14 févr. 2010

Danish Video Artist Recalls Search for Korean Parents

Chosun Ilbo, 31 décembre 2010

To the video artist Jane Jin Kaisen, who was adopted by a Danish couple when she was three months old, the Korean War casts a long shadow. "In Korean society, there are still traces of the Korean War. I wanted to know how these traces influence the Korean people today, and how they are remembered among adopted Koreans. The War was the most important reason why Korea started exporting babies," she says.

Kaisen was raised in Denmark's second largest city Aarhus. "It's a quiet city with population of less than 5 million. My parents didn't have any children so adopted me," she says. She first realized that she was different from the majority of Danish people when she was five years old. "I was on a bus with my mom and I saw a dark-skinned person. I said, 'That's a black,' and my mother replied, 'That is not a polite expression. You are different, too. You are Korean.' It was then that I realized for the first time that I was different from normal Danish people. It was shocking at the time to be different, but because I had no memory of Korea and had not developed a Korean identity, it was just a very abstract feeling of being different," she recalls.

In adolescence, she grew increasingly confused about her identity. "I think the sense that there was nobody in my family who was like me was the most difficult to bear."

After finishing high school, she began to try and find her biological parents. "I went on a trip of several countries including Korea. I found a record on my adoption in Korea. Many of my adoptee friends have a hard time finding their biological parents because finding relevant records itself is very difficult, and even if they have the record, they fear it would hurt their family. But I really wanted to meet them, so I made my decision," she says.

Fortunately, the process was relatively smooth for Kaisen, and she was finally reunited with her biological parents. "The first time I met my biological parents, I was happy, yet I was also sort of sad and had very complicated emotions," she says. "Usually, you think a reunited family will be able to continue to meet up, but because we'd been separated for such a long time, there is big linguistic and cultural barrier. It is extremely difficult unless you make a lot of effort."

Kaisen declined to elaborate further on her biological parents. "One thing I really want to tell you is that after I met my biological parents, I felt that I am no longer the same Dane I used to be." She met her biological parents for the first time in 2001, and there was a second reunion in 2004. She usually visits Korea every year but can't get to meet her biological parents very often because she comes on a tight schedule and they live in Jeju Island.

Currently based in the U.S., Kaisen said there are moments when she feels she is Korean to the bone. "Adoptees joke that Koreans are very emotional, kimchi-loving people. I feel that when I cry as I watch melodrama. Among Korean dishes, I like bibimbap, and I eat kimchi, too. I've been living in Los Angeles for over one year and a half, and I eat a lot of Korean food there," she says.

Her Korean background has widened her artistic horizon and deepened her understanding of different races and cultures. She is grateful that her background has pushed her to become what she is now.

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