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'aka Dan' episode 4 recap: Sweet emotions

Even though it’s really short, episode 4 of aka Dan is definitely a rebound after a quasi-apathetic episode 3. A lot happens and Dan, although reserved, is emotive throughout.

Episode 4 opens with Dan visiting Eastern Social Welfare Society (ESWS), his Korean adoption agency. (As a side note, I personally have huge issues with ESWS, but my thoughts about ESWS can come on another day.) Ye-Hwan Jeon, the director of ESWS, initially takes Dan to see “the photo room,” where Korean babies who are available for adoption are photographed. There Dan sees the chair his foster mother sat in with him back in July 12, 1985 (see above).Dan talks to the camera:

I remember seeing that chair when I was little. And one of the things I told myself was that I was a son of, like, a king or a prince or something. Because … it’s like a very elaborate chair. And when I came back to Korea I would find that my dad’s like the king of Korea … or Kim Jung Il.

Ye-Hwan chuckles, and Dan sits down in the chair with a bemused look on his face.

Screen Shot 2014-10-09 at 11.15.36 AM

The scene in the photo room is amusing. It’s a touching moment as well. There’s something moving about seeing a person physically reconnect with an image, an archeological item from his unknown past—an unknown past with which many Korean adoptees grapple. As Shannon Heit notes:

In her book, Haunting the Korean Diaspora: Shame, Secrecy, and the Forgotten War, Grace M. Cho expands on Gordon’s framework, describing the haunting of the Korean diaspora as a transgenerational haunting, “[a] haunting effect [that] is produced not so much by the original trauma as by the fact of its being kept hidden. It is precisely within the gap in conscious knowledge about one’s family history that secrets turn into phantoms.”  Adoptees, perhaps more so than any other group, are haunted by the absence of knowledge regarding our family histories and the secrets of our pasts that can’t be known.

Continuing the tour of ESWS, Ye-Hwan walks Dan to the infant-care area. It is here that you get to see an interesting dialogue.

Upon seeing the babies, Dan asks, “Are these all orphaned babies?”

Ye-Hwan says yes. Dan follows, “I don’t know what the Korean law is, but is international adoptions still legal?”

“Still legal, yes.” Ye-Hwan responds, “But very few cases compared with the past.”

Dan inquires further, “Because they’re trying to get more Korean families to adopt?”

Ye-Hwan answers with a half-truth: “We hope so, but not much increasing compared to how many babies we have. That’s why we should care for all of the babies like this [points to special-needs toddlers], not just infant babies. They should go to foster homes or to domestic [Korean] families.”

I say “half-truth” here because evidence shows that ESWS doesn’t champion domestic adoptions, which doesn’t bring in the revenue that international adoptions do. Plus, the Korean adoption law, which was written by adoptees, unwed mothers, and their allies, does more than encourage domestic adoption. Per the New York Times profile of Korean adoptee author and activist Jane Jeong Trenka:

It was that emotional conflict over identity that eventually led Ms. Trenka to upend her life, move back to South Korea and help lead a successful campaign with fellow adoptees to fundamentally change the way Koreans think about adoption. The landmark legislation they championed for the first time takes concrete steps to deal with the root causes of South Korea’s longstanding reputation as one of the world’s leading “baby exporters”—society’s deep prejudice against single mothers and against domestic adoptions thought to sully all-important family bloodlines.

The law stipulates for the first time that the government should reduce overseas adoptions of Korean children. It not only provides child-care stipends to encourage more Koreans to adopt and to support single women who want to keep their children, but it also requires mothers to live with their babies for a week and receive counseling about the option of keeping them, before they relinquish custody.

“I spent the first 40 years of my life as an adoptee, and Korea really hasn’t changed much about its adoption system,” Ms. Trenka, 41, said recently. “Do I want to spend the second half of my life letting these people get away with the damaging practices that created the first part of my life?”

The half-truth, and being surrounded by babies and toddlers with whom he identifies, strikes a chord with Dan:

Oh my gosh. This is really overwhelming. I think I like seeing the babies in person … It makes things a lot more real, a lot more … It’s very, very overwhelming. I think it’s incredible to see … where I literally came from. It’s really painful to see all of these babies put up for adoption.

Unbeknownst to Dan, chances are, most of the babies and toddlers were “put up for adoption” by unwed mothers who were forced to relinquish their parent rights. Shannon Heit writes:

Unwed mothers face extreme social prejudice and significant structural discrimination. In addition, they often face rejection from their families and social networks. Historically, when women become pregnant before marriage in Korea, abortion, although technically illegal, has been the most common solution. In the case that women choose to give birth, families heavily pressure the mothers to give the child up for adoption. According to KUMFA Director Mok Kyoung-hwa, raising a child as an unwed mother in Korea is essentially not seen as an option:

“When a woman who is unmarried gets pregnant, everyone around you—family, friends, the father of the baby—tries first to convince you to abort. After that, everyone around you plus obstetricians, social workers, and unwed mothers’ facilities try to convince you to choose adoption. No one encourages you to raise your child. No one. No one says, ‘It will be hard, but I’m here to support you.’”

After the infant/toddler area, Dan gets the chance to meet the person whom he came to ESWS to see—Seok Myeon Lee, his foster mother.Screen Shot 2014-10-09 at 11.33.50 AM

Seok Myeon, who fostered 20 kids, is charming and dotes on Dan. During the short meeting, she holds his hands, hugs him, repeatedly talks about how handsome he is, thanks him for coming to see her, and talks openly about how she has missed him. At one point she says: “I would have loved to have you as my son.”

The overt display of emotions affects Dan. Even though you can’t see his face, as he watches his foster mother walk away from ESWS, you know that the meeting made an impact on him.

