A brief introduction
IT at G.O.A.'L
So what do I hope to get done before the summer of 2020?
“Subtle Asian Traits” is a Facebook group made up of over 1.4 million members. The group was originally created by a group of Asian high school and university students living in Australia who started sharing memes (funny images) about their experiences growing up in Asian-immigrant households. The topics range from the culture-clashes associated with being Asian in a foreign country, disputes with parents, and a shared love of K-BBQ and bubble tea.
The group allows any of its members to post relatable and amusing memes, and despite its humorous beginnings, it has also become a type of virtual safe space for Asians, created entirely by Asians. People have started to move away from only funny pictures and have started to share personal stories, ranging from dating experiences to heartfelt, honest stories about abuse and illnesses. Because of the highly relatable content, the group has become international, reaching Asians all over the globe.
This group has also played a small, but still significant, role in connecting Korean adoptees, some of whom had joined and decided to post and speak up. One adoptee posted:
“I’m adopted from South Korea. Lived in the United States my whole life. I have never gone back to Korea or met my biological parents. I want to plan a trip to Korea and try to find them this summer. Is this a good or bad idea? Any thoughts or comments would be greatly appreciated!”
The post got over 700 likes and nearly 300 comments, with people reaching out by offering advice or giving words of encouragement. Several other adoptees shared their own experiences with racism, growing up with a non-Asian family, and the search for their identity. International Asian adoptees have even created their own Facebook group called “Subtle Asian Adoptee Traits” to share their own memes and stories. The group is private and adoptees only, to make sure the space is kept secure and safe for adoptees.
As the original “Subtle Asian Traits” group has gotten larger, spin-offs have popped up all over social media including “Subtle Asian Dating”; a group where people post pictures and descriptions about themselves or their friends who are looking for some romance. This group, commonly referred to, almost ironically, as SAD, is bursting with dating and relationship related memes. Other groups include “Subtle Asian Fitness”, “Subtle Asian Makeup/Beauty Squad”, “Subtle Asian Mental Health”, and many more.
One reason for the groups’ popularity stems from the fact that people don’t have to explain the joke punchlines, since everyone else in the group shares a similar background. This sense of shared understanding is especially appealing since it is often difficult to explain every single detail of Asian culture to non-Asian friends. Sometimes, all a person wants is for someone to just get it.
Recently, the group has been encouraging people to share more about their Asian culture with non-Asian friends. Having a supportive Asian community at their backs, virtual or otherwise, people have started to become proud of their culture and are opening up more to the idea and practice of discussing and embracing their culture.
The practice of creating a community, regardless of whether the community is for sharing jokes or serious topics, is very powerful, and there is no reason to believe these groups will diminish over time either. Rather, these groups will likely continue to evolve and grow by welcoming even more into the community.
Here are the links to the Facebook groups if you want to check them out!
“Subtle asian traits”: https://www.facebook.com/groups/1343933772408499/
“Subtle asian dating” : https://www.facebook.com/groups/725870897781323/
“Subtle asian adoptee traits”: https://www.facebook.com/groups/196489827883110/?hc_location=ufi
Author: Eva Kim
Editor: Leanna French
Arissa Oh is a professor at Boston College whose study is concentrated in immigration, race, gender, the role of family in U.S. history, and transnational Asian-American history. Her book TO SAVE THE CHILDREN OF KOREA: The Cold War Origins of International Adoption was published in 2015 in the United States. In the way that it carefully explains and outlines the history of international adoption, it is the first and only book available that delves so deeply into the topic of Korea’s transnational adoption phenomenon. Since 1953, over 200,000 children from Korea have been sent for adoption abroad, with more than approximately 110,000 adopted to the United States. This book cogently and honestly details out the history of international adoption that has previously been unknown to Korean society.
The first section of the book is on the historical condition that spiraled adoption, such as children being adopted as “mascots” by American soldiers and mixed-race babies born between Korean women and American soldiers. Then the book moves on to systematic adoption and the missions of Harry and Bertha Holt as well as the role of Christianity and American patriotism in the adoption process. The final section outlines how international adoption was a safety net for South Korea and the process of how adoption eventually turned into an international industry. Her work contributes to understanding a myriad of different topics such as the influence of the Cold War, the history and consequences of race in America, social work policies in Korea, etc.
This acknowledged work was translated and published in Korea, with the title “왜 그 아이들은 한국을 떠나지 않을 수 없었나.” The translation was aided by a student-led club in Hanyoung Foreign Language High School called 세빛또래, partnered up with KOROOT, an organization that also aids international adoptees returning to Korea, to provide the most accurate translation of the original work1.
The cover of the published book was motivated by the work of Amanda Eunha Lovell, an international adoptee currently living in Korea, called “Sung Myung: Your Name here (성명, 여기에다 이름을 쓰세요).” In Buddhist art, one image is copied over and over again, similar to how the same prayer is repeated. In this case, the image of a child with a halo and a nametag is pasted throughout the cover. Through the cover image and her writing, Oh sends out prayers for the 200,000 Korean international adoptees2.
In the introduction of the Korean version, Oh writes that she believes it is important for both Koreans and Americans to understand how and why international adoption started in Korea over 70 years ago and how international adoption has influenced current-day Korean and American society. She raises the importance of thinking about what it means to be Korean, who can be considered Korean, and why the answers to these questions are important. Oh hopes that her writing acts as a catalyst for the readers to start asking and thinking about these questions themselves3.
Written by: Eva Kim
Edited by: Leanna French