Korea the backdrop for adoption class

Part of the Asian language and literature department, the class is open to anyone interested in the adoptee experience.

Five students shared stories from their adoption experiences during a class discussion.

Some found their birth parents or made attempts to find them. Other students asked questions about the experience.

The class offered this semester, titled Cultures of Korean Adoptions: The Adoptee Experience, is one of the first of its kind in the United States ó with the exception of a similar project in Sweden ó and gives students a chance to talk about adoption in an academic setting.

Jenni Edwards, the post-adoption coordinator at Childrenís Home Society, said adoption should be a topic discussed academically.

ìPeople should be educated because adoption does change and peopleís feelings change,” she said. ìI think that this research will be very valuable to the community when it is all finished.”

Instructor and graduate student Kim Park Nelson said the class is not meant to be a support group for students.

The class gives some students, such as family social science and global studies senior Mandy Beardsley, an opportunity to talk about being adopted that they otherwise would not have had.

ìAfter going to Korea, finding my aunt, and getting some closure there, I also felt a lot of confusion,” she said. ìThis class was a way to sort out my questions and put my thoughts together.”

The idea for the class first was conceived by Korean language director Hangtae Cho.

When he noticed 30 percent of students studying Korean were adopted, he wanted other classes offered to them.

Richard Smith, the director of Adoption for Lutheran Social Service of Minnesota, agreed with Cho and said Korean students have the numbers to be recognized.

ìItís actually viable to pull together a classroom and have people in dialogue,” he said. ìA lot of adoptees from elsewhere would not have enough people to do that, whereas Korean adoptees have had that advantage all along.”

The class is part of the Asian language and literature department and is open to anyone interested in the adoptee experience.

Class time is split between discussing adoptee writing and film, and American and international adoption policy.

Using the Korean War as the start of the class, students are expected to think critically about race, supply and demand and the meaning of family.

ìIím really trying to offer an opportunity,” Nelson said. ìI want to give them something personal, intellectually stimulating and try to make a connection to things that should matter to everyone.”

Although numbers were not available, according to Childrenís Home Society and Lutheran Social Service, the state has one of the highest proportions of Korean adoptions in the world.

Many Korean children are adopted by Minnesota families because of two large adoption agencies in Minnesota, Nelson said.

While some students took the class out of curiosity, others took it because it directly addressed adopted students.

Anthropology and cultural studies junior Adam Laine said he can relate to the other students in the class and feel like an insider.

ìI donít know a lot about my heritage and this was a great opportunity to find out about it,” he said. ìIn this class, Iím surrounded by people who relate to me.”

ó Freelance Editor Emily Kaiser welcomes comments at [email protected].