Highlights and reflections from attendees
2023 was both my first IKAA and the first time I had returned to Korea in a decade. It was also the first time I had been somewhere with so many fellow Korean adoptees from around the world. Prior to this I had little-to-no association with the adoptee community and this connection was not something I had previously sought out, nor did I travel to Seoul with anything more than a sense of curiosity and an excuse to take some time off work to go and eat Korean food and dabble in soju.
However, it immediately proved to be a unique and an invaluable experience on many levels. From meeting people like me from around the world and hearing their stories, the thoughtful panels and sessions put together by the conference organisers, to seeing the city I'm from with people who possessed a range of experience (from newbie to veteran) navigating the country and culture. As advertised, it also involved copious amounts of food, drink and a few late nights.
I strongly suggest that anyone with a mild sense of curiosity or above to take part. There's no obligation for you to think or feel a certain way and should you want to delve a little deeper, it's a great opportunity to.
A big shout out to the organisers as I understand this was the first IKAA under a new sponsor - a mammoth task that was executed very well, making it an unforgettable and profound experience.
Today I read a quote from fellow Korean adoptee, Patrick Armstrong, that really shook me - “I used to think of Korea as a place with nothing to offer me; I leave mourning all the things it can”.
The IKAA Gathering 2023 was not only my first IKAA experience but also my first trip back to my Motherland. For my entire life, I avoided anything Korean related including a trip back “home”, as I was convinced I didn’t need to feel connected to this country who I said goodbye to 38 years ago, let alone, immerse myself amongst 400+ other adoptees. Boy, I was wrong.
Now that I have returned, I realise how much I deeply grieve for the life that was taken away from me. Adoptees are not “lucky” or “blessed”. We are children, who were not given a choice, who were sent or taken away from our families, our language, our culture - separated from our biological roots and more devastatingly, from our birth mothers & first family.
Deep down, I think IKAA was my first (giant!) steps into the healing space I so desperately needed. I had never been so scared and nervous in my life but I came out the other side, confident, supported & most importantly, understood. To be surrounded by people who resemble you, relate to you, accept you & who just “gets” you - is the most profound thing I have ever experienced.
IKAA changed me. In the most heartbreaking, yet, most positive way possible. Words cannot convey my thoughts and feelings in the ways I wish they could. If you’re considering attending your first IKAA - do it. You won’t regret it, I promise!
I recently attended my first International Korean Adoptee Association (IKAA) gathering/conference hosted in Seoul, South Korea. It was my first introduction to the global adoptee community, where I was able to meet and bond with people who share my origin story of displacement and disconnect from my first family and first culture.
IKAA opened my world up to a community I felt I immediately belonged to - where I was able to meet people who were able to understand growing up outside of Korea, in a Korean body. The week-long event included sessions, talks and spaces to be able to learn and share our unique experiences as adoptees.
IKAA provided me with ideas and resources to empower my birth search. It gave me tools to explore and reflect on my life as an adoptee and new language to be able to start owning and sharing my unique story.
On a macro scale - IKAA introduced me to the history, challenges and current state of affairs with intercountry adoptions that I was unaware of before attending.