Thursday, June 30, 2011

Dual Identity

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Korea Adoption Law Change

Korea passes law to change adoption policy.

Highlights from the article:
  • The revised law is expected to shift adoption policy from “adoption promotion” to “family preservation.”
  • The new law will also expand rights for single mothers and adoptees. Under the law, adoptees will gain greater access to birth records and women will have a seven-day period to deliberate on whether to keep or relinquish their child. Korea currently has no such limitation.
  • The law also strengthens oversight of adoption procedures; makes birth registration mandatory, to guard against secret adoptions; and brings Korea into line with international standards for the care of children.
In a past post I've talked about how single mothers aren't treated very well in Korea. While this law may make adoption a little more difficult for foreigners, I think it's a good thing to allow mothers to 7 days think (still seems short though) before they give up the child forever. I've heard awful stories about single mothers being tricked into giving their babies up for adoption and once they realized the deceit being told they already signed the papers so they had no choice.

Also, I know I'm incredibly lucky to have been able to reunite with my entire birth family. So many adoptees have had a difficult time finding their families. Hopefully this law will make the process a little bit easier.

This new law seems like a very good, necessary step in protecting the rights of the overlooked.

Wednesday, June 29, 2011


We have a little announcement to make. I've been holding off on going public with this until I knew that it was going to happen, for sure. Based on recent conversations, all signs point to YES.

For those that talk to us regularly in real life, this isn't really new news. But for our virtual friends and followers...

Mark and I are embarking on a business venture.

Yep, we're going to attempt to open a business and be our own bosses. (Which is scary, because rumor is that I can be quite the perfectionist task-master. Do this at your own risk, Mark. Just kidding... kind of.)

As most everyone knows, my birth family is heavily involved in the clothing/fashion industry. My Birth Father has a clothing factory in China and SangKwun runs a wholesale children's clothing line, Dino Bebe. And it is awesome.


Here are a couple of shots of their wholesale clothing store in Guangzhou, China.




Mark and I were looking through their catalogs and said to ourselves, "Wouldn't American kids look SO CUTE in these outfits?" (Maybe those were my words more than Mark's...) So we started talking to Birth Father and SangKwun about the possibility of opening an American branch. But up until recently, it was just that... talk.

Once our Korean classes finished, Mark and I decided if we want to make a run at this, we need to show we're serious. So we've spent the last couple months creating a business plan in both English and Korean ~ with a lot of help from Mark's amazing language exchange partners, researching every angle of of the wholesale clothing industry ~ something we honestly started out knowing very little about, contacting potential sales reps, creating an LLC and trademark, and more.

Oh yeah, and we've finally got a website up and running. The pictures aren't the best as we didn't have the originals to work with, updates will be coming soon. Promise.

A few biz details... we plan enter the market with a focus on girls clothes only (in the 2~8 age-range). Baby and boys clothes will follow. The clothing will be sold wholesale... which means we will sell directly to retail stores and boutiques. So, at least initially, we won't have a storefront open to the general public. (On a side, sales-y note... if you have a favorite boutique that you'd like to see Dino Bebe clothing in, please let us know. We'll love to contact the owner about making the brand available to you.)

So that's the real reason we've been sticking around Korea. We had a great discussion with Birth Father the other day about factory sourcing and import/export fees and SangKwun will be coming to Korea in two weeks so we can finalize our final Spring & Summer 2012 line, create our very own U.S. catalog, and nail down logistics and final details. If all goes well, we should be on a plane soon very after, bringing Dino Bebe to the States!

I can't believe this is actually happening!

Sunday, June 26, 2011

Passport Process

Wow, the Korean passport process is shockingly fast.

Went to the local 구청 office this morning, filled out an application for the 10-year passport, paid about $55, gave them one of my beautified passport photos, and had my index fingers scanned.

And voila... my passport will be ready for pickup in 3 days. Oh and whenever I'm ready to renew it, it can be done online. Nice.

Saturday, June 18, 2011

Extreme photo-shopping

After the dual citizenship ceremony, the next steps of becoming a dual citizen were turning in a pledge to only use your Korean citizenship while in Korea (goodbye casinos... not like I ever went anyway.)

I turned in the pledge, and a few weeks later got a text message that my paperwork was processed and I could come back to the office to pick up my pledge confirmation.

After that, I was free to apply for my citizen ID number (kinda like the social security number in the US), a citizen ID card, and a Korean passport!

For the ID card and passport, I needed to get some official passport photos taken. I went to a local photo shop and assumed it would be in and out. Nooo... this guy took his job seriously! He took a ton of shots, and was very picky about the way I held my head, if my shoulders looked relaxed enough...

Korea seems to have more rules about passport photos than the US. For example, you can't smile showing your teeth, you need to show your ears, and you can't wear a white or light blue shirt.

But then, what this photo guy did next totally shocked me. He proceeded to take the picture I chose and photo-shopped the crap out of it! He removed freckles, and even changed the shape of my head to make my face appear more heart shaped! Pretty sure that would be highly illegal in the United States.

I asked some Korean friends about this, and they all said that's pretty standard. Guess that explains why everyone looks so much different than their government ID. Guessing they'd hate how awful we all look on our driver's licenses...

Anyway, here was the final result... I think I look sort of plastic.

So then I took this photo to the local citizen office (which happens to be SO much more convenient and well-run than the immigration office), and applied for my citizen ID card. This involved a very drawn out fingerprinting session. But I should get my card in about 3 weeks! Next step, passport....

