Maree, Jenna and Kiira Ness came to Korea to learn about its culture. However, they are not your average tourists. They are Korean adoptee triplets.
The 25-year-old triplets arrived here from Oregon on June 28 to join a special program hosted by the Korean government and Hallym University.
This was their second trip to Korea since their adoption in April 1985.
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All four sisters [including an older sister adopted from Korea]were home-schooled by their mother till the triplets were in fourth grade, and from that point on they attended private Christian schools till they finished high school.
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When they started school, in the predominately Caucasian neighborhood, some children gave the girls problems. “A couple of boys would make fun of us. Do the eye thing. Swear at us during recess,” said Maree.
“I didn’t understand why the boys were saying these things. I felt like it was not nice but since the teachers didn’t do anything about it and our parents never told us,‘You guys might experience racism’ I never had any understanding about the injustice related to racism.”
Once the sisters became adults, they started to question their self identities.
For Maree it wasn’t until she started taking university courses in sociology. “I didn’t feel comfortable with being Asian, but I didn’t necessarily want to be white either,” she said.
“Before, I felt like I couldn’t really embrace Korean culture, because I felt it might be weird since I didn’t grow up that way, or I felt a bit pressured to embrace it and therefore wanted to resist the pressure,” said Kiira.
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Rather it was people of her own descent that marginalized Maree.
“For me it has been hard to be a person of color in a predominately white area but it can also be difficult if you’re with other Koreans or people of color when they don’t understand about transracial adoption.
“She’s just a white girl; a banana; she doesn’t really get it; Maree is brainwashed and really not like us,” were some of the things her Asian peers used to describe her, Maree said.
Looking for people to relate with, some of the sisters sought out Asian adoptee communities.
“Being an adoptee can be very isolating, and to break out of that isolation was a very positive thing for me, to know that there are other adoptees,” said Maree.
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“I am still me, but I identify myself a bit more Korean than before. I’m still American, but I feel that I can embrace my Korean identity more now. It’ll be ongoing to process my identity, what it means to me and how I can define it, but now I feel free to choose and act on the identity that I want to embrace,” said Kiira.
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While in Korea, the sisters have requested a formal search for their mother and are still waiting to hear any news.
“I don’t have any expectations about what it might be like. It can be a really positive experience for some people or it can be a really difficult,” Maree said when asked about meeting her biological mother.
The triplets were able to look at their Holt Korea files. Maree said that her mother, being sick and financially unable to support the triplets, was forced to give them up for adoption. Also, previously unknown was the birth order. It bothered Maree to not know the little things about her own birth. And finding out the birth order answered a big question in their lives.
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