Posts Tagged ‘loss of culture’

Her family was removed from her
Her country was removed from her
Because she didn’t matter.

She was exported to a foreign land
She was sold to a new family she didn’t look like at all
Because she didn’t matter.

Her birth date was removed from her
Her name was removed from her
Her manners were removed from her
Her words were removed from her
Her ways of thinking were removed from her
Because she didn’t matter.

She was given a new birth date that has nothing to do with her birth
She was given a new name that didn’t match her face
She was taught new manners as being the right manners
She was forcefully penetrated with new words to become her new mother tongue and new ways of thinking
Because she didn’t matter.

She was killed when I was created
She is not because I am
I am not me I’m her.
Don’t tell me I matter when she didn’t

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Baby’s mom

When  I was newly adopted, my parents introduced me to one of their employees named Neva (or something similar like Niva, Nova, Nevaeh, etc.) who had a few month-old baby whose picture is below.


Instead of calling her by her name, I called her “Baby Mommy” which would make everyone laugh or smile and say, “she’s so cute.”

If they had known about Korean culture, they would have known that it would have been very rude and even unthinkable for me to call an adult by her name; they would have known that “baby mommy” was not a child’s cute way, but a Korean way to call a mother of a baby.

“Baby mommy”  was my way of translating directly the Korean expression 아기 엄마 (agi eomma) which means “baby’s mom”  with the “s” ommited (as the 의 of 아기 의 엄마 is ommited).

“아기 엄마 ( Baby’s mom)”. That’s how Koreans call a baby’s mother.  That’s how I called a baby’s mother while growing up in Korea.

If I had known Neva’s baby’s name, I may have called Neva “[the name of baby]’s mom”.  But I didn’t retain the baby’s name, it was a too difficult name for a Korean girl to say or remember.

 Unbeknownst to me  I was recycled to an all American girl (and later to a Québécoise de souche) within a short time, I stopped callling Neva “baby mommy”and I started addressing her and other adults by their names.

“Someone’s mother; someone’s father”

In 2001, a Korean friend (who then lived in Montreal) invited me to go to Korea. At the last moment she learned I couldn’t stay at her parents’ house, so she found me a family to stay with during my trip in Korea to search my family.   All I had to do, in exchange for my accomodation, was to speak in English or read an English book  with a seven year-old girl, the only child of the family. Her sister, who was the private English teacher of the girl, needed to take vacations, so I would be like her substitute. I told her that my spoken English was aweful but she assured me that it didn’t matter to the mother of the girl.

Before meeting the family, my friend introduced me to her sister to talk about the child, Sue Young…  “And what’s the name of the lady?” I asked at the end. A brief silence that followed made me feel like I had asked a wrong question. “You don’t need to know her name. Call her Sue-Young eomma, it means Sue-Young’s mom,” she said. While she was explaining me that’s how they do in Korea, I felt awkward and I felt like I wanted to scream, ” Why can’t I know the name of a person whom I’m going to live with for five weeks!!? How am I going to endure THIS for that long?!!!!” My whole body ached, but I kept quiet…

The language I don’t speak was once my mother tongue and the culture I find weird was once my culture. I don’t remember the language but I remember the culture. Yes, I REMEMBER  the Korean culture as if I had learned it from a book or from white adoptive parents (except that I didn’t learn it from something or someone stranger to the culture, I had lived it naturally with my natural parents and my people; I didn’t know yet anything about the word “culture” yet I was part of the culture and the culture was a natural part of me). And everytime I think of my Korean life with my  mind of Quebecer, my whole body hurts, it hurts so much I wish to die.

In Korea, parents are referred to as someone’s mother/mom or father/dad. For example, my teacher would address my father as 명숙(의) 아버지 which means “Myung-Sook’s father”; the teacher of my brother Dae-Yeol would address our mother as “Dae-Yeol’s mother”; My sister Marie’s friends would refer to our mother as “Marie’s mom”, etc.

Husband and wife may also call each other “[their child’s name]’s father” or “[their child’s name]’s mother”. For example, Sue-Young’s mom would call her husband, “Sue-Young appa” which means “Sue-Young’s dad”.

Myung-Sook’s father

As I remember this part of culture (referring parents to as someone’s mother/mom or someone’s  father/dad), my heart aches for my father. When I  lived in Suwon, my father was  referred to solely as  “Myung-Sook’s father” as all  my siblings had left home. I can only imagine how it hurt him to be referred as “Myung-Sook’s father” by the neighbors after I was gone.  I can only imagine how he suffered after losing me. I can only imagine how he felt every time he entered the empty house/room that was lent to us by our generous landlady.  I can only imagine the overwhelming loneliness and grief  that made him drink to death . [link] There was no other way for Myung-Sook’s father to escpape from such loneliness and grief after losing Myung-Sook (to the industry of adoption).

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We Were Children is a documentary about the experiences of First Nations children in the Canadian Indian residential schools system.


For over 130 years till 1996, 150 000 Aboriginal children were removed from their families and sent to faraway schools which were part of a wider program of assimilation designed to integrate the native population into “Canadian society” and were established with the express purpose ‘To kill the Indian in the child.’  These children endured physical, sexual and emotional abuse, and the complete erasure of their culture.

The last of the 30 residential schools closed in 1996. In 2008, the Canadian government offered a publicy apology and the Indian Residencial Schools Truth and Reconciliation Commission was established.

I was a child. I too was removed from family and my country, sent to a faraway country where I endured forced assimilation, abuse and complete erasure of language and culture.  They killed the Korean  in me. They say I should be grateful for being saved. They call it international adoption.

Korea has been selling its children to 15 countries for 60 years. Canada is one of the countries which buy them.

International adoption: import-export of priced-tagged children, forced removal from family and coutry, forced assimilation, abuse for many and complete erasure of language and culture.

