When I tell South Korean nationals that I’m a Korean-American adoptee, their reactions vary from a kind of backhanded recognition (“Oh, so that’s why you can’t speak Korean”) to profuse apologies (“I’m so sorry that happened to you”) to expressions of jealousy (“You’re so lucky; I want to go to America, too”). There’s one question, though, that they almost always ask: “Do you know your Korean family?”
The follow-up to that question often includes eager suggestions of how to find my birth family. “It’s easy,” one South Korean woman told me. “All you have to do is put your Korean name on TV. People do this all the time. Your Korean mother will be watching the news, and she’ll see your name, and she’ll cry and cry and cry, and then she will find you and you can meet her. Don’t you want to?”
Her idea was not too far-fetched. Throughout the 2000s, television programs such as I Miss That Person (later re-titled as Missing Person) aired segments featuring transnational adoptees searching for their birth families.