Report from IKAA Gathering 2007
IKAA Gathering 2007
The global Korean adoptee community in Seoul
The International Korean Adoptee Associations (IKAA) Network brought together over 600 attendees from 17 countries for a truly international event, the IKAA Gathering 2007. This conference, held July 31 to August 5, 2007, marked a new level of collaboration between the international community of Korean adoptees, organized by the ten IKAA member organizations.
Carrying the momentum of the earlier Gatherings in Washington D.C. (1999), Oslo, Norway (2001), and Seoul, Korea (2004), the Gathering 2007 became the largest and most comprehensive Korean adoptee conference to date organized by adult Korean adoptees, for adult Korean adoptees, their spouses, and their children.
With almost half the participants from Europe, half from the United States, a handful of Australians, and adoptees currently living in Asia, there was a diversity of adoptee attendees that was also present in the week long program. After two years of planning, the program grew to include the First International Korean Adoption Studies Research Symposium, the ArtGathering, workshops and sessions, an Adoptee World Cup, a hanbok fashion show, a performance by Bellatrix, a gala dinner sponsored by Samsung, tours, and a concert by Korean adoptee musicians.
The First International Korean Adoption Studies Research Symposium, co-hosted by Asian Adult Adoptees of Washington (AAAW) and Global Overseas Adoptees’ Link (GOA’L), offered presentations of 12 papers categorized into 3 disciplines, including Social Sciences, Humanities, and Behavioral Sciences. A one day scholarly event, the Research Symposium was open to attendance by all those with an interest and garnered a strong attendance who praised the success of this academic symposium.
The formal opening ceremonies, held at the Seoul Race Park, included a welcome video message from the First Lady of Korea, greetings from Tim Holm (IKAA President) and Liselotte Hae-Jin Birkmose (IKAA Vice-President), and an introduction of all attendees by country/state of residence by local representatives.
“Adoptee & Alien: Visions from the Periphery”, one of the ArtGathering offerings, held at the Kyung Hee University Museum of Art, hosted by Kyung Hee Univeristy and curated by Kim Stoker, shared the creative expressions of 26 Korean adoptee artists in attendance at the Gathering and enjoyed a warm reception at the opening. The ArtGathering consisted of two other parts, both hosted by Korea Klubben (Denmark): the Open Call (readings and visual art exhibition) held at the Sofitel Ballroom and the UFOLab performance during the Adoptee World Cup.
The Cheontae Order of Korean Buddhism again sponsored and hosted the first dinner of the Gathering, as they had done in 2004, opening the doors of Kwanmunsa Temple to all participants. Following dinner, participants were ushered into the temple’s auditorium and were treated to an impressive show of dance and drumming.
Thursday marked the start of the 23 workshops and sessions, co-hosted by AK Connection (Minnesota) and Also-Known-As, Inc. (New York). A concentrated effort was made to provide the most extensive and inclusive workshop topics as possible, with associations and individuals encouraged to suggest or organize sessions that they felt would be of interest to the community. Topics included: “Post-Birth Search/Post-Reunion Relationships”, “Getting Networked to Professional Jobs in Korea”, “Considering the Move to Korea”, “Korean Adoption in Literature”, “Generational Differences Between Korean Adoptees in America”, and “Bringing up Asian or Biracial Children in a Society Where White is the Norm”. First-timers to Korea also had the opportunity to benefit from a specially tailored session, organized by Boston Korean Adoptees (BKA), that introduced the country, and particularly its capital, and all it has to offer.
Thursday’s dinner, co-sponsored by the Korea Tourism Organization and Shilla Travel, was immediately preceded by a hanbok fashion show, complete with Korean adoptee models, and a performance by Bellatrix, an electric string quartet of four young Korean women who caught the eye of many of the male adoptees in the room.
Even before the Adoptee World Cup Soccer Tournament began on Friday afternoon, the competitiveness could be felt - and heard. Of the 7 teams, some had been practicing every week for months. Cheerleading squads had been created. A friendly rivalry had developed between the Arierang (the Netherlands) and the Korea Klubben (Denmark) teams. While battling dehydration from the extreme heat and humidity of a typical August day in Korea, each team played to win. The greatly underestimated American teams, one from AK Connection and one joint team from AAAW and Also-Known-As, Inc., played their way into the championship game from which the bi-coastal team emerged victorious.
Saturday brought the conclusion of the workshops and the formal gala dinner and show generously sponsored by Samsung. Kwang Sup Han, Vice President of Planning & Communications, offered words in support of the Korean adoptee community and expressed his excitement to be able to participate in this memorable event. In addition to traditional musical performances, including samulnori, a collaborative performance between kayagum musicians and B-boys (breakdancers) that brought the entire room to its feet.
After a week of networking, building friendships and sharing experiences, the IKAA Gathering 2007 officially concluded at the ceremonies held on Sunday morning. Andrew Choi, Vice Consul of the U.S. Embassy in Korea, attended the ceremonies in a show of support.
Formally established in 2004, IKAA is the largest existing network of international Korean adoptees, reaching out to thousands worldwide.
Looking forward, IKAA is pleased to announce that they have launched their own online community for Korean adoptees worldwide, where forums have already been created to promote the exchange of information and ideas. International mini-Gatherings have been scheduled for Las Vegas (January 2008), Hawaii (October 2008), and Amsterdam, the Netherlands (2009), and will give adoptees the chance to reconnect with friends they met at the IKAA Gathering 2007 and friends who could not make it, and to meet others from the Korean adoptee community. IKAA hopes to expand its network to include other Korean adoptee organizations from around the world and is proud to serve the international Korean adoptee community.
Mee Hyun Gerstein
Board of Directors, Also-Known-As, Inc. (New York)