In this post, let’s listen to the story of Darren Wheelock – Going “Home” for the Korean-born. “It’s been 38 years since I left Korea. I was 4 then. I returned this past summer for my first time, and I was really apprehensive and a bit scared to go back. I’ve heard mixed reviews regarding the experiences of adoptees that return to Korea.” His story is similar to that of Shin Song Hyuk in the following video.
The “insensitive” depiction of adoptees in the Korean media has been the topic of discussion on this site and others. I have also spoken to adoptee friends who have returned, and their accounts have ranged from wonderful to horrible. Research on the topic of returning Korean adoptees presents a similar mixed bag of experiences. Mustering up the nerve to go back and then being treated like a persona non grata isn’t what I was hoping for in my inglorious return. I also wanted to speak Korean when I returned, and while I am learning the language, describing my mastery of Korean as equivalent to a four-year-old is an insult to four-year-olds.
The context for my return was ideal. I definitely wasn’t ready to track down my birth mother; I went to Korea and Japan as part of a work trip. I met with friends and colleagues in Japan to discuss future research collaborations, and I traveled to Korea to meet with officials at a university in Seoul to discuss a future study abroad possibility for my course concerning comparative criminology. My two closest friends from Minnesota accompanied me since they also love to travel. We spent about five days in Japan and then five days in Korea.Read More →