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Updated Up To 23/01/2018
Volume 12, Issue 1 (January 2014) : 155-79
Korean Adoption Literature and the Politics of Representation

Eli Park Sorensen
Rubric A: Authorship
Rubric B: Twentieth-Century Novel



This article discusses the challenges involved in the formation of a “genre” of Korean adoptee autobiographical writing. It provides a brief outline of the political and historical background of the phenomenon of Korean international adoption and discuss a text that frames some of the problems involved in defining the genre of Korean adoptee autobiography — namely Marie Myung-Ok Lee’s Somebody’s Daughter (2005). The author of this book was not adopted, and the book is a novel, a fictional text; at the same time, given the fact that half of the text is written in first-person — a Korean adoptee recounting her return to KoreaSomebody’s Daughter at times resembles an adoptee autobiography in an uncanny way. This resemblance is further enhanced by the fact that neither the text nor the paratext indicate whether the author is an adoptee or not. The book is indirectly offering the illusion of an “authentic” testimony of adoptee experience (it has indeed been used in academic contexts as an example thereof). But does it matter that the author was not adopted? Would it have made any difference — and for whom — had she been an adoptee? Is it even possible to speak of an “authentic” testimony of adoptee experience, regardless of whether the author is an adoptee or not? The article attempts to clarify some of these issues, while arguing that a novel like Lee’s challenges the genre of adoptee autobiography but also helps to define its potential.

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