Recently in Korea, SBS aired a one-hour documentary on two Korean American adoptees who are homeless and living in Washington, D.C. You may read the story on the homeless twin sisters in KoreAM.
As I watched the documentary, I also reflected on the private meetings that I attended with writers for such shows who are rounding up Korean adoptees to recount their traumas on film, with no compensation and no accountability to the adoptee community. Not surprisingly, and yet no less damaging, the goals of such shows are for money and ratings. Still, for many adoptees who want to reunite with their first families, appearing on T.V. is their only option, due to limited access to adoption files and fabricated birth records resulting from the policies and practices of the adoption agencies. Furthermore, many adult adoptees are eager to offer counter-stories to the dominant narrative of adoption as a divine love story that saves children, in hopes that increased awareness will lead to social change.
For the past months, I have been losing sleep over wanting better for myself and my community. We are people, not products. We always have been, though we continue to be treated as economic commodities even as adults who return to Korea after being traded as infants and children. As a community, we are dynamic, complex, and hold a deep capacity for love despite all the ways we were dehumanized by systems of domination.
However, the most accessible representations of adoptees are dichotomous and restricted to terms of happy or angry, sucessful or tragic, and ultimately good or bad. I frequently critique of the representations of adoption as simply good. Nevertheless, I am also deeply disturbed by the media exploitation of adoptees who are struggling with depression, addiction, schizophrenia, and homelessness. These media sources, who are not accountable to the adoptee community, solely seek profit from the sale of adoptee horror stories to non-adopted consumers seeking emotional release. Furthermore, the depictions of adult adoptees as self-destructive and violent, actually serve to infantilize adoptees, rather than foster awareness of the systemic problems with the adoption industry. These images ultimately undermine the agency of adult adoptees, by reinforcing the dominant narrative of adoptees as pitiful, helpless, and in desperate need of saving by non-adopted people.
I want to connect my outrage against such representations of adoptees to the critiques of poverty porn. I understand that such depictions of children as willing and vulnerable, shaped the demand for my body in the international adoption market by positioning me as a seemingly ethical, abundant, and cost-effective supply item. As a result, in my adult life, I am disgusted by media that sells adoption pain with no accountability to the adult adoptee community. I want to call for an end to the adoption porn industry that coerces adult adoptees into recounting their trauma to non-adopted audiences who want to get off on our story, but fail to show up as allies in the fight against systemic oppression that targets adoptees and dehumanizes the entire adoption community.
In terms of a starting place, I wonder if I can subvert the industry by creating my very own amateur adoption porn movies. I'm not extraordinarily pathetic. However, with the right lighting and a
tight shot of my facial orifices, I think I can make it work. Watch for my softcore debut in Me Love You Long Time, a Korean adoptee's eternal quest for reunion with the family that she holds in her heart, but will always yearn for in her arms. And my hardcore production, Yellow-faced Slut, a fictionalized biographical account of my abusive childhood and self-destructive teenage years. Release TBD.