Open Letter to SNL Korea

As an adoptee who has lived in Korea for more than a decade, watching the four and a half minute SNL Korea skit that aired on tvN on March 8 was very uncomfortable for me.


After much consideration, I decided that I will assume the writers, actors, and producer of SNL Korea know nothing of adoptees’ experiences growing up in a multiracial family nor of the personal investment involved in returning to the country that sent us away.


I will assume they have never initiated or pursued a birth family search, been reunited with his or her birth family or struggled to reclaim parts of their heritage by studying Korean for years or attempting to learn a completely Korean art form like Taekwondo because it was the only connection to Korea available in the city we were adopted to.


I will assume that this skit was born from ignorance rather than malicious intent because I can work with ignorance by helping to educate the writers, actors and producer on where they went wrong and explaining why this skit was hurtful to the many, many adoptees, Koreans, and birth family members that saw this.


It was uncomfortable because adoptees didn’t have a choice in the adoption. We feel like something was taken from us and when you make fun of our efforts to reclaim our lost heritage, it hurts.


It was uncomfortable because the actor who was portraying the adoptee Jason Dooyoung Anderson visually reinforces the idea that adoptees are pitiable in their efforts to grasp Korean concepts like how to differentiate honorific and casual speech patterns or perform Taekwondo properly and limits us to that perspective.


It was uncomfortable because a reunion between an adoptee and his or her birth parents is for many adoptees, a very, very long awaited moment in their lives. The SNL Korea skit made a mockery of that sacred moment and that hurts.


It was uncomfortable because adoptees who have little to no information about their birth families bravely go on shows like 사람을 찾습니다, 지금 만나러 갑니다 or others knowing that the show is deliberately dramatizing the experience and milking the emotional moments for every tear they can get, but they allow themselves to be put on display for the entire country in a manner that can be embarrassing and humiliating because they have run out of options and these shows actually facilitate reunions. SNL Korea’s skit just piles onto that feeling of humiliation because it is mocking a setting where we already feel extremely vulnerable and discourages adoptees from using the media to assist with their reunion efforts.


It was uncomfortable because the skit felt like it was deliberately targeting adoptees and birth families for a few cheap laughs. And that hurts.


It was uncomfortable because many adoptees who return to Korea invest years of their lives towards learning Korean and the SNL Korea skit mocks our efforts. How can you make fun of adoptees that are doing their best to learn a language they never had an opportunity to learn before? Learning Korean is hard. Koreans are some of the most dedicated language learners I’ve ever had the pleasure of meeting. I know how difficult it is for Koreans to learn English. I was disappointed to see that SNL Korea was insensitive to this issue as I know that Koreans are very self-conscious of speaking English in front of foreigners. Making fun of people for trying does not help them break out of their fear of speaking Korean in front of Koreans, or English in front of native English speakers for that matter.


Adoptees like to laugh as much as the next person and when done well, a parody can be a humorous thing. But when the purpose of the parody, to bring awareness about a dark part of Korea’s past as claimed by SNL Korea, does so at the expense of those who you are purportedly trying to raise awareness about, it doesn’t sound sincere or truthful.


If SNL Korea would really like to raise awareness about the struggles of adoptees, or birth mothers or single unwed mothers, I respectfully ask that you get to know us better before you try to make a parody of our lives. If SNL Korea was sincere when stating that the purpose was not to ridicule adoptees, I would like to see an official apology from SNL Korea to the adoptee community, birth family members and all the others who were offended by this skit aired on SNL Korea’s next broadcast. SNL Korea could also demonstrate contrition and raise awareness by helping to publicize adoptee efforts or events promoting birth family search or by having cast members from SNL Korea actively participate at adoptee events and use their celebrity status to aid our efforts rather than to tear us down.



Nikolaj Leschly

Secretary General of GOA’L