korean Immigration requested foreigners living in Seoul to schedule an appointment regarding visa needs, I decided to try this new system out for the first time and experience it firsthand. I had our lovely office manager at G.O.A.’L help me make a reservation online. My online reservation was for Thursday morning (February 25, 2016) at 11:20am. My reservation number was #29 and I had to go to the “Foreign Visa Service” counter on the 1st floor and wait for my ticket number to be called. I also planned to get there 30 minutes early to pay for my F-4 visa renewal fee which is 60,000 KRW at the stamp counter on the 1st floor. **PLEASE REMEMBER TO PAY WITH CASH (KOREAN WON)**...For the time being, I will try and talk with Korean Immigration about their website reservation issues and hopefully they can fix this problem within the very near future. The fact that many foreigners (including myself) were complaining about the online reservation system and how their website didn’t work, I feel that this situation needs to be resolved immediately especially since the Korean Immigration offices are making a strong push for foreigners to make online reservations instead of doing walk-in appointments. Hopefully Korean Immigration can fix this problem so that foreigners including Korean adoptees who wish to apply for the F-4 visa can make an online reservation and not have to deal with the same problems that I went through today. Please also remember that you can always contact me (Jacob) at G.O.A.’L for any F-4 related questions or requests by emailing me at firstname.lastname@example.org!" Please take time to read his ENTIRE BLOG and browse the other blogs on the G.O.A.L. Website.