10.21.2012

Korea – U.S. International Adoption Ornament is Racist and Ugly


There is one amazing and thoughtful review of this product, a review that gives it 1 star and is titled “From the point of view of an actual Korean & Adopted person...” wherein Amazon Customer Reviewer Amie Kim writes,
Yes, I'm an actual person who was affected by this legalized child trafficking deal they call "adoption" - no longer an idealized baby or helpless child. Warning: your adopted children will grow up to have their own opinions, and it's more than likely if you purchase this item, they will have a low opinion of you.
Not only is the imagery offensive to my sensibilities as a person who was adopted from Korea to the U.S., but it's Just. Plain. Bad. Design. It looks like it was thrown together in the mid-90s by a person who just discovered desktop publishing for the first time.
And jeez, the "oriental" font? What are we, Chinese take-out?”
Thank you Amie Kim for sharing your review and your words. In addition to critiquing the product, I share this review hoping that anyone who stumbles onto this ornament’s product page or our blog to takes a moment for thoughtful introspection and discussion about the meaning of this ornament and the meaning of their actions and possibly their ignorance of international adoption from Korea. We all need to listen and think about the current international adoption system, particularly between South Korea and the U.S. Thus the KGC reposts the review because we think it rocks and because Amazon reviews aren’t a great place for discussion (short of saying the review is “helpful” we can’t do much more at Amazon), but we hope to have a discussion here on our blog.

In my opinion, this ornament is UGLY because it has a very offensive whitewashing of race, and of the history of U.S.-Korea relations. So, some prospective adoptive parents are waiting for a “good THING” in the form of a Korean baby (not a thing, not not not a “thing” – we are talking about a human child whose rights must be enforced), to arrive in America, hangs this ornament at Christmas. What an allegory for erasing identity and commodifying a human being.

I view this as racist whitewashing on two:

First, it is racist by assuming a Korean child or the boundaries of Korea (represented by the map of Korea) can be simply “absorbed” into the U.S. (as symbolized by the U.S. map surrounding or consuming the Korean map. It isn’t like this is topographically accurate, so why is Korea placed INSIDE of the U.S. as opposed to alongside or above).

By placing Korea inside the U.S., America is symbolically put in an unquestionably superior position to Korea. This positioning further erases or ignores all of the opposition that exists in Korea – now and throughout history – to the circumstances political, social and economic that give rise to the abrogation of children’s rights in the current and historic adoption regime; to political, cultural and historic tensions in KORUS relations; and also ignores the allegory for conquest, colonization, annexation represented by this imagery.

Second, the racist allegory bothers me because of the historical repetition of the absorption of American Indians into American founding mythology. I personally resonate with this issue because my own ancestor was stolen from her mother by a system that forcefully placed American Indian children with white families (and thereby distanced her from me and my family not only by time/generation but also by a coerced adoption that strips my family of kin, history and heritage). Further, even contemporary U.S. politics refuse to acknowledge and address the decades of forced sterilization of Black women, American Indian women and “socially undesirable” women. Maybe because as a person with privilege I also grew up feeling close to this personal family story of genocide because I (or my grandmother, maybe not exactly/directly me) was robbed of a mother (my great-great-grandmother) that our family and future generations can never ever know. So it hurts me to imagine a child seeing this ornament on a Christmas tree and it hurts me to imagine the seemingly willful ignorance that went into the creation of this product.

Please join our discussion of Single Parenthood in South Korea on the Korean Gender Cafe.  Better yet, anyone interested can visit TRACK’s site and read the entire report critiquing the human rights violations in the current system of adoption from Korea or join the Korea Gender Café in listening to and supporting the inspiring people at TRACKASKKUMSN and KUMFA and many others whom help us be more a more thoughtful international society.