As Korean adoptees, the reclamation of our origins through embracing our Korean names is fraught with complications.

I recently started using my Korean name, Joon Ae, but only on social media. Respectfully, my friends have asked if they should start calling me Joon Ae.

My answer has been: Not Yet.

Like many other adult transracial, transnational adoptees, changing my name is a question with which I’m wrangling, an adoptee-specific question like: Do you want to find your biological parents? (Pointer: If you don’t have an intimate, trusting relationship to an adoptee, if the adoptee didn’t bring it up themselves, or if you’re not an adoptee yourself, then don’t ask this last one.)

What non-adopted folks should understand…


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Photo by Karim MANJRA on Unsplash

I am a transracial, transnational adoptee from Korea. I have come to be against this kind of adoption. I am not alone. Many of us in the TRA+TNA community have first hand experience with all sorts of white adoptive parents, from explicitly racist and abusive white parents to the adoring, loving parents who are doing the hard work to parenting children from outside their race and nationality. We are not a monolith, yet despite our differences and diversity, many of us are against TRA+TNA adoption as a system.

Make no mistake: this is a very complicated issue, and many people…


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I have a clear memory of standing with my mom and little sister in front of a towering wall of dolls at Toys “R” Us that seemed to stretch across the entire back of the store and stand 15 shelves high. When we finally settled on which type of doll to get, my white mom held a doll up to me, her brown daughter.

“What about this one?” she said. It was white, but it had dark hair and eyes.

“I want this one.” I cradled a white baby with blonde hair and blue eyes.

“But it has dark hair…


A small interaction symbolizing a big problem

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Not long ago, I had a business meeting over coffee with a straight, cis-gendered, middle-class white woman. She arrived to the cafe totally bummed out.

“Are you okay?” I asked.

“The world is too small,” she said.

I was confused.

She continued. “I lost a friend to her bad choices this morning.” She then told me about her friend who had a history of bad relationships, who was enmeshed in dating drama and was trying to pull this woman into the middle of it. “My friend,” she said and paused. “Who is also — ” She paused again, tipping her…


I remember my naturalization day. I was just 5-years-old, and I did not understand the significance of the moment. Rather, the momentousness wholly resided in the special cookie my mom got me to celebrate, a treat the size of my face and covered with frosting. I needed two hands to hold it. As a child, I could not predict how that piece of paper would validate my access to resources and invariably shape my life.

Now, as an adult, I’m struck with understanding. I was born in South Korea. I am an immigrant. I am Korean-American. I am a hyphenated-American…


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I remember my naturalization day. I was just 5-years-old, and I did not understand the significance of the moment. Rather, the momentousness wholly resided in the special cookie my mom got me to celebrate, a treat the size of my face and covered with frosting. I needed two hands to hold it. As a child, I could not predict how that piece of paper would validate my access to resources and invariably shape my life.

Now, as an adult, I’m struck with understanding. I was born in South Korea. I am an immigrant. I am Korean-American. I am a hyphenated-American…

Joon Ae HK

Korean adoptee + mama + writer + ally and advocate and organizer + small business owner + dog lover + and expert worrier

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