Successful book launch for HERE: A Visual History of Koreans in Minnesota

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Over two hundred Korean Minnesotans, friends and family members gathered to celebrate a book launch and book signing of HERE: A Visual History of Adopted Koreans in Minnesota.

The event was held in the galleries of Intermedia Arts on Lyndale Avenue last Saturday, April 17. It got off to a dynamic and colorful start with the entrance of the Shin Par Am (Wind of Inspiration) drums, led by Sang Ho Kim, the Sang Swae spiritual leader, followed by a performance in the gallery space, culminating in a dueling back and forth of drum rhythms.

The book HERE is the result of a collaborative between Kim Jackson, a photographer, and Heewon Lee, a graphic designer, assisted by Jae Ran Kim, writer, Kim Park Nelson, an oral historian and Wing Young Huie, a photographer. During a panel discussion by the authors, Kim Jackson said that the idea for the project had started as far back as 1998, when she started to document the Korean adoptee community.

There were many discussions by the adoptee authors that over the years had many experiences to convey in the book.

“For me, going to Korea, I was struck by all the colors in the temples, the stripes,” said Kim Jackson. “I tried to use that idea in the design of the book.”

Jae Ran Kim also said that in 2004 she changed her name legally and now is known by her Korean name.

“This is an entire book of people who look like me,” Jae added.

The book can be described as a portrait book that tells the stories of adopted children from Korean, through photographs and oral histories. The adoptees came to Minnesota as babies after the end of the Korean War.

There are estimates that the number of Korean Adoptees in Minnesota is as high as 15,000. The causes of such high rates are complex, no one factor caused it.

What the writers hope to accomplish is to reflect the diversity within the Korean adoptee community – wide age range, settlement across Minnesota from small towns to large. Kim Park Nelson spoke of her graduate work collecting adult oral histories, and contributing to the images of adoptees through their life stories.

In an opportunity for the audience to ask questions, the first question was about the choice of photographs for the front and back cover. Kim said the image on the front cover  ‘speaks on many levels.’

It symbolically conveys a deep message. Dressed in a suit and tie, the Korean male standing in a corn field looks out of context. He is surrounded by a symbol of Minnesota, a high corn field.  The back cover shows a small girl behind a sofa, and shows that we are children, girls and boys.

Over 160 copies sold: positive audience impressions

The crowded galleries contained people attending the book launch that were impressed with the event. A young boy, probably no older than 8, best summed it up. “I am here to learn more about my neighbor who is from Korea. This book gives the Korean perspectives.”

A parent said that the Korean adoptee effort started when President Eisenhower gave approval from the White House in 1953. “The child I adopted was probably the youngest,” said the parent. “He was only two and a half months old.”

Another woman whose son is married to a Korean adoptee said of the event, “Beautiful. I did not know this much about Korean adoptees.”

Part of the successful turnout can be traced to the use of Facebook. One family said they heard about the event on Facebook from friends in Switzerland who told them it was happening here.

The event was coordinated by the Council on Asian Pacific Minnesotans as part of an ongoing series of monthly arts and cultural programming funded with money from the State of Minnesota arts and cultural heritage legacy funds. The events are designed to bring a broad range of participants together to engage in educational and cultural sharing and dialogue.

The overall aim is to focus on preserving the arts and cultural heritage of the API communities in Minnesota and is a cooperation between the Minnesota Humanities Commission and CAPM. Details on the book can be found at www.yeongandyeong.com. Kim Jackson can be contacted through her website www.dalrosdesign.com or at 612-823-3034.