Programming for a Diverse Community

We've expanded our programming, so there's something for everyone.

Choose Your Own Adventure: The adoptee community is multi-generation and global. Some attendees are coming back for their 5th Korea Gathering, while others are coming back to Korea for the first time. We expect participants to have varying interests. Our approach is to offer a wide variety of programming that appeals to a range of interests. Think of our programming like a buffet. There will be a lot to choose from and you can decide what you want to do. There is no need to do everything and there will be opportunities to try things that may not be familiar.

Welcoming Newcomers: Are you newly exploring the adoptee community? Will this be your first trip back to Korea? No worries! Let us help you prepare for this trip. We have designed intentional programming for newcomers that includes virtual sessions to help connect attendees prior to Korea and a newcomers welcome event which was well received when it launched in 2019. IKAA will also be providing guidance on how to navigate Seoul and recommendations on things to see and foods to eat! Virtual sessions for attendees will begin in May.

Pre & Post Gathering Virtual Sessions

New to this IKAA Korea Gathering is the inclusion of virtual sessions before and after the weeklong event in Korea. Prior to the start of the Korea Gathering, we’ll be hosting virtual sessions to help connect, engage, and inform registered attendees. Newcomers are encouraged to attend! After the Korea Gathering, we will also be hosting post-event virtual sessions to encourage reflection and to facilitate post-event discussion.

Newcomers Welcome Event

In 2019, we launched a welcome event for newcomers to the IKAA Korea Gathering and large adoptee community events. The event will be held at the beginning of the week on Monday July 10th and is intended to facilitate connection among newcomers in a friendly and supportive environment.

Opening Ceremony and Reception

The Opening Ceremony will be held on Tuesday July 11th and will feature presentations and remarks from adoptee leaders and allies in the community. This session will also service as a preview to the rest of the week’s programming. In the afternoon, we’ll gather together for light appetizers and drinks.

Sixth International Korean Adoption Studies Symposium

The Sixth International Symposium on Korean Adoption Studies (IKAS) will be held at the 2023 IKAA Korea Gathering on July 12th, 2023. We recognize and celebrate the interdisciplinary nature of Korean adoption studies with scholars from both the humanities and social and behavioral sciences. This research also engages with issues of race and ethnicity, migration and diaspora, gender and family, and globalization and transnationalism. The day-long symposium will bring together scholars from around the world who are conducting research in the field of Korean adoption studies. We also welcome submissions from scholars creating linkages between transnational adoptions from Korea and other sending countries such as China, Ethiopia, Guatemala, and Russia. We firmly believe in the dissemination of Korean adoption studies scholarship to a public audience to address the gap between research and practice. We particularly welcome research that is jargon-free and accessible to a general audience.

IKAS is open to the public for a door price of 60,000 KRW or 30,000 KRW for students.

Meet the research symposium planning team

Elizabeth (Liz) Raleigh

Elizabeth (Liz) Raleigh first attended the IKAA research symposium in 2007 when she was a graduate student pursuing a PhD in sociology. It was one of the few opportunities she had to meet adoption scholars from different fields. Fast forward 15 years later, Liz is associate professor of sociology at Carleton College and regularly teaches classes on adoption. She is also the author of Selling Transracial Adoption: Families, Markets, and the Color Line. This will be the third Symposium that she has helped to organize.

Kimberly McKee

Kimberly McKee is an associate professor and chair of the Integrative, Religious, and Intercultural studies Department at Grand Valley State University. She is the author of Disrupting Kinship: Transnational Politics of Korean Adoption in the United States (University of Illinois Press, 2019) and co-editor of Degrees of Difference: Reflections of Women of Color on Graduate School (University of Illinois Press, 2020). Her current book manuscript, Adoption Fantasies: The Commodification of Asian Adoptees from Girlhood to Womanhood (Ohio State University Press, under contract), considers the reverberations and effects of sensationalist and fictional adoption portrayals in the lives of adopted women and girls. The monograph interrogates the limits and contours of multiculturalism and colorblindness, analyzing racialized and sexualized popular culture representations of Asian adopted women and girls from 1992 to 2015. McKee serves as a co-chair of the executive committee for the Alliance of the Study of Adoption and Culture. She received her Ph.D. in Women’s, Gender, and Sexuality Studies from The Ohio State University.

