Season 2, Episode 6: Mike - host of The Rambler and Korean adoptee

Mike McDonald, host of The Rambler podcast, tells us about his experiences as a Korean adoptee, his work with the Also Known As Teen/Youth Mentorship Program and why he did DNA testing before he got married. Mike teaches us a bit about the extensive Korean adoption program and tells us that there are over 200,000 Korean adoptees worldwide. 

Show Notes


Topics We Discussed

  • Born in Korea in Masan and adopted through Holt International Adoption Services 
  • A sister who is also adopted from Korea but didn’t discuss adoption
  • Holt Camp - summer heritage camp for international adoptees; included some cultural programming (Korean food, fan dancing, Taekwondo, Korean language classes)
  • One time per year to discuss adoption issues, just at camp
  • Wanting to take Karate because of the Power Rangers, but adoptive parents chose Taekwondo which is Korean; that they indirectly influenced Mike to stay connected to Korean culture.  “They did the best they could at the time.”
  • Thought about birthmother a lot when he was younger; as he got older Mike would think about his biological father and wonder what similarities they could share.
  • At college Mike thought it would be a perfect time to search, but it got put on the back-burner because of a busy schedule. 
  • Trip to Korea in 2007 (with Also Known As ) and the agency told him his records were burned in a fire. Mike’s Korean name is the hospital he was born in. 
  • “I don’t need that history. I’m ok with who I am.” 
  • Talking with other adoptees who are getting similar stories about hospital records being burned or lost in a flood…conspiracy? How could all the hospitals in Korea be affected? 
  • Extensive Korean adoption program: around 200,000 adoptees that have gone to the US, Canada and many European countries. <editor’s note: this statistic may be from 2010 - you can check out the wikipedia article here > Stigma with unwed mothers; became a national shame that one of their biggest exports from Korea was children. Korea has tried to tackle this issue and focus on domestic adoption but it’s been a slow change. Korean birth rate has been dropping, but the amount of adoptions has continued. Now they’re one of the top ten economies in the world but still struggle to support family preservation.
  • DNA testing - Mike and his wife did DNA testing prior to marriage to ensure they weren’t related. His wife is also a Korean adoptee. 
  • Teen/youth mentorship program (with Also Known As) can meet with other adoptees, and adult adoptee mentors. They do fun activities together, and then have access to mentors if they have hard questions. Provides them with a positive adult adoptee role model. 
  • Issues that domestic, transracial, international adoptees face that are similar: getting files, history, birth certificates, medical records, legal obstacles, legislative issues. 
  • Adoptee rights campaign - some international adoptees don’t have US citizenship because their adoptive parents didn’t follow through on getting it done.
  • Adoptees need their basic medical information, we shouldn’t have to go through DNA testing to access it. 
  • Growing up in a white household; diverse neighbourhood in New Jersey. 

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