Banner design by Helena, portrait by Eva


Monday, June 25, 2007

The Korean Man's Story

I have two new men in my adult class. One is a Christian and the other an atheist but they are both traditionally Korean. I'm liberal and choose to discuss social problems. Topics like abortion, stay at home Dads, and (laughs) gay couple adoption can get a bit heated.

I'm a strong believer in equal rights. I think homosexuals are born gay, but my students are convinced it is learned behavior, inherently evil, and would be a negative influence on an adopted child. They insist the adoptee would acquire their fathers (or mothers) "perverse" behavior. I asked whether they thought it would be healthier for a child to grow up in an abusive home or a gay parent home, and they chose the abuse without blinking.

I guess a hot topic like that is absurd to bring up in a society steeped in Confucianist tradition, a society in which adopting a child, period, is frowned upon, and gays live lives of secrecy. For the most part, the middle aged demographic grew up under a wooden stick of discipline, in post war time.

The man I dined with last night grew up on a rice and sweet potato farm. His father refused to be a farmer and not only fled his family farm, but left his son in the valley, in the care of his elderly grandparents.

The boy was beaten times he showed weakness, and when he queried about his family (did he have a father and mother? Were they dead?) he was sternly informed the topic was off limits, he wasn't to ask about them.

On his 7th birthday, his Father and Mother showed up unexpectedly. He was overwhelmed with joy, having been reunited with a mother, father and younger brother he didn't know he had. He just thought he was different, growing up. He had no mother and father and there was no explanation.


John from Daejeon said...

If you really want some hot button issues to discuss here in South Korea, try using some from the Marmot's hole website (

Here are two that are somewhat disturbing: Kids know nothing about Korean War and Norimitsu Onishi has written an interesting portrait of a North Korean refugee in Inchon and of the reality of being caught between two societies and ideologies.

However, it isn't only here in South Korea where the white-washing of history is going on. Japan, Germany, and even China (Tiananmen square) are doing their best to forget the past and the young Western minds (especially the U.S., but even the U.K. and Canada) are to self-absorbed to bother to care about history repeating itself (but they are counting the minutes until Paris is released from jail tomorrow).

Helena said...

Wow, what a strange, sad story.

(I think it's "Confucianist")

Still Born said...

I have a friend who is Chinese, born in America, but raised by traditional Chinese parents in Philly. I was trying to explain to him my dilemmas with adoption, my conflicts, my emotions, my sadness, my profound feelings of loss and grief and he wasn't quite getting it, as is a typical reaction from anyone, but he was even less on par with most of the people I discuss it with. He explained to me the differences between most other cultures and Asian culture, about emotion and sadness, about the distance between family members, about how his father has never said he loves him, about how he's only hugged his mother once.

Can you explain a little more about why adoption in general is frowned upon in Korea?

Eric said...

That is such a sad story .. but thank you for sharing it with us.


Eva Karrin McKinnon said...

Helena, haha... yeah, did a quick spell check and it suggested a different word altogether .

stillborn- It's just the importance of blood lines. bearing a boy still comes with a lot of pride. But adoption is increasingly acceptable.

Helena said...

LOL! I thought it might be a spell-check mishap. Those can be pretty funny. I knew a guy named Myron Hammond who got his name turned into Moron Humanoid.

Anonymous said...

eva, i love that you are bringing up these topics in class. you are proving yourself to be a very strong teacher.