Boomerang Adoptees: Making Moves in South Korea



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This thesis explores the return of South Korean Adult adoptees in significant numbers began in the late 1980s, slowly picking up in the mid-1990s, and maintaining a steady flow today. Within this movement of return adoptees, there is a population that decides move to South Korea for extended to indefinite periods of time. These individuals have jobs, form communities, and redefine social expectations of the trajectory of international adoptees remaining in their countries of birth. Four dominant categories emerged among the fourteen adoptees that I had the opportunity to interview: The Cultural Negotiator, The Expat, The Global Citizen, and The Deportee. The cultural negotiator adoptee travels and lives in South Korea to get a stronger sense of their ethnic and cultural identity by learning the language and experiencing the culture. They reside in different circles of adoptees, expats, and native Koreans and take on multiple cultural scripts to perform effectively in belonging in different social settings. The Expat adoptee returns to South Korea for reasons that are similar to non-Korean Americans travel to work in South Korea. They are exercising their ability to travel and live across the world and spend a few years abroad because of personal growth beyond ethnic identity, economic means, and convenience all while maintaining a relatively strong American identity. The Global Citizen adoptee internalizes a cosmopolitan sense of the world. They can imagine themselves living anywhere abroad, but they just happen to live in South Korea because it is easy logistically and legally. Lastly, the Deportee is a Korean American adoptee who was adopted to the United States but did not acquire citizenship. As a result, for one reason or another, they have been deported back to South Korea and are unable to navigate the country with the same ease as their counterparts with American citizenship.



Korean American, adoptee studies, transracial adoptees, Asian American studies