Korea History and Culture

The March First Movement, or the Samil Movement, was one of the earliest displays of Korean independence movements during the Japanese occupation of Korea. The name refers to an event that occurred on March 1st 1919, hence the movement’s name (literally meaning “Three-One Movement” in Korean). This is one of the holidays that is largely remembered and celebrated throughout the nation on March 1st. Tapgol Park is historically important as the site of the origin of the March 1st Movement in 1919, an important part of the Korean independence movement as the first location for the reading of the Declaration of Independence. There are many statues and monuments in the park. It is a great place to visit and learn about the history of Korea.

Protected: Korea Program Update – February 2012

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Korea Program January 2012 Update

The wait for referral continues to be 12-15 months. We received three referrals in November and the children were 11 months, 12 months, and 13 months old.  We continue to expect that the children will be 10-18 months at the time of referral for future referrals. Therefore, children coming home will be approximately 15-24 months old.

Please note that your home study will now need to reflect your openness to a child up to 24-months old at the time of placement. If you are already awaiting a referral, please speak with your worker to update or amend your home study right away. And please send a copy of the updated or amended home study to Spence-Chapin along with an amended I-600A approval which should reflect the child approved age to 24 months.

Upcoming Program Workshops – The next Korea Program Workshop – introducing the Korean adoption process, partner agency in Korea, and overview of the Korea program – required for those adopting from Korea, is being held on January 23rd from 6:00pm to 8:00 pm at our New York City office. Contact Namyi Min for more information.


Cultural Events

Korean New Year, commonly known as Seollal is the first day of the lunar Korean calendar and falls on January 23rd his year. It is the most important of the traditional Korean holidays and consists of 3 days of celebrations.  Korean New Year is typically a holiday for the whole family. Many Koreans dress up in colorful hanbok, the traditional Korean clothing, and perform ancestral rituals in the morning. Tteok guk, soup with rice cakes, is commonly served during this holiday.

Sebae is a traditional practice of paying respect to parents and grandparents on Korean New Year. Children visit their parents and wish them a happy new year by doing a deep traditional bow for them. This is accompanied by the words saehae bok manhi badeuseyo which literally means receive a lot a new year’s luck. Parents reward this by giving their children New Year’s money and offering words of wisdom.

Folk games: Many Koreans play the traditional family board game, Yut. Men fly kites and play jaegi chagi, a game where a light object is wrapped in some paper or cloth, and then kicked in a hackisack manner. Women play nurtwigi, which is a game of jumping on a seesaw.


To learn more Korean traditions, head to the day long family event on January 21st at the Korea Society.

The Korean Cultural Service NY also offers a full calendar of events.

For those of you interested in the modern Korean offering, APAP is hosting JANYA at Drom on Friday January 6, 9pm.

Lunar New Year Festival: Join the Flushing Library  in celebrating the Year of the Dragon, January 28. Chinese and Korean Culinary Arts and Crafts, food preparation, and traditional song and dance round out this day.

Korean Agency Visits Spence-Chapin

During the month of October we were fortunate to receive two groups of visitors from Korea Adoption Meeting (SWS), the South Korean agency that Spence-Chapin has partnered with since the 1970s.

The first delegation, who arrived the week of October 10th, was comprised of Mr. Joo (the Chairman of the SWS board), Mr. Chang (SWS President), and Ms. Sun (Director of International Adoptions).  In addition to a variety of meetings and workshops, a highlight of this visit was the opportunity for SWS staff to meet some of our adoptive families and children —some of whom expanded their families through Korean adoption in the last year, and others who did so more than 30 years ago.  The small group gathering provided the opportunity for unstructured conversation and storytelling; a larger reception took place later in that evening, giving the SWS delegation the chance to see many more families formed through their work.

At the end of the October we welcomed our second group of SWS visitors—social worker, Ms. Park, and two foster mothers, Mrs. Shin and Mrs. Ji, who have both been caring for SWS babies in their homes for over 13 years.  All 3 women were in New York for the first time and were excited to be here and see the sights, but it was clear, from the moment they stepped off the plane, that their primary focus was reconnecting with the babies they had cared and planned for during the time they were in SWS’s custody, before they joined their adoptive families.

On Sunday October 23rd Mrs. Shin, Mrs. Ji and Ms. Park attended the annual “Spooktacular” event put on by Spence-Chapin’s parent group Long Island Families Together (LIFT).  Families traveled from far and wide—from as far away as Virginia and Syracuse!—to reunite with the women who loved and cared for their children before they joined their families.  It was incredibly touching to see how Mrs. Shin and Mrs. Ji remembered each child as if they had parted just yesterday.  Mrs. Shin was overjoyed to reunite with her most recent charge who left her home just 5 months ago, as well as with the first child she ever cared forSWS Visit—now a 13 year old young man.  This was an emotional and moving experience for all involved—certainly for the foster mothers and social worker from Korea, and also for the families and the children old enough to understand who they were reconnecting with on that day.

Spence-Chapin staff was honored to be involved with this event; other adoptive families and even total strangers looked on, aware that they were witnessing something truly special.

In The Matter of Cha Jung Hee –Powerful and Poetic Documentary

In The Matter of Cha Jung Hee, a September 14th POV presentation on PBS, is a powerful and beautifully poetic film that documents a distressing reality—the switching of one child’s identity for another in a South Korean orphanage in the 1960s. This is an important story because Deann Boshay Liem is not the only child to whom this has happened. I have met several adult adoptees who have recounted similar experiences. Deann examines this reality in a very balanced manner, expressing her sadness and anger but still being able to demonstrate an understanding of the good intentions that were behind the choices the adults around her made. The film reminds us that adoption, although a wonderful gift that brings parents and children together, also involves loss… loss of a birth parent, loss of a culture, loss of a history and perhaps even loss of an identity for a child.

For me, this film highlights the mistake we adults often make—that children are blank slates, that they have no memory, and that experiences when very young don’t matter to them.  They do remember because who you are in the world and what your history is does matter. These are particularly important things to consider for those of us involved in older child adoptions. For reminding us of this by recounting her story and journey to uncover her own history, I applaud Deann Borshay Liem.

Rita Taddonio, LCSW
Director, Spence-Chapin’s Adoption Resource Center (ARC)

Korea35 Celebration

korea35 logo

This weekend – April 23 through April 25 – Spence-Chapin will host a family gathering to mark 35 years of adoption from South Korea, its partnership with the Social Welfare Society (SWS); and finding permanent families for more than 2,600 infants and children.  To read about the history of Spence-Chapin’s program, click here.