Oh Myo Kim

Oh Myo Kim is a teacher, researcher and counseling psychologist. She is currently an associate professor of the practice in the Counseling, Devt, and Educational Psychology department at Boston College. Her research focuses on cultural socialization and adoption issues through the lifespan. She lives in the Boston area with her partner and two children. This is her third IKAA gathering, and she is excited to reconnect with everyone.

Ryan Gustafsson

Ryan Gustafsson is a writer and researcher living on Wurundjeri country. Their essays on Korean adoption have appeared in Against Disappearance: Essays on Memory (Liminal x Pantera Press, 2022), Sydney Review of Books, International Journal of Cultural Studies, and others. They are co-facilitator of the Korean Adoptee Adoption Research Network and one half of the Adopted Feels podcast.

Sara Docan-Morgan

Sara Docan-Morgan (she/her) (PhD, University of Washington) is Professor of Communication Studies at the University of Wisconsin, La Crosse. Her research, which has been published in various journals and edited volumes, focuses on how personal identity and family identity are formed, maintained, and negotiated through communication in both adoptive and birth families. Her book, In Reunion: Transnational Korean Adoptees and the Communication of Family will be published in 2023 by Temple University Press. She teaches courses in interpersonal communication, family communication, gender and communication, research methods, and intercultural communication. In 2016-17, Dr. Docan-Morgan was a Fulbright Scholar in South Korea and taught at Hankuk University of Foreign Studies.

Research Symposium Sessions

Links to Digital Program and Digital Program (gray scale)

Making Home: Adult Korean Adoptees Living in South Korea

Rebecca Kinney

Anti-adopterism as Resistant Knowledge: An Autoethnographic Case Study of Colorblind Distortions in Transracial and International Adoption

Seungmi Laura Cho

Dwelling in Exile: On the Extraterritorial Phenomenology of Transracial Adoptees

Beau Kent

Reconciling DNA : Making Kinship and Nation through Genetic Testing in South Korea

Shannon Bae

Transracial Korean and Chinese Adoptees Navigating Discussions About Racism and Intersectional Identities with Adoptive Parents

Jason D. Reynolds (Taewon Choi)

Ethiopian Transnational Adoption Through the Lens of Adult Adoptees and Relinquishing Family Voices

Hewan Girma

The generative power of queer adopteeness: a multi-sited ethnography in the returned Korean adoptee community

Hyeonsook Kim

Pregnancy & Childbirth Experiences for Asian American Adopted Adults

Lillian Hexter

Institutionalising Adoption History: The Implications and Limitations for Korean Adoptees of the Report of the Dutch Committee Investigating Intercountry Adoption

Bastiaan Flikweert

The Importance of Community: Preliminary Findings on the Nature of Korean Adoptee Groups/Spaces and Adoptee Well-Being

Hollee McGinnis

Transnational Korean Adoptees: Family Communication “In Reunion”

Keynote: Sara Docan-Morgan

Presentations, Workshops, and Discussion Groups

IKAA Gatherings provide the opportunity for participants to explore a wide range of topics related to adoption, the adoptee experience, and the themes of the Gathering. We expect to have over 40 sessions throughout the week. These sessions will take place Thurs July 13 to Sunday July 16. Most sessions will be between 60 and 90 minutes in length. Some of these sessions will be presentations / panels, while others will be more interactive workshops and discussion groups. This year we will be featuring more perspectives from birth family members and adoptees living in Korea.

The 2023 IKAA Korea Gathering will explore themes and topics including birth family search, post reunion experiences and support, empowering adoptee voices, storytelling, navigating relationships with adoptive family members, mentorship, stereotypes / biases, adoptee activism, living in Korea as an adopted Korean, DNA testing, and more. Additionally, we will expand beyond our popular age breakout discussion groups and feature more discussion group sessions on various topics.

Cultivating Space for Adoptee Voices

Liz Kleinrock and Patrick Armstrong

Liz Kleinrock and Patrick Armstrong lead this session on what cultivating adoptee spaces can look like, as well as how to support adoptees of all ages in speaking their truths.

LIVE-ing in Korea

Antonia Giordano, Barbara Kim, JK Song, Amy Chu, Luke McQueen

Discussion with adopted Koreans who have been living in Korea on how to move and maintain a balanced life in Korea.

Childfree by Choice or by Circumstance: A New Legacy

Kerry Bondy

A safe space for adoptees without children to build community as they share the challenges of being childfree.

DNA Testing and Privacy Issues: What Does This Mean for You?

Delight Kim Roberts

Learn about the privacy issues inherent in DNA testing and how you can make an informed decision about sharing your personal data.