Watch episode 4 of aka Dan below.

TV Families | EW.com
Mark Harris
February 23, 1990 AT 05:00 AM EST

The Bradys are back, with a passel of 90’s hassles. Do they represent the typical American Family? Did they ever? Who does? Stare and compare!

Kind Of Family
TheBradyBunch 1969-74: Blended
The Bradys 1990-: Enormous
Married…With Children 1987-: Postnuclear
Thirtysomething 1987-: Extended
The Flintstones 1960-66: Modern Stone Age

Family Pet
The Brady Bunch: Tiger
The Bradys: Alice
Married…With Children: Buck
Thirtysomething: Grendel
The Flintstones: Dino

Typical Guest Star
The Brady Bunch: Davey Jones
The Bradys: There’s no room
Married…With Children: Sam Kinison
Thirtysomething: Carly Simon
The Flintstones: Ann Margrock

Expression Of Joy
The Brady Bunch: Groovy!
The Bradys: Ritual hugging
Married…With Children: ”Oh, great.”
Thirtysomething: ”Of course I’m happy for you. Really. But what about me? Why does it always have to be about you?
The Flintstones: ”Yabba-dabba doo

Expression Of Rage

The Brady Bunch: ”Hmmm…”
The Bradys: ”If you back away from something you really want, then you’re a quitter!” (the angriest any Brady has ever been)
Married…With Children: ”Aaagh, God, take me from this miserable life!”
Thirtysomething: ”I’m not angry, OK?”
The Flintstones: ”Willllmaaaa!”

Typical Problem
The Brady Bunch: Marcia and her rival both want to be the prom queen.
The Bradys: Bobby gets paralyzed.
Married…With Children: Al doesn’t buy his family Christmas presents.
Thirtysomething: Nancy gets cancer.
The Flintstones: Fred and Barney are staying out too late.

Typical Solution
The Brady Bunch: The prom committee decides to have two queens.
The Bradys: Bobby gets married.
Married…With Children: They hate him.
Thirtysomething: If only we knew…
The Flintstones: Wilma and Betty decide to follow them.

House Style
The Brady Bunch: Conservative but mod, circa ’69
The Bradys: Conservative but mod, circa ’90
Married…With Children: Roach motel
Thirtysomething: Enviable
The Flintstones: Suburban cave

Clothing Style
The Brady Bunch: Early Osmonds
The Bradys: Made in the USA
Married…With Children: Flammable fabrics
Thirtysomething: Eclectic earth tones; nice ties
The Flintstones: One-piece

Most Annoying Character
The Brady Bunch: Alice’s cousin Emma, the substitute housekeeper (too strict)
The Bradys: Marcia’s husband, Wally (chronically unemployable)
Married…With Children: Steve (supercilious)
Thirtysomething: Ellyn (goes through Hope’s drawers, babbles, changes hairstyle every other week, generally mistreats her friends)
The Flintstones: Mr. Slate (bossy)

Attitude Toward Sex
The Brady Bunch: Never heard of it
The Bradys: Omigod — even Cindy does it!
Married…With Children: Peg: Yes. Al: No.
Thirtysomething: They didn’t get all those kids by accident.
The Flintstones: Prehistoric

How Spouses Fight
The Brady Bunch: They don’t.
The Bradys: Infrequently, but it happens
Married…With Children: Tooth and nail
Thirtysomething: They stop talking
The Flintstones: Fred and Barney go bowling while Wilma and Betty max out their charge cards.

How Kids Get Into Trouble
The Brady Bunch: Greg takes a puff of a cigarette.
The Bradys: Carol’s grandson steals her business cards and sticks them in the spokes of Bobby’s wheelchair.
Married…With Children: By committing felonies
Thirtysomething: Ethan plays with a forbidden toy rocket.
The Flintstones: They don’t.

How They’re Punished

The Brady Bunch: ”It’s not what you did, honey — it’s that you couldn’t come to us.”
The Bradys ”Next time, ask.”
Married…With Children: By the authorities
Thirtysomething: It blows up in his face.
The Flintstones: They’re not.

What Family Does For Fun
The Brady Bunch: Takes special three-part vacations to Hawaii and the Grand Canyon
The Bradys: Has flashbacks
Married…With Children: Exchanges insults
Thirtysomething: Talks
The Flintstones: Attends showings of The Monster at the Bedrock Drive-In

Unsolved Mysteries
The Brady Bunch: How exactly did Carol’s first husband and Mike’s first wife die?
The Bradys: What’s with Marcia’s new face and Bobby’s blonde hair
Married…With Children: What kind of hair spray does Peg use?
Thirtysomething: Why did Nancy take Elliot back? What do Gary and Susanna see in each other?
The Flintstones: How does Barney’s shirt stay on if he has no shoulders? Where do Fred and Wilma plug in their TV?

Worst Behavior
The Brady Bunch: The Brady children once made Alice feel under-appreciated.

The Bradys: Marcia’s son Mickey watches Bobby’s car-crash tape for fun.
Married…With Children: The Bundy’s kill their neighbor’s dog.
Thirtysomething: Elliot has an affair and talks about it.
The Flintstones: Characters don’t wear under-clothes.

Best Reason To Watch
The Brady Bunch: This is what life should be.
The Bradys: They’re all grown-ups now!
Married…With Children: Terry Rakolta hates it.
Thirtysomething (Tie) This is your life. This isn’t your life.
The Flintstones: This is what life might have been.

Best Reason Not To Watch
The Brady Bunch: Blurred vision from rerun overdoses.
The Bradys: You’re all grown-ups now.
Married…With Children: She has a point.
Thirtysomething: After a while, you think it’s real.
The Flintstones: The Simpsons

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