jane jeong trenka

For me, it’s not so simple. I wish that my adoption was a 100-percent-positive thing, that people as well as God did not see the color of my skin, that having grown the tallest of my siblings was a sign of not only good childhood nutrition but of spiritual abundance as well. How do I explain in the course of polite conversation that my seemingly flawless assimilation into America has yielded anything but joy and gratitude? How do I explain my ambivalence? Yet I do have mixed feelings. I feel ashamed and unworthy of the gifts that have been given me; ashamed for not being a better daughter—both a grateful American one and a forgiving Korean one, guided by filial piety; ashamed for opening my mouth, despite everything people have tried to do for me, in what they thought were my best interests. What an unworthy, spoiled, ungrateful, whining, American brat.
—  Jane Jeong Trenka, The Language of Blood

photo from my dear friend and badass adoptee activist, jane jeong trenka’s FB.

a little background: tomorrow a public hearing is being held by national assembly member park jae hyun, regarding the special adoption law. park, for those of you who don’t know, under the fucking ridiculous name of the “cosette bill” keeps trying to regress the special adoption law revisions that adoptee groups, unwed mothers groups, and families of origin groups lobbied for years in order to pass. it has been in effect for a mere 6 months.

no adoptees were invited to speak at this special hearing and no effort was made to provide interpretation services. this is paramount to telling adoptees that we are not allowed to participate in discussions about adoption!!! so jane (love her) is holding a one-person (and dog) demonstration (one-person demos are the only ones you don’t need a permit for) to protest this public hearing and its blatant disregard for providing fair access to adoptees.

here’s her FB explanation:

We are ready for the one-person/one-dog protest tomorrow.
우리가 내일 일인/일견시회를 위해 다 춘비했습니다.

개를 유기하지 않도록
출생신고를 해야하는데,
아기는 출생신고 없이
유기해도 되는가?

우리사회의 우선순위는 대체 뭐야?

In Seoul, you have to register your pets so you can’t abandon them, but you can abandon your kids without registering their births? What are the society’s priorities?

이 개는 진돗개이며 천연기념물 제53호이다.
나는 국가가 버린 해외입양인이며
국가의 수치이다.

This Jindo dog is National Treasure #53.
I am an overseas adoptee thrown away by the nation. I am the shame of the nation.

from jane jeong trenka’s FB after vandalizing the road leading up to the babybox yesterday (killed me that i couldn’t go with her yesterday because of my stupid thesis): 

~Reflections on last night at the babybox, and not getting arrested ~ I left both my Korean and English name, my cell phone number, neighborhood I live in, and age with the police last night and wouldn’t answer any questions about who came with me (although that ajossi who called the police said that there was a group of several people there). I took all responsibility, so likewise, I will here. The righteous ones who came out know who they are already and can peep up if they would like. 

Last night we intended to go and stencil the road on the way to the babybox and also film it. We had two principles: 1. nonviolence 2. vandalism on public property only. It didn’t work out, though, because by the time we got our stencils made, it was dark and the camera couldn’t see us, and the stencils also didn’t work on the rough surface of the road. So finally we just decided to use the spray paint to write our messages directly on the road. We wrote in Korean: “Mommy, don’t go!” “Against the babybox” “The baby also knows what you intend to do” “Baby=garbage?” along with two government crisis phone numbers. We wrote our messages the length of about a block on the street directly leading up to the box.

During the time that we were writing, several people came up to us and asked what we were doing. I talked with two of those people and was surprised to find out that the neighborhood people 1. Did not know the situation 2. AGREED with us. 3. Wanted to help. No one tried to stop us. I was hoping to get arrested, but the police even agreed with the principle and would not arrest me (even though I explicitly asked them to haul me off!) 

The police were actually called there by that (drunk) ajossi who was trying to help in his own way. He was like, “There is WHAT in this neighborhood? The whole world knows about it? I’m so ashamed! I know someone at the police station. They have to come and check it out! I’ll go to the municipal office on Monday and file a report!” He only knew about the other work that that church does, which is giving meals. We agreed that that is a good work, but maybe providing a place to abandon children is not a good idea. 

So, my takeaway point from that experience, with an activist view, is that if the government is too chicken to directly complain about the babybox, maybe the residents of that neighborhood (and the neighborhoods of the adoption agencies) will – the NIMBY (not in my backyard) mentality.

Moreover, if we were to start a neighborhood watch with adoptees paired with Koreans or adoptees with some language facility, we could both patrol the area for abandoning mothers and also raise awareness in those neighborhoods among residents. I think that if we were to do that for one month, it could be very meaningful. Our goal would be zero abandonments in the baby box during one month and also resident pressure on the babybox to shut down or transform into an actual service (like an emergency shelter for unwed moms, although I wouldn’t trust them to run it properly). A very faithful and reliable one-month patrol/resident consciousness-raising team would also be irresistible to the Korean media, I think. It would really touch people’s hearts to see that the adoptees have that much dedication. How about starting at the end of the semester?

