IKAA Korean Adoptee Conference in Seoul

This past August, Holt’s director of adoptee services, Steve Kalb, attended a gathering in Seoul, Korea with over 700 other Korean adoptees. Together, they made meaningful connections and looked toward the future.

They came from Sweden, the Netherlands, Belgium, Denmark, Italy, France and the United States to celebrate and learn about the one thing they all had in common — that they were all Korean adoptees.

The International Korean Adoptee Associations (IKAA) is an organization that connects Korean adoptees with each other to form community, learn about their roots and make a stand together on adoption-related issues. Each of these countries has their own IKAA group, but every three years, Korean adoptees from all IKAA groups gather together in Seoul, South Korea. Last month was the three-year mark for this gathering, bringing over 700 Korean adoptees to the country of their birth.

Holt sent Steve Kalb, the director of adoptee services, to take part in this IKAA gathering in Seoul.

“It was great for me both personally and professionally,” says Steve, who presented on the topic of his current doctoral research — adoption discourse. As part of his presentation, he explored the ways in which many adoption agencies portray adoption and adoptive families. For his research, he is in the process of visiting all 192 Hague-accredited agency websites to see how they portray adoptees and adoptive families. Steve is especially interested in noting how many transracial families are featured. “I think that would be an interesting statistic to see how we are portraying the adoptive family,” he says.

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Steve answered questions on a panel after giving his presentation on adoption discourse.

The theme of this year’s IKAA gathering was “Connecting Communities and Looking Towards the Future.” Both connecting and propelling into the future are two things that Steve certainly experienced while in Seoul.

He got to connect with a lot of adoptees whom he had worked with in one way or another through Holt’s post-adoption services. “Whether it’s been helping them get file copies, or do a search,” Steve says, “a ton of people knew me by name. Meeting those people in person was really awesome.”

As for “looking towards the future,” this happened in several different respects. For many adoptees, traveling to this IKAA conference was their first time visiting their birth country — an experience that will likely help them process their adoptions and lives in new ways.

For the Korean adoptee community, the future also includes sharing their experience across other adoptee communities. For 60 years, Korean adoptees have learned, grown and rallied together around adoption-related issues. As a community, they’ve begun to experience new phases together. For example, Steve noticed that the IKAA conference included a lot more events for adoptees’ families and children this year. And in the near future, they will share their knowledge and experience with other adoptee communities — most foreseeably, Chinese adoptees.

“Chinese adoptees as a whole are still relatively young, but there’s this critical mass that are becoming adults soon,” Steve says. “And the Chinese adoptees are using the Korean adoptees as models for how to do things and ways to advocate and be political.”

The IKAA conference is a wonderful display of both the diversity and unity among adoptees. They come from different countries, languages, cultures and families, but they come together as one community and are united in their common ground. Holt is dedicated to supporting adoptees in all that they experience, whether that be their journey of identity development, searching for their birth parents or traveling to their birth country.

“We want adoptees to know that we’re their allies in their quest for further understanding of their adoption and conditions leading to their adoption,” Steve says. “Events like this help create an awareness of our collective place and society — and this collective experience will yield greater influence in the adoption and social justice realms.”

Megan Herriott | Staff Writer

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