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Below is a page from a book that I read several times after my “arrival day”.

A book Myung-Sook read from Déc 1975 to 1976/77

As I had only two books written in Korean, I read them about 100 times until I lost my mother tongue and became a Francophone Quebecer.

In a TV programme, a French-speaking Quebec artist, adoptive father of a Chinese girl, said that given the fall in the birth rate in Quebec, the Quebec governement should help couples who want to adopt in foreign countries, because “those children become Québécois pure laine”, he said, in a short time and it doesn’t cost a cent.

It’s easy to assimilate adoptive children from foreign countries. It’s true that you can make them believe they are white, you can make them believe your ancestors are theirs and you can make them believe they are Québécois pure laine. More you adopt them young, the easier it is to assimilate them.

Even I, adopted at 9 years old, have been remodeled in the image of my adoptive parents and I became a Francophone Quebecer like them
within short time. Starting with my birth culture, I was emptied of everything Korean to be filled with everything Quebecer within two years.

You can easily snatch a child from its mother, from its country and its culture; you can empty it like you would empty a vessel, and you can fill it with your culture, but you will never be able to fill the hole you created by emptying it; you can fill with your love, but you will never be able to clean cut the invisible thread that connects the child to its roots.

I’m a Francophone Quebecer, but I have a big hole in my heart since I lost my mother tongue and original culture. The greatest sorrow of my life is losing my culture and language. Sometime, I just want to die to stop the hurt.

People say don’t complain and study your culture. I actually remember the way I used to live in Korea, but I remember everything as if it happened in French; the Korean culture is not natural to me, it’s stranger to me.

Do you really think that studying Korean culture in a book/movie would bring me back my culture? If it was that simple, then everyone who studies Korean culture could become Korean, and I would feel no hurt. My original culture is taken from me forever.

Since I became adult, I tried few times to relearn my mother tongue in order to reacquire a part of what was stolen from me, but without success.

What did it give to me to try to relearn my mother tongue? Absolutely nothing, nothing than hurt.

I’m trying again since 2009. Maybe, I’m trying to fill the hole created by adoption, the hole made bigger and deeper by the assimiliation. Below is a page from a book that I’m using.

A book I'm studying since the end of 2009

The greatest irony of my life is that I’ve been assimilated by people who often discussed and still discusses identity and autonomy issues on national level. The Parti Québécois introduced the “Quebec identity bill” which proposes the predominance of the French language and the protection and promotion of Quebec culture. This is even more ironic for international adoptees who couldn’t defend to keep their mother tongue and culture and have lost their identity to become francophone Quebecers by force.

Mrs Pauline Marois, leader of the Parti Québécois, said that the francophones of Quebec have preserved their culture and language by perseverance. It might have been true in the past, but it’s no longer true today. Preserving your language and culture by passsing it by force to the children adopted abroad has nothing to do with perserverance. It is what I call the modern colonization: instead of invading and transforming a country abroad, you bring their children here to colonize their bodies.

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You taught me to sing 태극기.
I sang it cheerfully waving my arms in the air, until it made me sad.
I stopped singing and I lost the beautiful voice that I inherited from you.
The lyrics faded away, making a hole in my heart.
The new songs I’ve learned never filled the hole.
Why did you teach me to sing 태극기 before sending me far away?

You taught me to sing 애국가.
I sang it respectfully with my right arm on my chest, until it hurt.
I forgot the lyrics, and I learned to sing O Canada.
I never felt at home singing “Terre de nos aïeux” /“Our home and native land” in this foreign land.
I kept thinking of my home in my ancestral land.
Why did you teach me to sing 애국가 before sending me off to a foreign land?

You taught me to draw 태극기.
I drew it everywhere saying proudly “Korea! Korea!” until I hated you.
I stopped looking in the mirror, to avoid the ugly face I inherited from you.
The blue and red 태극 became a red maple leaf.
The fleurdelisé swept up the trigrams, killing my nature.
Why did you teach me to draw 태극기 before abandoning me to strangers?

You taught me to say 우리 대한민국.
I repeated it proudly thinking of you, until I felt ashamed,
I stopped talking about you, the nation which sold me to strangers.
To be part of them, I studied the new language like crazy.
The words you taught me faded away,  digging the abandonment hole bigger.
The new language I learned never filled the hole.
Why did you teach me to say 우리 대한민국 before selling me to a foreign country?

You taught me to sing 우리의 소원은 통일.
I sang it wishing for our unification, until it made me cry.
I yearned for you.
I loved you, and it hurt me to death to love you.
I loved you until I hated you.
I hated you, and it hurt me to death to hate you.

I kept you in my heart by hating you.
I don’t act like you, but I remember the way we lived together.
I forgot the lyrics, but I know the melodies of the songs you taught me.
I forgot the words you told me, but I remember the meanings.
I forgot our language (우리 말), but I remember many words.

Although I hate you, I only remember the words 사랑해요.
My hatred for you flows from the hurt through my 사랑 for you.
I went back to you, yearning for the love.

But you erased me, you forgot me.
And it hurt me to death.

When you sent me far away, you couldn’t see me crying;
You couldn’t see me in pain, and you couldn’t count my tears.

When I went back to you, you saw me crying;
But you still couldn’t see me in pain, and you couldn’t count the tears:
You were still selling your children to foreigners.
You erase them, you forget them.
Because you are indifferent.

Your indifference is the opposite of love.

When you sent me far away, I prayed to 우리 할머니 in heaven to bring me back home.
I tried to please 우리 하나님 to forgive me of my childhood sins, until I had no faith.
Now, I wish my heart was filled with the same indifference as yours.
And, I wish to forget the words 우리의 소원은 통일.
It hurts me to death to think of you.

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