Homeland Tour for Biracial Adoptees

Posted in Articles, Asian Diaspora, Media Archive, United States on 2015-03-18 16:47Z by Steven

Homeland Tour for Biracial Adoptees


Katherine Kim

Dawn Tomlinson

photographs by Denis Jeong

International adoption began in South Korea in 1953, as thousands of Korean children were left parentless and/or homeless by the Korean War, while many others were born to Korean women and fathered by American GIs or soldiers from one of 16 UN countries stationed in the country. Late last year, the Me & Korea Foundation and MBC Nanum hosted the first-ever homeland tour of Korea tailored for mixed-race adoptees. The co-authors were two of the 25 participants on the 10-day-long tour, which was funded by Korean Adoption Services, the Korean Ministry of Health and Welfare and the Jesus Love Presbyterian Church in Seoul. The following is a personal reflection of the authors’ experience returning to their birth country.

As half-Korean, half-white adoptees who came to the U.S. as toddlers more than 50 years ago, we were raised in white communities by white parents having little to no understanding of our Korean roots. A Korea homeland tour tailored to mixed-race adoptees, we believed, was a start to understanding this painful chapter in our personal histories.

For adoptees as a whole, a visit to Korea is more than about just travel and tourism. It can trigger profound feelings of loss and rejection. For mixed-race adoptees born during the post-Korean War era, those feelings are further complicated by the fact that we look neither fully Korean nor fully Western, and are a minority among more than 200,000 Korean adoptees worldwide.

While Korean War orphans were cast as “nobodies,” having lost their family lineage, mixed-race children fathered by American GIs or other UN soldiers during the war were thought of as even more inferior—we were known as tuigi, slang for “devil’s child.” We were labeled the “dust of the streets,” the lowest of the low. Within that bottom hierarchy even, Korean whites were treated better than Korean blacks.

Regardless of the nationality of our fathers, most mixed-race adoptees were born stateless, as our Korean mothers, often abandoned by these servicemen, could not confer citizenship onto us.

We were, and still are, the in-betweens…

Read the entire article here.

Tags: , , , , , , , , ,

Nation’s First Asian American Rabbi Inspires Social Change

Posted in Articles, Asian Diaspora, Media Archive, Religion, United States, Women on 2013-01-11 04:24Z by Steven

Nation’s First Asian American Rabbi Inspires Social Change

KoreAm: The Korean American Experience

Rebecca U. Cho

Unorthodox Rabbi

As a child, Angela Buchdahl stood out as the lone Asian face in the synagogue and at Jewish camps. Today, she holds the distinction of being the nation’s first Asian American rabbi and is helping to redefine what it means to be Jewish.

On Friday nights at Manhattan’s Central Synagogue, a crowd of 600 gathers for service, voices unifying in centuries-old songs of worship. Leading the attendees in fluent Hebrew, her passion-laden voice soaring to the tops of the temple, is Korean American Angela Buchdahl.
A decade ago, Buchdahl shook up the ranks of Jewish leadership in the U.S. by becoming the country’s first Asian American rabbi. She is “emblematic of the changing face of Judaism,” declared an article in Newsweek, which named the biracial 39-year-old to its 2011 list of 50 Most Influential Rabbis. Not only is she helping to redefine what it means to be Jewish, she is at the forefront of a movement among Reform Jews to inspire social change and push for greater involvement in community organizing.
Her leadership and vision seem to have connected with Jews around the world. Since her arrival five years ago to the prominent New York synagogue as cantor, or song leader, attendance on Friday nights has doubled. Thousands more worldwide recently listened in on a live web stream of services for the High Holy Days

…The need to connect to a Jewish community is close to Buchdahl’ s heart. Born Angela Lee Warnick to a Korean Buddhist mother and a Jewish American father, she spent much of her childhood with a perpetual sense of being “the only one.”
Buchdahl’ s parents met and married in South Korea, where her father had been visiting as a civil engineer in the ROTC program and her mother was studying English literature at Yonsei University. After the family relocated to the U.S. when Buchdahl was 5 years old, she and her sister grew up as the lone Jewish kids in a large Korean American community in Tacoma, Wash. At the same time, in the synagogue and Jewish camps, she stood out as the only Asian face.
“My ‘Koreanness’ wasn’t anything I could escape because it was on my face,” says Buchdahl. Her younger sister, on the other hand, was often mistaken for being Hispanic…

…She sees her bicultural heritage reflected in the diverse Jewish community in New York and at Central Synagogue, which counts at least a dozen Asian-Jewish families. Racial diversity has been on the upswing, with about 20 percent of the 6.1 million Jews in America being of African, Asian, Hispanic, Middle Eastern or mixed-race descent, compared to prior estimates of 10 to 14 percent, according to a 2005 book by the Institute for Jewish and Community Research…

Read the entire article here.

Tags: , , , , , ,