Thursday, June 16, 2011

Understanding 엄마

Last Sunday, Mark and I finally met back up with Birth Mother or 엄마. It had been months and it was actually the first time we've ever met without SangKwun, or my uncle to help with translations.

But I can honestly say that this was our best visit yet. It provided me with a whole new level of 엄마 understanding. In more ways than one.

First of all, without realizing it... my Korean (at least my listening) has finally arrived! I was able to converse with 엄마 without the training wheels of a translator of my electronic dictionary. To be honest, she speaks craazyfast and uses a lot of slang/country dialect, so there's a lot I can't understand. But when she tells a story, I can usually understand 50%~70% and fill in the rest. There may be misunderstandings, but at least there's a degree of understanding. Finally.

Secondly, the ability to converse has provided me with some much needed perspective on my relationship with my 엄마. Ironically, almost a year ago I posted about experiencing post-reunion awkwardness. I felt that 엄마 was overly touchy-feely and didn't respect my boundaries since to me she was essentially a stranger.

But the thing is, I was not a stranger to her. This time, she described the special pregnancy dream she had about me. (This is something Koreans believe in ~ the mother or a close family member will have a very vivid dream about the unborn child and it foretells the child's fortune/life/temperament.) My special dream was about a gold ring. (That's got to be good, right?!)

Then 엄마 told me that they were so poor, she couldn't afford to go to the hospital to have me. So she had me in her house... with no drugs... and just a older lady to help her. But then once I was born, they had no money, so it was hard to keep me fed. She said sometimes all she could do was give me rice, even though I really needed milk. And I as a baby I was sick a lot because of that. And as any mother would, she worried. But she tried to keep me, and managed to until I was a little over a year.

One year old. I think about my good friends who have children who are a year old. These are not babies... these are little people who react to things, have personalities, and most importantly know who their parents are.

So what I failed to understand, was that this woman really knew me. It was I who had forgotten about her. And even though I went to America and had a whole new life without giving her much of a second thought, she was in Korea thinking of me... missing me...

Actually, when we met, she brought along a little girl. I *think* she might be a second cousin. But 엄마 told me that when she misses SangKwun and me, she spends time with this little girl and her sisters. (I apologize for this terrible picture, but it was the only picture from the day. Too busy living it to record it, I guess.)


I don't think life has been as kind to 엄마 as it has to Birth Father or 아버지. As a woman in Korea... especially a single woman... it's hard to earn a decent living. But every time we meet, she insists on paying and slips me some cash telling me to "맛있게 먹어" or "eat delicious food." I know it's a sacrifice for her so I try to refuse it, but she always insists. Impossible to ever lose that motherly instinct, I guess.

I'm grateful for the opportunity to get to know the woman I knew so well almost 30 years ago and who has never forgotten me. So I guess I'll end it with the words she says every time she sees me and every time we talk on the phone. I used to pretend not to understand, then awkwardly said it back... but now I that I opened my mind to her I can say and mean...

엄마... 사랑해 ~~~~ I love you.


Importance of English

Very interesting article in the Financial Times about how English has become the "world's lingua franca."

Surprised me that:
  • "The majority of conversations in English today are between non-native speakers."
  • "English speakers earn 25 per cent more than colleagues who don’t speak the language. This is the average. In Rwanda, in some jobs the difference can be 181 per cent."
  • "Kent Holiday, chief executive of Eleutian Technology, a US-based teaching company, thinks the state and private English sectors spend $100bn on teaching in China, Japan and South Korea alone."

Definitely have seen first-hand the value placed on learning English in Korea. The article also stated that "English should be the 21st century gold rush." Big opportunities...

Wednesday, June 15, 2011

Adoption Flier

I was riding the subway the other day and noticed this ad by the door:


It's basically just trying to convince Koreans that adoption is a choice. On the top (in English) it says, "Adoption is love." Then in Korean it says "Adoption is another way that you can have a family" and "Adoption is a beautiful choice."

So many Koreans are extremely strongly opposed to adoption as they believe the blood-line is of utmost importance. But the birth rate has dropped in Korea, and people are waiting longer to start families. It was kind of nice to see this sign reminding Koreans of the adoption option.

BYOG (Bring Your Own Glasses)

The executive that Mark tutors at LG gave him these 3D glasses. He said they'll be coming out soon and you can take them with you to the movies so you don't have to wear the huge 3D glasses.

But does that qualify you as a big-league nerd to whip out your own 3D glasses in the theater? Or will the losers be the people who are still wearing the big huge theater provided glasses??? I know I'll certainly be looking down on them when I'm rocking these orange beauties. :)


Hangover on the Military base

Two weekends ago, our friend Rachel brought us on the American military base to see the movie "Hangover 2" since it never made it to the Korean theaters. It was kind of a surreal experience being on the base since it seriously felt like we left Korea and stepped into Suburbia, USA.

This is a shot of the front of the theater with our friends Rachel and Ellen. Kind of reminded of Kenrick movie theater in St. Louis. Complete with no stadium seating, old school candy, and sticky floors. :)


Before the movie started, everyone had to stand and they played both the Korean national anthem and the Star Spangled Banner.

We also made a pit-stop in a convenience store where I drooled over all the American food that is either unavailable or super-expensive in Korea.


Especially THIS:


Wednesday, June 8, 2011

Korea's Got Talent

Wow. Just watch it and try not to cry. Makes me realize how truly blessed in adoption I was. (Though I was definitely not blessed with a singing voice like that.)