The Asian Reporter 19th Annual
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From The Asian Reporter, V20, #25 (October 4, 2010), page 13.
In the Matter of Cha Jung Hee follows Korean adopteeís quest for answers
In the Matter of Cha Jung Hee
By Julie Stegeman
Deann Borshay Liem has spent her lifetime feeling she has been living a lie. In 1966, at around eight years of age, she was brought to the U.S. from Korea to be adopted by American parents. Her adoptive family was told her name was Cha Jung Hee and she was an orphan. However, neither was true.
In an autobiographical documentary, In the Matter of Cha Jung Hee, one of three films in P.O.V.ís 2010 Adoption Stories series, Deann presents her quest to find the girl whose identity she was given.
Deannís search begins at Sun Duck Orphanage in South Korea, where she and the real Cha Jung Hee were both living in the 1960s. Deann, whose real birth name she discovered to be Kang Ok Jin, spoke to the social worker who sent her to the U.S.
The social worker reveals to Deann how she came to be Cha Jung Hee. Following the Korean War, Deannís adoptive parents, the Borshays, were compelled to reach out and help Korean orphans they had seen on television. They became sponsors of Cha Jung Hee, a young girl in a Korean orphanage, sending $15 each month and writing letters to her.
After two years, the Borshays decided to adopt Cha Jung Hee. This left the orphanage in a bind, as Cha Jung Hee had been claimed by her father some months previously. Rather than revealing this fact to the Borshays, the orphanage sent another girl in Cha Jung Heeís place, admonishing her not to reveal the truth.
The deception raises several ethical questions: Were the officials merely trying to give another girl a chance at what they believed was a better life, or were there some monetary considerations? Does the end justify the means? Whatever the answers, Deann and her family are left with the aftermath, and growing up, Deannís conflicting memories with the information on her adoption records led her to forget her past and her birth family. Deann was left questioning her identity and wondering whether she truly belonged to her adoptive family or in America.
Having learned the reason behind the switch, Deann next undertakes finding Cha Jung Hee to discover her fate, inspired in part by her feelings of guilt at having taken Cha Jung Heeís place.
Armed with a black-and-white photo of Cha Jung Hee and a highly symbolic pair of shoes that her adoptive mother sent to Cha Jung Hee before she was to come to the United States ó shoes Deann has held onto for 40 years ó Deann begins her search, calling, with the aid of an interpreter, more than 100 Cha Jung Hees, placing an ad in Korean newspapers, appearing on a Korean television show, and visiting the Police Separated Families Bureau.
In her encounters with multiple Cha Jung Hees, Deann learns what life might have been like for her if she hadnít been adopted by Americans.
The film presents a gripping account of one international adopteeís quest for her true history and identity and brings up questions about international adoption and adoption transparency.
For viewers who are interested in learning more about Deannís story, her reunion with her birth family and reconciliation of her birth and adoptive cultures were explored in a previous autobiographical documentary, First Person Plural. For more information, visit <www.pbs.org/pov/archive/firstpersonplural>.
In the Matter of Cha Jung Hee airs Sunday, October 10 from 11:00pm to midnight on Oregon Public Broadcasting with a replay scheduled Tuesday, October 12 from 4:00 to 5:00am. To verify showtimes, call (503) 293-1982 or visit <www.opb.org>. To learn more about the documentary, visit <www.mufilms.org/films/matter-of-cha-jung-hee>.