I was born in Pusan, South Korea. I am Korean. I have simply never felt Korean and that is the mark of an adoptee. We spend our lives searching for what we lost only to find out what we “lost” is a club for members only… and we are no longer a member. It creates a mindfuck for many of us and we spend nights wondering what we truly are. The one thing I always knew for certain was I was no longer Korean. I just wore a Korean face.
I had very little Asian friends growing up. The pickings are slim in Mississippi and Tennessee for ninja companions and generally “real minorities” try to simply lay low. When I say real minorities I mean those of us that grew up never seeing anyone else of our color. That is what a true minority is to me.
When I arrived at college I found to my surprise a huge number of Koreans at my school. This is a matter of perspective really and “huge” to me at this point probably constituted more than an “eye full.” I remember throwing myself into the Korean culture as much as I could. I was that kid wearing a Korean flag as a bandanna because I had a ton of years to make up for my lost Korean pride. I made Korean friends and I tried to speak Korean. It was all very foreign to me and I find myself amused over this fact when I reflect upon my past. For all the Korean friends and culture I had surrounded myself with I still felt like an outsider. I felt like I was pretending.
When I visited Korea in 2000 and 2005 I quickly learned how Koreans felt about adoptees and adoption in general. It was abundantly clear to me that we were marks of shame to these people. We were literally walking pain points that reminded them of their national failure to their children. That may or may not be fair, but what can’t be disputed is that this attitude directly affected how they treated us. We were given a distant, cordial attitude that only comes from a place of discomfort and being forced to face something you would rather not. In Korea they place the handicapped and mentally ill in “orphanages” to hide them from the public. As with most Asian cultures it is all about shame there. When people feel ashamed they will do anything… hide anything. They will even deny it exists.
Will Jason Chandler Cushman ever be Korean? Probably not. I have finally reached a point in my life where I am ok with that. It simply wasn’t meant to be. I am ok with not being Korean. I wonder if Korea feels the same.
Jason C. Cushman