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Korean-American to harness voice of adoptees in new magazine c:

Posted by on Jul. 24, 2013 at 10:54 AM
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Opening up

Kevin Hae-beom Vollmers will use this portrait of himself in the inaugural cover of “Gazillion Voices,” an online magazine aimed at amplifying the voices of adoptees./ Korea Times

Korean-American to harness voice of adoptees in new magazine

By Kim Young-jin

The photograph is simple, yet it speaks volumes about what Kevin Hae-beom Vollmers has set out to do. In it, the 36-year-old Korean adoptee from Minnesota has his mouth sealed shut by a thick strip of tape, across which is written the blunt phrase: “SHUT UP.”

The picture, Vollmers says, symbolizes the struggle of adoptees to have their voices heard amid a contentious debate over international adoption.

Here’s the thing about that tape — Vollmers is about to rip it off.

Next month, the image will appear on the inaugural cover of Gazillion Voices, an online magazine that Vollmers is spearheading through his Minneapolis-based company, Land of Gazillion Adoptees (LGA). The Korean-American hopes that the magazine will amplify the voices of adoptees — “on their own terms” — and diversify the adoption discourse.

“Adoption is a bandage for huge, complex problems,” he said in an e-mail interview. “The narrative has...favored adoptive parents, agencies, and organizations and individuals who represent them. There is a diversity of voices and all of them need to be heard.”

The magazine is an extension of LGA, whose blog has become a “go-to” resource on adoption because it highlights the expertise of adoptees. Vollmers says the magazine’s 20-strong staff includes adoptees, adoptive parents and a birth parent; and will cover issues ranging from policy to art and mental health.

It is the latest step in a life that has long been tied to adoption issues.

Vollmers was born in Korea to an unmarried couple. After his father died of a heart attack, his mother fell into dire economic straits.

He says that like other single mothers in Korea, his mother was looked down upon by society. Many say the harsh stigmatization of such women is behind the country’s reputation as a widely acknowledged source of overseas adoptions.

“I was six and a half years old the last time I saw my mother’s face,” Vollmers said. “She stood and waved at me as I boarded a train, which took me to an orphanage in Seoul. I was adopted about nine months after that.” His mother died a year later.

After growing up on a farm in Minnesota, Vollmers worked for two major adoption agencies, but says he became disenchanted because he felt adoption practices were “fundamentally driven by market forces in which children are the commodity.”

A year and a half ago, he began to blog about his “insider’s knowledge” of adoption at the urging of his friends. He founded LGA, which has published a book about parenting as adoptees, streams adoptee-related films and helped write a proposed U.S. legislation that, if put into law, would give retroactive citizenship to all international adoptees. This is part of the immigration reform bill currently under discussion in Washington, DC.

Vollmers says the magazine was always part of his plan but is happening earlier than expected.

“This spring I took a step back, looked at the activity and influence of the LGA, observed all that adoptees were doing, and decided to go for it. The decision was a calculated risk, but by all indications the decision was the right one to make,” he said.

“The energy and anticipation of what the team will be delivering on a monthly basis is high; we’re going to blow by those expectations.”

While Vollmers has become close to his mother’s side of his family here, he says he has a “conflicted relationship with Korea” due to the ongoing stigmatization of single mothers.

“However, I cannot visit the country for more than two weeks because of its treatment of single parents, especially single mothers. It is a travesty that my mother’s story is reflected in the lives of single parents today.”

Some 200,000 children have been sent from Korea for overseasadoption amid suspicion that abuses occurred in order to facilitate them. Activists here recently spearheaded legislation to make the process more transparent.

The Korean-American says he is not shy about the contentious nature of the adoption debate, and that the magazine will not be either.

“Adoption deals with huge socio-political issues, which invites a multitude of perspectives. On top of that, adoption is extremely personal, and so it makes sense why so many are passionate,” he said.

“Gazillion Voices will sit right in the middle of this ‘conversation,’ and it will be difficult to pigeonhole the publication; we’ll have something for everyone.”

by on Jul. 24, 2013 at 10:54 AM
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by *Claire-Bear* on Jul. 24, 2013 at 11:04 AM
1 mom liked this

Thanks!!!! I will have to bookmark this so I can remember to read the magazine! I'm excited to read it as an IA parent. 


" I can do all things through Christ who strengthens me." Philippians 4:13 

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