Wednesday, August 1, 2012

For the Love of Korean Culture: Integrating different cultures in adoptive families

By Kelly Weishaar
My little daughter, age 3, climbs into my lap and points to my iPad.

“Drama, Mommy?”

In my house, it well known that Mommy is addicted to Korean drama shows. The shows are melodramatic romances or action stories that give me a brief look at modern Korean culture.

My two children were born in South Korea. My husband and I are Caucasian. As a transracial family, we have made it a priority to learn about Korean culture.  As we prepared to become parents through adoption, we researched how to bring our children’s culture into our everyday life. Much of the literature we have read supports the idea that children who are adopted benefit from being exposed to the culture of their birth. Learning about Korea has been an exciting journey for all of us.

As I was thinking of all the ways we try to celebrate our different cultures at our house, I came across an article in Adoptive Families magazine called “Bringing Heritage Home” by Lisa Milbrand

Milbrand makes a few suggestions on how family’s can celebrate family heritage:

1.   Make connections with other adoptees.
2.      Make cultural activities a normal part of life.
3.      Explore the current [modern] culture.
4.      Blend a family culture.

In my own family, our first love of Korean culture was the food. Anyone who is familiar with Korea knows that food plays an important role in social gatherings and family relationships. We love to go to Korean restaurants, and are lucky to have a number of them in our community. We also like to frequent the Asian markets, to search for ingredients for cooking Korean food at home. Although I am not much of a cook, we try to share Korean meals with our friends and family.

We are also lucky to have access to an active parent adoption support group and a Korean culture camp. Both my husband and I are on the board of the groups, and make an effort to be actively involved. The groups provide us with opportunities to socialize with other families who look just like us. They also give us access to Korean cultural events, holiday celebrations, and educational opportunities.

The adoption groups and camp have also connected us with members of the Korean American community in our area. We are particularly lucky to have found a special “Korean Grandmother.” She is dear to us, and loves to invite our family to Korean events in the community. She also likes to cook with the children. They especially love her “mandu” (dumplings)!

Other ways we try to “absorb” Korean culture are through children’s picture books, DVD’s about Korea, and short videos of Korean children’s songs on YouTube. Although we don’t understand Korean language, we also find K-Pop lots of fun to dance to! All around the world there has been a growing interest in Korean pop culture and entertainment. This is lucky for us, since Korean entertainment is readily available via the Internet.

As the kids grow older, there will be other opportunities for us to learn about Korean culture, if they are interested. We have access to Korean ethnic schools, language lessons, and Korean churches. One day we hope to travel together to Korea, to visit the cities where they were born. Although, as parents, we find such learning exciting and fulfilling, we will need to take our cues from our children. Not every child, adopted or biological, has a burning desire to learn about his or her heritage. We need to be sensitive to that, and understand that their interest will wax and wane as they grow.

Although this may happen, I am pretty sure that Mommy’s addiction to Korean drama will continue…


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