Here's the story of AKAP board member, Sojin Rank.
I believe I was born as Park So Jin in Taegu, South Korea on October 29, 1994. I was told that my birth mother and birth father were only 17 years old at the time. Supposedly my birth father left my birth mother so she had to give me up.
I was placed in an orphanage and stayed there for two months. My adoptive parents found out about me through their adoption agency, Lutheran Social Services on December 29, 1994. My mom posts about it every year on Facebook:
On December 29, 1994, Steven [my adoptive dad] and I [Paula, my adoptive mom] received one of the best belated Christmas presents ever... a phone call from the Director of Adoption at Lutheran Social Services telling us they had identified a little baby girl from South Korea for our family. We had been prepared to accept a baby with special needs, so we braced ourselves and asked him what exactly was wrong with this baby. His exact words were, "It's pretty serious - prepare yourselves." He then proceeded to tell us she had a birthmark on her lower back and she had dimples in her cheeks. No kidding - dimples were considered a "flaw" and that's one of the things that made her available for adoption to us in Ohio (long story). Anyway, he said he had a picture of her and we drove down THAT NIGHT to get the picture so we could see our new daughter. We fell in love at first sight... P.S. And we really love those dimples!
From there, I was placed in a foster home. I don't know much about it, although they did give me a scrapbook full of photos and origami. The captions share the names of my foster family doing everyday life with me. I had a foster mom, dad, brother, and sister. I even have photos of me on my 100 day celebration.
On February 24, 1995, a retired airline worker flew me from South Korea to Dayton, Ohio to meet my new family. My parents always told me the story of how they waited at the gate for me to come off the plane. I was the last one to deplane and everyone had heard rumors about me and they all waited at the gate to witness my union with my parents. Apparently I bursted into hysterical tears when my mom leaned down and said to me,
"Hi Savannah, I'm your new mommy!"
My parents gave me an Angelo name, Savannah, after Savannah, GA. I have one brother who is also adopted, but he was adopted from our hometown in Ohio. He was white, just like my parents, and loosely resembled my mom who has blonde hair and blue eyes. He always looked like he belonged to my family.
I grew up in a really safe home, so loved and cared for by my family. I was spoiled and was given a wonderful life. Parents brought me up in a way where I always knew that I was adopted and I was Korean. So I don't remember there ever being a big "ah-ha" moment where I found out. I just knew that I was different and as a little kid, that did make me feel special.
As I got older, those differences were used as weapons against me.
I was taunted by other kids in school. They took their forefingers and pulled the corner of their eyes to mock me.
Everyone assumed I was from China, which really annoyed me. I was one of maybe three people in my school district that were Korean, but the only one who was a transracial Korean American adoptee. I didn't know what it was like to come from a Korean home.
All of my friends were blonde girls growing up. I remember coming home from being out with them and catching a glance of myself in the mirror and being startled by the fact that I was Asian. I would genuinely forget. I always wished I was white like everyone else in my life...
I desperately wanted to have fair skin and blonde hair with beach waves.
But I was stuck with darker skin that got too brown in the summertime, stick-straight black hair that couldn't hold a curl, and monolids with eyelashes that went straight out and never curled up. To be honest, I still don't even know how to do eye makeup for my Asian eyes...
Adult to Now
When I graduated high school, I remember actively avoiding any college with large populations of Asian students. I really worried about being "othered" by them because I didn't feel like I belonged to their groups. I honestly hated being associated with anything Asian.
I really feared being made fun of by others for being Asian, so I was always the first to throw out a stupid stereotype about myself so that no one else could. I think it was some sort of self-defense mechanism because I really didn't want to give anyone else the ammunition to make a joke about how I was good in school or how I play piano as a young kid.
For the most part, I didn't really think about my race. It wasn't until Trump became president that I felt targeted by hate speech or racism.
I remember being told to "go back to my own country".
I was personally blamed for "bringing the Kung-Flu (COVID-19) over from China". I was scoffed at in public. I wasn't able to feel reconcile the fact that I am Korean, but I am also an American who grew up in the U.S.
Despite all of that, my identity of being Korean didn't really become important to me until the mass shooting in Atlanta in March 2021. All of a sudden, I actually feared for my safety just because of what I looked like. I couldn't really articulate it, but I hated that I was Savannah (which in my mind is the name for blonde haired, southern belles in cowboy boots and daisy dukes) on the inside, but some Asian woman on the outside.
My identity just didn't feel right. My name never matched who I felt like I was.
I decided on July 17, 2021 that I wanted to reclaim my Korean name and go by Sojin. I've kept my legal name and my family still refers to me as Savannah, but in all other areas of my life, I go by my chosen name, Sojin. Doing this was really hard for me, because I felt like I was transitioning to be a new person or something and I was afraid of what others would think.
Soon after, I started doing research around Korean Adoptee groups and found AKAP. I immediately felt like I had found my people. I heard stories of other Korean Adoptees and for the first time, I felt like I could finally relate to someone else. I felt seen and like I belonged. It wasn't long after that that I joined the Board of Directors. I honestly feel so grateful for this community who is helping me learn more about my Korean roots and expose me to a whole new culture I never took the time to learn about. I still feel like I'm early in my journey of understanding who I am as a Korean Adoptee, but I am so thankful that I have this group of people to do it alongside.
Sharing your story
We've opened up the opportunity to our community to share their Korean adoptee experience and personal story. As we share these stories, we hope that more people feel like they belong, they are not alone, and that they have a story worth sharing.
Want to share your story? Let us know!