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Mu Films and Me & Korea to host Koreans and Camptowns conference

April 13 @ 8:30 CDT - April 14 @ 1:00 CDT

A conference entitled Korean Adoption and Its Global Legacies: 70 Years and Beyond will be held at Northwestern University, in Evanston, Illinois, April 13–14. The Korean adoptee service organization Me & Korea will co-sponsor the conference, along with Northwestern University and Mu Films, a documentary film company established by Deann Borshay Liem, a Korean adoptee.

The goal of the conference is to bring adoptees, first families, journalists and scholars together to discuss the origins of Korean adoption and its impact on families and individuals, including discussion of birth family search and reunion. The event is in honor of the late Korean adoption researcher Sue-Je Lee Gage.

The conference is intended to provide perspectives that challenge and expand participants’ understanding of adoption’s beginnings in the context of war and militarism, while exploring present-day consequences of South Korea’s adoption practices on adopted Koreans and their first families.

A gathering of alumni of Me & Korea’s many adoptee tours to Korea will be held on the evening of April 12, more details to be released closer to the date.

The keynote address will be by Yuri Doolan, assistant professor of history and sexuality studies at Brandeis University. He will discuss his new book, The First Amerasians: Mixed Race Koreans From Camptowns to America which relates how the concept of the Amerasian was used to remove thousands of mixed-race children from their Korean mothers in U.S.-occupied South Korea to adoptive American homes during the 1950s and ‘60s.

Speakers scheduled for this conference include Kori Graves, Associate Professor of History, University at Albany, State University of New York (SUNY) will discuss her book A War Born Family: African American Adoption in the Wake of the Korean War. This talk will describe how during and immediately after the Korean War African American soldiers in Korea and African Americans in the states learned about and then endeavored to adopt Korean children and the ways their efforts fit in the larger history of Korean transnational adoption.

Catherine H. Nguyen, who teaches Asian literature at Emerson College will discuss themes of her work-in-progress book Children Born of War, Adoptees Made by War, about Vietnamese mixed-race children who were transnationally adopted during and after the Vietnam War. Patti Duncan, a professor from Oregon State University will discuss how war and militarism in South Korea affected her as a mixed-race Korean American woman.

Veteran Korean photographer and journalist, Yongnam Lee, will present his career-spanning work which documents the people living and working in U.S. military camptowns near the Demilitarized Zone (DMZ). Through his photography and videography, Lee will discuss the Korean women who worked in “comfort stations” for American troops, and the lawsuit they brought that led to a South Korean Supreme Court victory in 2022.

The Sunday panels will focus on the long arc of Korean adoption and its impacts through the lens of birth family search.

The conference registration is free, with the option to purchase lunch and dinner in advance. For more details, and to register, visit https://kadconference2024.eventbrite.com/

For further information or questions, email:  conference@meandkorea.org 


April 13 @ 8:30 CDT
April 14 @ 1:00 CDT


Northwestern University
633 Clark Street
Evanston, IL 60208 United States
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