To Save the Children of Korea
The Cold War Origins of International Adoption
Arissa H. Oh



Researching and writing this book has rarely been lonely because I have been blessed to be surrounded by generous, critical scholars to challenge me, and to cheer me on. Mae Ngai, Tom Holt, and Leora Auslander all provided valuable guidance and intervention as I conceived and developed this project. I owe Mae in particular an immense debt of gratitude for her ongoing mentorship. Many compatriots offered reliably skeptical feedback and important forms of support, related and unrelated to the life of the mind: Melissa Borja, Kornel Chang, Jessica Graham, Allyson Hobbs, Moira Hinderer, Molly Hudgens, Alison Lefkovitz, Jason McGraw, Meredith Oda, Sarah Potter, David Spatz, Michael Stamm, and Ellen Wu.

Financial support came from a number of sources: the University of Chicago (the Center for East Asian Studies’ Korean on Committee Studies and the Center for the Study of Race, Politics, and Culture), the Korean-American Scholarship Foundation, the Embassy of Korea in the USA, the Immigration and Ethnic History Society, the Organization of American Historians, the Association for Asian Studies, the University of Minnesota, the Doris G. Quinn Foundation, and the Department of Asian American Studies at the University of Illinois.

Thank you to the archivists and staff at the Social Welfare History Society at the University of Minnesota; the Center for Migration Studies; the Presbyterian Historical Society; the National Archives in College Park, MD, and Washington, DC; Yonsei University Library; and the National Assembly Library in Seoul. International Social Service and the Presbyterian Church (USA) granted me access to their records. George Drake kindly shared his personal collection of materials related to American servicemen and Korean children. In Korea, Myoung Yong Um and Ik Bae Kim provided important help, and Hyunjoo Lee was a fantastic research assistant.

Many people directly involved in Korean adoption took the time to share their thoughts and experiences with me, and my conversations with them have been enormously helpful. Thank you to Molly Holt and Hyun Sook Han, and to the many adoptees whom I formally interviewed or casually spoke with about my project. What they shared with me provided invaluable texture and background, and I have remained mindful of my responsibility to them and their stories as I have written this book. Thank you especially to Layne Fostervold and Katherine Kim, who helped a stranger crowdsource personal photos.

At Boston College I have received invaluable mentorship from Lynn Johnson and Kevin Kenny. My colleagues in the history department have been supportive and welcoming since day one, especially Jim Cronin, Devin Pendas, and Martin Summers—and Julian Bourg, who always manages to make things more legible. I thank the senior women in particular for being such tremendous role models of scholarship and collegiality: Robin Fleming, Lynn Johnson, Deborah Levenson, Lynn Lyerly, Karen Miller, Rebecca Nedostup, Ginny Reinburg, Heather Richardson, Sarah Ross, Dana Sajdi, Sylvia Sellers-Garcia, and Franziska Seraphim. I am grateful to Julian Bourg, Lynn Johnson, Kevin Kenny, Tina Klein, Lynn Lyerly, and Sylvia Sellers-Garcia for engaging with my work, and for the camaraderie of Julie AhnAllen, Biz Bracher, Katie Dalton, Régine Jean-Charles, Ramsey Liem, Pat DeLeeuw, and Min Song. There was nothing I asked for that superlibrarian Elliot Brandow and the interlibrary loan staff could not provide. A faculty fellowship and a week at the Intersections faculty writing retreat gave me the time and solitude I needed to complete the manuscript, and a research expenses grant helped me get this book across the finish line.

Beyond BC, many people have taken the time to talk with me about various aspects of this project over the years. Thank you to Karen Balcom, Carl Bon Tempo, Laura Briggs, Ariane Chernock, Kathy Conzen, Bruce Cumings, Sarah Park Dahlen, Kori Graves, Ellen Herman, Madeline Hsu, Taejin Hwang, Deann Borshay Liem, Steve Porter, Gina Miranda Samuels, Naoko Shibusawa, Allison Varzally, Judy Wu, and Tara Zahra. I presented parts of this book at the Massachusetts Historical Society’s Boston Immigration and Urban History Seminar, the Society for Historians of American Foreign Relations, the Organization of American Historians, the Association of Asian American Studies, the Society for History of Childhood and Youth, the Berkshire Conference on the History of Women, and Brown University. I thank the audience and panelists at these meetings, especially Chris Cappozzola, Ellen Herman, Paul Kramer, Barbara Yngvesson, and Susan Zeiger, whose comments helped me develop my thinking in important ways. Eleana Kim most generously did an eleventh-hour reading and gave crucial feedback, and the anonymous reviewers for Stanford University Press also provided very helpful critique.

At Stanford University Press, I thank Eric Brandt, Gordon Chang, Friederike Sundaram, and Stacy Wagner for their enthusiasm about this book, their professionalism, and for patiently answering all my rookie questions.

I could not have completed a fraction of my work without Jeanne Lothrop or the amazing teachers at Boston College Children’s Center, not to mention the many babysitters who have helped me over the years.

My family in Canada are far away but always close in spirit. I am beyond privileged to have Esther and Eric as siblings. Daniel Bornstein, Heather Finn, Jeehoon Jang, and Katie and Dave Yoon—and all the kids: Bruce Finn, Nellie, Xander, Xavier, Hyeri, and Henna—fill visits home with comfort and joy. I miss our Christmases in Williamsford with Young and Aeran Jang. I wish I didn’t live so far from my friends and relatives in Korea, who have always opened wide their hearts and homes to me. Youngsup Koh, Suin Cho, Jae Soh, and Linda Lee made me wish I could go back every year. Thanks to Chris and Nancy Dreher for providing shelter in mouse and heat emergencies.

My grandmother and my parents insisted that I speak Korean and learn my history, and their own life stories have informed this project in many ways. My grandmother was just twenty-two years old when the Korean War began. Although her husband was in the north, she fled southward from Seoul with my year-old mother and infant uncle. They never saw my grandfather again, becoming just one of the millions of Korean families who became permanently separated by the 38th parallel. My mother grew up in a time and place when a woman was educated for the sake of finding a good husband, but she has herself been the ultimate liberal feminist in encouraging her own children to pursue their loftiest ambitions, regardless of their sex. My father grew up in a thatched-roof farmer’s shack in the Korean countryside but managed to graduate from Seoul National University. He passed away before I finished high school, let alone contemplated academia, but I don’t think he’d be surprised to see this book. His belief in me, and his faith in the value and virtue of discipline and hard work, has been with me every step of the way.

Dave has been my rock. A true partner in every sense of the word, he has provided boundless support (and the right touch of humor) and his diligence and integrity inspire me daily. I could not do any of this without him. My girls have enriched my life in ways I could never have imagined. Frannie provided company in the darkest days of writing (whether I wanted it or not), and Ellie kept me motivated by producing a book a day at preschool (sometimes more). Their gift to me—motherhood—has, I hope, made me a more compassionate teacher and scholar. I am deeply privileged to see them bloom and grow.