Ibyang International Network: Global Activism

Ibyang International Network (IbyangIN) is a newly-formed nonprofit that advocates for the rights of overseas adopted Koreans in South Korea.

Family Matters: Navigating Relationships with Adoptive Family Members

SunAh Laybourn, Amanda Assalone, Patrick Armstrong, and Shaun Hardwick

The panelists will discuss key moments in their adoptee exploration, how they’ve navigated sharing those moments with their adoptive parents, and the strategies they’ve used to successfully overcome challenges.

How do East-Asian women face stereotypes/biases in the workplace?

Christine Reinders and others

Shedding light on the challenges driven by stereotypes and biases we face due to race and gender in the workplace across geographies.

Navigating Academic Institutions as Adoption Researchers

Jason D. Reynolds (Taewon Choi)

Connecting transracial Korean adoptee (and other transracially adopted individuals) researchers and academics with other adoption scholars from around the world.

Adoptee Organizing 101

Taneka Hye Wol Jennings and Kate Firestone

Meet like-minded peers and gain knowledge and skills in the basics of organizing issue campaigns that advance human rights for adoptees, and intersecting communities.

Age Break Out Group Discussions

Providing a space for adoptees to share their own stories and hear experiences of other adoptees in age similar group settings.

How to Become Competent at the Korean Language as an Adult

Robert Holloway

Attend this workshop to learn techniques on how to become adequate at speaking Korean in your adulthood.

Early Wavers

Estelle Cooke-Sampson, Leslie Griep, Allen Majors, Moderated by Filmmaker, Deann Borshay Liem

A lively conversation with adoptees sent to the U.S. during the early wave – 1950s and early 1960s.

Building Community and Mapping the Life Course of Adoption: Revelations and Reflections

Hollee McGinnis

This presentation/workshop will provide an emergent space for the community to sit with some of the preliminary findings from a community-embedded and engaged project seeking to map the life course of adoption and the role of adoptee-led groups and spaces on adoptees in adulthood.

NCRC: Birth Family Search

National Center for the Rights of the Child (NCRC)

Overview and discussion of Korean Birth Family Search services from the Korean government agency overseeing family search.

How one Adoptee’s investigation of her switch case led to the reunion of twins with their birth father

Rebecca Kimmel

Viewing and discussion of a SBS documentary of how one Adoptee’s investigation into her switch case ultimately led to the reunion of Adoptee twins with their birth father in Korea.

Film: Hangul Blues

 Daan Vree

The life of 28-year-old Petra is turned upside down when she receives a letter and a picture from her biological mother from Korea.

Film: RE KNOWN Reflections on adoption

Kim Soo bok Cimaschi

Documentary about adoption perspectives in which the adoption subjects like adoptees, adoptive parents, adoption agency representatives, and social workers talk about adoption topics.

Partners Session

Discussion group for spouses/partners of adoptees.

Empowering Your Birth Family Search

Layne Fostervold

In this session, we will discuss some of the basic steps of birth family search (BFS), as well as alternative options to agency and government procedures, so that you can feel more proactive in your search.

Certificate of Family Relations and Impacts to Inheritance

Soyi Kim

This session will explore lawsuits aimed at the correction of the certificate of family relations since some adopted Koreans were adopted with false documents stating that they were orphans. Issues around inheritance will also be discussed since the correction of the certificate of family relations is directly related to inheritance.

Perspectives of birth families and adoptees post-reunion

Jannie Westermann and birth family members, Jeon Hyunsuk, Shannon Doona Bae

This panel aims to examine the needs of both adoptees and birth families in post-reunion relationships. By inviting a panel of speakers composed of adoptees and birth family members in reunion, and by offering audience members a space to share their own experiences, we hope to open an honest discussion of the joys, difficulties, and all things in-between, that are commonly experienced in reunion. After establishing real needs in post-reunion relationships, we ask our audience to imagine with us how post-reunion needs might be met by related organizations and government programs. This program will be bi-lingual with Korean/English interpretation.

Empowering FLINTA1: creating strategies together to overcome the insidiousness of sexism and heteronormativity by the patriarchy in South Korea.

Mirae kh RHEE

Only FLINTA (Female, Lesbian, Intersex, Trans and Agender) may attend this safe space discussion circle.

Mirae kh RHEE’s discursive presentation mixing both personal, historical, and contemporary perspectives will be followed by an exchange with attendees to discuss our intersectionality and experiences with discrimination in our birth country. This an opportunity to come up with strategies to confront and protect ourselves from misogyny and trans-/homophobia, as overseas adopted FLINTA.

