To the Motherland - Korean adoptees searching for birth family

To the Motherland - Korean adoptees searching for birth family (4EB, Brisbane)

CBAA Web Articles., 18th September 2014

By Ellie Freeman


Over 150,000 Koreans have been adopted overseas since the Korean War Armistice in 1954. And I am one of them. 

I was born in South Korea. I was adopted to Australia when I was a baby and raised by white Australian parents. I never knew my birth parents. All I knew was that my mother was not married when she became pregnant with me and, in 1980s Korea, could not afford to support me and had to give me up for adoption. 

When I met a Korean American adoptee in early 2013 who mentioned that some adoption files are falsified, I wanted suddenly to find out the truth. 

With the support of a Korean adoptee support organisation the Global Overseas Adoptees' Link, I returned to Korea for the first time since I was born and searched for my birth parents.

Along the way, I met other Korean adoptees, saw the country where I was born, learned more about adoption and - unexpectedly - found my birth family. 

The idea for documenting this experience began when I was in Korea last September, so most of the atmos and scenes from my trip in this documentary are real recordings from that time. 

Judging from all the questions I am asked about my birth and where I'm from, I see that there are many myths and misconceptions about international adoptees. Not all of us want to search for birth family. Some of us have no desire to return to our home country. Some of us feel more Australian than Korean, or badly want to get in touch with our Korean roots, or simply don't know. Some of us have tried to search but unfortunately failed. Some of us have had happy reunion experiences, and some not so happy. 

International adoptees often battle issues around ethnic identity and isolation due to our unusual family circumstances. But in the modern age of social media, adoptees are establishing ways to organise activism, education, support, and outlets to express ourselves. We are a growing community with many diverse views, experiences and stories. 

I am telling my own story of birth family reunion in Korea along with the voices of other Korean Australian adoptees, academics and activists - to give an insight into our reality. 

These voices are:

Kerrie Freeman - my adoptive mother
HeeRa Heaser - Korean American adoptee, PhD student the University of New South Wales
Seon Kee Woodley - Australian Korean adoptee from Melbourne, originally Perth
Tiarne Double - Australian Korean adoptee from Tasmania
Pia Meehan - Australian Korean adoptee from Perth
Hana Crisp - Australian Korean adoptee from Melbourne, originally Hobart
Carly Reid - Australian Korean adoptee from Brisbane, originally Perth
Tim Vanderburg - Australian Korean adoptee living in South Korea, originally Sydney
Andrea Kim - Korean American adoptee, Fullbright Scholarship researcher currently living in Seoul
My Korean birth mother
Park Young Hee - Korean Australian actress and performer, who acts as the voice of my adoptee social worker

LINK: Rok 'n Roll Radio - my blog about my first trip to Korea, birth family, and now - my second trip to Korea as an English teacher. 


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The 12 pieces made for the inaugural Documentary & Features Competition, run by the CBAA and the CMTO, are ready for airtime. These will be available to stations for local broadcast through the CRN programming service in October and November.


This report is a qualitative case study that focuses on Australia’s community radio audiences. Building upon the first study of Australia’s community radio audiences, Community Media Matters, it looks at the reasons why Asian youths in Melbourne who are also volunteers in community radio tune in to Asian community radio programs on a regular basis. In the context of diaspora studies and media reception theories, this report argues that these programs aid Asian youths in maintaining their homeland cultures. It demonstrates how Asian community radio essentially assists this demographic in socialising with people of various ethnicities and encourages them to feel a sense of belonging in Australia, in line with the sector’s aims of fostering multiculturalism in a globalised world.

Little Fictions, is a half-hour storytelling program presented by Sydney actor, Ella Watson-Russell, and produced and orginally broadcast on Sydney's 2RPH. The show features contemporary short stories by authors from across Australia and read by actors, recorded at live performances or in studio.