Thursday, June 10, 2021

The Movie "Forget Me Not - A Letter to My Mother" - My Perspective

I heard of this movie, "Forget Me Not - A Letter to My Mother" a month ago while I was in Korea. Here is an article on her interview.

When Sun Hee Engelstoft, a Korean-Danish filmmaker, decided to make a documentary in Korea, she had planned for it to be a happy tale about a young woman's journey to becoming a mother.  She had strong convictions that unwed mothers in Korea wanted to keep their children, but always ended up working out differently.

While this may be true for some unwed mothers, significant majority of unwed mothers really do not.  This is evidenced by so many babies being abandoned or given up for adoption even after multiple counseling and advices at the Baby Box and at the agencies. Even after two years after the initial adoption process, and being notified multiple times to take their babies back by the agencies, the Ministry of Health and Welfare, and the children's court, hundreds of unwed mothers do not want to take their children back.  Only a handful of them change their minds during the long process.

So her statement, "I’ve never met a woman who actually wanted to give away her child..." is her own statement, but in reality most unwed mothers do not want to keep their children. 

In truth, most women want to hide their child birth history as this will be a liability to them when they want to get married, or continue with their education or keep their job.  Of course the unacceptance by her family is definitely a reason.  Another reality is that there are many teen unwed mothers that are simply not  ready to be mothers or don't want to.  For most unwed mothers, they simply want to get out of the burdens.

What's interesting is that Ms. Engelstoft's birth mother didn't want to meet with her because the birth mother wanted to remain anonymous.  I feel so bad for Ms. Engelstoft for having been rejected, but this is not unusual.  Of all the contacts made with birth parents by adoptees searching for them, around 30% of the birth parents do not wish to meet their birth children.  The birth parents, in most cases have married with children and moved on.  They do not want their past history to come back and risk their existing families and relationships.

Perhaps the biggest drawback with this movie is that she is just one-sided in terms of her view of adoption.  Ms. Engelstoft should have met and spoke with many other women that have given up their babies, and this would have helped her to look at a broader perspective in terms of the complexities involved in unwed mothers that give up their babies. Her problem is that she wants to portray all unwed mothers as women that want to keep their babies, but in reality this is far from the truth. 

As for her, she should have considered what would have been the alternative if she had not been adopted. She most likely would have wound up in an orphanage, suffer the lack of parental love and care, and experience the loss of emotional support and the loss of stimulus for  the development of intellect and education (it is a well known fact that children that  grow up in institutions suffer delayed mental and emotional development).  

She would be labeled as an orphan, ridiculed by her peers in school, and face discrimination from the society, and would be forced out of the system at age 18 and live the rest of her lives with so much struggle and loss.  

Her other statement, "“instead of building on the infrastructure, supporting their population and taking care of our own children, they have been sending the problems away.” is a na├»ve statement, or a willful rejection of reality to fit her narrative against intercountry adoption.  The true reality of the infrastructure in Korea is that if you don't get adopted, you go into an orphanage.  Would she have preferred this instead?  

It is so unfortunate that during the eight years of making this film, she has not even attempted to understand the hearts of the thousands of orphans in institutions that long for families of their own. I still remember visiting an orphanage and in my conversation with the orphans there I asked the question, who among you would like to be adopted?  Without a single exception every one of the children raised their hands. 

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