Dear Korea

Korea, I love you, I really do. Since the moment my husband and I made the decision to bring a now very grown up Korean boy into our family, I have considered you and yours to be a part of me.

My love for you began like the love any tourist or traveler has for a particular spot on the globe. I marveled at how your history and modernity paradoxically coexisted, and thought it charming and quaint. I was blown away by the beauty of your countryside: mountains, rivers, fertile valleys and coastlines, so different from the places I know here in the US, but at the same time so familiar. Loving a place does that to you.

My love for you grew beyond that, though, to include your open, resilient people, and those who have made their lives here in the US. I found friends among Korean Americans, joined their causes and brought them into mine. Along the way I learned that your people are just like all others: they frustrate, impress and perplex me like everyone else I know.

In awhile, something else happened, though. I began to realize that the kind of love I had been nurturing for you was unsustainable. It is impossible to truly love a people and place without embracing their flaws – and Korea, in spite of hallyu and some downright incredible technology and food, you have the same flaws the rest of us have. I tried for awhile to say that they were none of my business; after all, I’m not Korean, I’m American, and there are plenty of flaws right here in the US of A for me to work on.

But Korea, you gave me my family. You sent two of your most incredible citizens half-way around the globe to strangers, all because you couldn’t see fit to offering a helping hand to one family or accepting the unwed motherhood of the other. So Korea, I claim a right to meddle in your affairs. And I need to tell you this.

My love for you is just as strong today as it was 25 years ago when you walked into my life. But it is time for you to end your love affair with yourself, to roll up your sleeves and to start making the kinds of changes that your incredible people deserve, especially vulnerable mothers, children and elderly. I wish I could get you to understand that real progress isn’t measured by the numbers of cars you export, by technological advances, or even by the way the rest of the world loves you back.

It is measured by the way you care for your vulnerable, weak and broken.

Please, Korea, get over yourself a little. Listen to those you have marginalized, who will tell you there are better ways to help mothers and children than pushing them out of your field of vision or putting them into boxes. Learn that real compassion takes time and effort to implement, and that sweeping problems under the rug never solves them. Most of all, learn that every single one of your citizens, even – no, especially - those you see as damaged or weak, deserve your care and concern.

I do not say this out of any sense of superiority, Korea. My own country, which likes to say it’s the best in the world, has already done some of the things you’re thinking of doing. Our people, too, mistake an easy out with compassion and jump on bandwagons that have unintended consequences. We have, for example, made law in every state the kind of anonymous abandonment some of your religious leaders are promoting. Although proponents say they save children from death, there is no evidence to prove that the children abandoned through them would otherwise have been murdered. The evidence we have actually suggests a far more complicated scenario, one that anonymous abandonment masks by silencing women and perpetuating the real driver: shame.

Korea, please, learn to love all of your people. Stop shaming your women and denying your children their identities. There are so many other things you can do to help them. #BuildFamiliesNotBoxes, Korea, please.

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