KAM Banquet guests, from left: Yoonju Park, director of Korean Service Center; Channel 5 Eyewitness News Reporter Susanna Song, Master of Ceremony; Hyun Sook Han, Korean adoption pioneer; Kim Jackson, photographer and author of the “HERE” book on Minnesota Korean adoptees; Angela Copeland, an adoptee who spoke on how a spiritual journey to Korea changed her life; and Pastor Sung Chul Park, director of KAM. (AAP staff photo by Tom LaVenture)
By TOM LAVENTURE
AAP staff writer
MINNEAPOLIS (August 21, 2010) – Korean Adoptees Ministry celebrated a “Decade of Making Deep Connections” with a gala fundraising event last weekend at Ramada Plaza. KAM, a nonprofit organization is based in Roseville and has served as a resource for adoptees and their families.
Following a silent auction, Channel 5 Eyewitness News Reporter Susanna Song started the evening as Master of Ceremony, introducing guest speakers and Pastor Sung Chul Park, director of KAM, who provided a video history of the organization.
Pastor Park explained the need for KAM starting with the adoption crisis in Korea, where he said orphans were not accepted into society but that this is changing over time. He said the international adoptions allowed children with no future a chance for a life in America.
The adoptees came to Minnesota as babies as early as the 1950s, growing in number with each decade until the late 1990s when the state earned a reputation as the home to the most adoptees – with estimates claiming up to 15,000.
Korea began to reassess its handling of orphans. Pastor Park explained that there were deep cultural traits that discouraged families from adopting in Korea, and that it is changing now and credited the international adoption effort with helping Korea take another look at the importance of ensuring the wellbeing of their own orphans.
As a Minnesota resident for nearly 40 years, Pastor Park said that it was more than 20 years ago when friends, a non-Asian couple, introduced their two children that turned out to be Korean adoptees. He was shocked beyond speech that this was possible and slowly warmed to the idea and saw the responsibility of the Minnesota Korean community in looking at how they could ensure a cultural connection and to be there for other needs that might occur.
KAM was established after the culture camps and other support mechanisms for adoptees and their parents. As the Korean children grew to adulthood, they began to associate amongst themselves to share experiences and begin to document the international adoptee experience to benefit children of future programs.
Pastor Park is often one of the few “non-adoptees” invited to attend these special events and forums.
Melissa Jordan introduced her friend and fellow adoptee Angela Copeland, describing her as a person with incredible drive and energy.
Copeland spoke on the importance of service to others and on the importance the adoptee opportunities to experience a spiritual journey to Korea – a trip she said changed her life.
Copeland was adopted to a Minnesota family along with her twin sister in 1974, and now lives teaches high school chemistry in Wachahatchie, Texas – where she was recently named Teacher of the Year.
Following a visual presentation of the trip, “My Spiritual Journey to Korea”, Copeland said the trip was an amazing experience from the start. She and the adult adoptees were greeted with huge banners that had their faces printed on them. She enjoyed the bath houses and learning to cook Korean, and being able to offer testimony at the church where she was born.
“We really, truly are changing generations,” Copeland said of KAM. “I have two boys and I know that the change in my life is being passed down to my own children.”
Ms. Hyun Sook Han, a pioneer of Korean adoptions who has impacted thousands of families around the world, took more time to talk about how her deep faith has kept her family close and successful. She said that without her faith, all the time away from her family she spent working for others would have resulted differently.
Mrs. Han worked in the area of child welfare, foster care and Christian adoptions in Korea before moving to Minnesota in 1975 and working for Children’s Home Society & Family Services.
Building on her experience from Korea, Mrs. Han worked to expand Korean adoptions and develop support services in Minnesota. She has authored and consulted on the subject on international adoptions and has received the Medal of Service from the Korean government and was Social Worker of the Year for the Child Welfare League of America among her many awards.
Brooke Jee In Newmaster, a Korean adoptee who went on to become artistic director and instructor of Chang Mi Dance and Drum, performed two solo performances for the banquet.
There were two spiritual songs performed by Mikyoung Park, a professional singer and deacon pastor at United Methodist Church where her spouse, Joshua Choi is pastor. Originally from South Korea, she has a doctorate from Luther Seminary in the Sacred Music program, where she also earned a degree in Theology.
Susan March, an event organizer and KAM board member, said the organization has brought her lifelong friends. KAM offered a binding element to her culture and with other adoptee that share the same experience. The banquet was a testimonial to the importance of the spiritual element of that bond.
March was present with her daughter, China Eubanks, 15, who said she also enjoys volunteering for the organization, adding that she has made friends outside of school at KAM activities.
March also introduced Kim Jackson, who spoke about her recent book “HERE: A Visual History of Adopted Koreans in Minnesota.” Published with much local fanfare in April 2010, the book is a collaboration between Jackson as a photographer, Heewon Lee, graphic designer, Jae Ran Kim, writer, Kim Park Nelson, oral historian and Wing Young Huie, photographer.
Jackson talked about how years ago she wanted to begin a project to photo-document the Korean adoptee community. What began as “photos of my friends” grew to the larger community and then to all the adoptee Koreans in Minnesota.
She said the writers wanted to reflect the diversity within the Korean adoptee community, from the age range to the similarities and contrasting experience based on settlement across the state in small towns to large cities.
As Jackson began to learn the compelling stories of her photo subjects, she began to work with Kim Park Nelson on collecting and writing the adult oral histories. The other partners came on board to edit and design the book before it was published by Yeong and Yeong (www.yeongandyeong.com).
Jackson, who also runs her Dalros Design business, said she would continue her project to photograph and interview adoptees as she meets them.
The silent auction contained rare artwork from South and North Korea, according to Roy Kim, artist. For more information contact KAM at P.O. Box 130563, Roseville, MN 55113, call 1-877-KAM-9294, www.kamcenter.org, or email [email protected]