South Korean Adoptees Return to Their Birth Country as Olympians

Sibling rivalry is not unusual; siblings compete with each other at home, at school, at sports.  However, it is pretty unusual to have sibling rivalry in the Olympic Competitions. But for one family, that will be the dynamics at the 2018 Winter Olympics in South Korea.

Marissa Brandt will be playing hockey for South Korea, while her sister, Hannah, will be playing for the United States team. Marissa is part of a large group of Korean-born children, now adults, who were adopted during a massive international dispersion.

In the 1980’s, due to many reasons, one being poverty, large numbers of children were sent from South Korea to other countries for adoption. During this time, some smaller Asian countries dispersed over 200,000 children for international adoption, according to an Associated Press article. The Winter Olympics in South Korea is giving many of these children, now adults, a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity to visit their homeland and experience their native heritage.

Other South Korean adoptees are returning to Korea for the Olympics as spectators, including Megan Olson, a social worker from Minnesota, and Matt Galbraith, who was adopted with his biological brother when he was 5 years old. Galbraith was able to meet his biological mother in 2009. Matt plans to spend time with his birth family after the Games. 

Many people who are adopted, especially in international adoption, face many cultural and racial issues. Even in a loving adoptive home, children still have the need and longing to know their heritage and have a sense of connection with that heritage. This Olympic games is giving many people a chance for them to come “home” and connect with their birth culture and, for some, their biological families.