Creative Arts

We are hosting a new Creative Arts Program at the IKAA Korea Gathering in 2023. In these sessions, adopted Koreans share their artistic talents as an expression of their adoption journeys. As a multi-disciplinary arts program, Koreans adopted to various countries will provide opportunities for the community to engage in a range of mediums which include visual arts, performance arts, and literary arts.

Comic Reading of ‘Pyeongtaek’

Meg O’Shea

Meg O’Shea walks us through an autobiographical work written in the last weeks of her two years’ living in Korea

Creatively Express your Identity through Art

Karin Lim

Karin Lim facilitates an art therapy workshop using mixed media collage, writing and sharing to guide adoptees to their “authentic voice” and greater self-awareness.

Unraveling our identities: Re-knotting with each other

Marie Gong Li Blouin, Tong Zhou Lafrance, and Marie-Christine Peiyu Savard

Chinese Adoptees of The Soft Gong Collective create an opportunity to connect with Korean adoptees in a discussion about the intersectional identities of Asian adoptees while creating a work of solidarity through the arts of Chinese and Korean knot making.

Collaborative Art Project: Journeys + Migrations

Jennifer Joy Swedell

Jennifer Joy Swedell constructs a collaborative art piece created by attendees which will be displayed during the IKAA gathering.

Claiming Your Narrative Writing Workshop

Alice Stephens

Alice Stephens speaks about her adoption journey, her novel Famous Adopted People, and leads us in exploring our own adoption stories through creative writing prompts.

Exploring Multiple Identities Through Movement

Mihyun Lee

Mihyun Lee leads us in growing awareness of how our bodies express identity through movement.

Seeds From The East: The Korean Adoptee Portrait Project Drawing & Poetry Through The Senses

AD Herzel

A.D. Herzel leads a drawing and writing exercise to explore our Korean identities inspired by her work in Korean Adoptee Portraits.

To my imaginary twin

Laure Badufle

“if we stayed in Korea, would we still be us?”. Laure Badufle invites us to explore our double identity as transracial adoptees by recreating memories of her imaginary twin sister, consisting of drawings, sound recordings and pictures based on real or imaginary places and objects.

Adoption Healing through Sound and Touch

Sarah MeeRan Cave

Come experience a violin sound healing, safe touch, and intentional grounding visualization techniques to encourage healing around adoption wounds.

QT*KAD – Queer Korean Adoptee Artists sharing narratives of care and love

Timm Shik Therre, Kim Stoker, Byol Kimura, Alex Myung

In this panel four queer adopted Korean artists discuss how their intersecting identities have played a part in their artistic careers and inspired them to bring visibility to the transracial/transnational adoptee community.

Family Programming

With the increased number of adoptees bringing their families to the Gatherings, IKAA introduced a “Family Program” in 2013. The Program includes family friendly activities, and presents opportunities for joining families to bond and jointly explore Seoul.

  • Family Welcome Event and Lunch
  • Activities: Aquarium, Norebang, Game Room
  • Amazing Race Scavenger Hunt
  • and more!

Amazing Race Scavenger Hunt

An “Amazing Race” style competition/scavenger hunt in Seoul, where groups of participants go to various locations around the city, completing activities and tasks to see who can successfully complete the most in the least amount of time.

Film Screenings

During the week, we’ll be screening a selection of films that explore the complexity of the adoptee experience and touch on themes relating to relationships with birth family members, the history of Korean adoption, and the unique experiences of traveling back to Korea as an adoptee. To add to the richness of the event, some of the films will be accompanied by Q&A sessions with those involved in the films.

Feature Films showing at CGV

  • Return to Seoul
  • Geographies of Kinship
  • Mother Dear

Baseball Game

Get ready for a Korean baseball experience at Jamsil Stadium! Attendees can sign up to join us for an exciting game experience with an electric atmosphere that’s not to be missed. Tickets will be covered for registered attendees.

Community Dinners

Hanjeongsik restaurants in Seoul offer a culinary experience deeply rooted in Korean tradition. It is a dining style that presents an array of prepared dishes, showcasing the rich flavors and diversity of Korean cuisine. We’ll be hosting multiple, large group community hanjeongsik dinners. Participants sign up for one of the time slots during the week. Dinner will be covered.

Closing Reception

On the last day of the Gathering, we’ll gather for a closing reception.

Closing Party

Come party with us as we celebrate the close to this weeklong event!