My takeaway point from that experience, from an individual’s point of view, is that we are so blessed to live in community and to have community spaces where this kind of idea can take off. When we sit together and start talking about the issues, real inspiration and motivation can really take hold. I think we have more power than we dared to imagine.

COUNT ME IN~!!! we also have allies who are not adoptees or koreans, but i think would be happy to take a shift~!! an astute comment on jane’s post by another adoptee:

giving women the options to abandon their babies is not the answer

exactly! and it’s even more frustrating when people want to frame giving women the option to abandon their baby as “women’s rights” - as a feminist, as an adoptee, as a human being, i am very offended by this stance. 

to people who say that without the babybox, babies would die, i say: that opinion is couched in the deep stereotypes against unwed mothers - that if there wasn’t the ‘humane’ option of abandoning a child in the babybox offered by the church, these women would just leave their baby to die on the street. i say fuck that, i don’t believe that. i believe that if the church didn’t give them this option (which is painted as a saintly deed by the church and a mother’s 'final act of love for her child’ in the korean media) that these women would either 1) realize that maybe they have the right to raise their child or 2) choose to go through the proper, ethical procedures for the adoption of her child NOT leave them to die in the street. this line of thought is based on the notion that these women are inhuman, moral-less women who are just trying to get rid of their baby in any way possible. and as someone who actually works with unwed mothers on a close, regular basis - i don’t accept this fucking line of thought.

Jane Jeong Trenka’s writing for a press conference today to address the proposal to reverse the Adoption Law:

It is a profoundly sick society that views children as enemies who will ruin their mothers’ lives. We should treat this painful illness of society, not hide the symptoms of disease with the babybox.

It is a human right for a child to know her origins. It is not a human right to anonymously abandon a child. Mothers who are thinking about this need compassionate counseling, assistance, and education on their available options and their child’s rights.

We support the Adoption Special Law and the human right of children to be registered and legally exist, as stated by the UN Convention on the Rights of the Child, ratified by the Korea in 1991. The amendment to the Adoption Law was praised at the meetings of the UN CRC in 2011 and the UN Universal Periodic Review in 2012. However, our current birth reporting system is insufficient and needs to be changed into an automatic registration system. The people who want to change the adoption law want to exploit the insufficiencies of the existing system, as they have been doing for the past 60 years and three generations of international adoptees.

Nine countries took notice of our faulty reporting system during the Universal Periodic Review at the UN in 2012 and made recommendations to improve it. If the adoption law is reversed to exploit the weaknesses of an already insufficient system, Korea will have no way to answer to the world’s most important human rights bodies. Korea willingly participates in these international bodies. If Korea wants to continue abusing human rights by not bringing its domestic legislation into conformance with its international obligations, that is fine, but then it should withdraw from international human rights bodies. If it is going to participate, it needs to make sincere efforts for the Korean people, not just participate for the sake of image. Korea’s responses to the UPR are due in March 2013 from the Ministry of Justice.

The international adoptees are watching. The world is watching. What will Korea do?

exhibit A of why i clearly should not be taken out in public. jinwoo and i went to dinner last night with jane and tobias (jane’s taking the photo because she thought tobias eating budaejjigae would be “ironic”) and i apparently don’t know how to behave like an adult. here’s tobias and jinwoo both looking rather calm and composed. and me looking like a crazed hummingbird of some sort.

christmas for baeby! jane and luke brought us a generous diaper & wet wipe sampler (since different babies prefer different diapers and wet wipes, trial and error is the only way!) and sharon and ollie got us the stroller foot muff i’ve been wanting but have not been able to bring myself to buy (i think i’ve mentioned that i’ve actually yet to buy anything new for baeby, though there are a few new things that i’ve bought second-hand). thank you!!!

via jane jeong trenka:

In a nutshell, what I am doing with the NUMBERS (that don’t lie) and the abandonments: There is no statistically significant difference in the number of abandonments in the babybox that happened before the Special Adoption Law was implemented and directly afterwards. However, there is a statistically significant difference starting in January 2013 and then onwards, when Bae Jae-hyun introduced the “Cosette Law” and the media reported on the babybox constantly. In addition, there is no statistically significant difference at all in the before, after, and January onward stages in abandonments throughout the rest of the country. We only see this statistically significant increase at the babybox, meaning just like in the rest of the world, the babybox attracts and encourages abandonments. I have calculated this with a 95% confidence interval. In addition, we can see a correlation with a 95% confidence interval between the rate of abandonments in the box and the number of news stories that go out in the media. I did a regression analysis. Finally, just as in the rest of the world, we see that in Korea, the babybox does not do anything to prevent infanticide. There will be a limited number of crazy people who kill their children every year, unfortunately. Truth bomb! 진실의 폭탄! 

My work has been supervised by my awesome professor at Seoul National University who is a quantitative analysis guy. I will share this publicly when it is published. 

Personally I think Lee Jong-rak, who is probably good-hearted and trying to do the right thing with his babybox, is being used by the adoption people as a smokescreen as they struggle to stay employed in the adoption business. They certainly did not give a crap about him or child abandonment in 2009, when he made the box and when the agencies were still sending children out for adoption without birth registration.

more about babybox here.