Posted by: 지인 | 13 December 2007

Communication breakdown

I don’t pretend to know the true circumstances of this case, and I can’t deny that poor Jade (“the girl,” as recent articles have referred to her) might very well have attachment issues, especially given the (albeit sparse) facts apparent about her family background. Nevertheless, there’s something intensely suspect about this situation.

I couldn’t help but snort over the part of this article that says, “The family firmly denied that they had treated the girl any differently than their own children, but had difficulty in communicating with her from the start.”

I was adopted at the same age as Jade, 4 months old. My mom and dad communicated with me the same way they communicated with my siblings. They cooed, ahhed, patty-caked, mimed, and offered me food and brightly colored objects. I ate, burped, looked around, cried, grasped, and waved my little fists around in response. I wasn’t sure what to make of them at first, maybe, but the language gap really wasn’t so much of an issue.

On the other hand, I do feel strongly that the cultural, physical and linguistic bonds that an infant develops in the very early months play a role in a child’s development, and attachment disorders can manifest themselves at a young age. In fact, I believe I know someone who might have benefited from being assessed for an attachment disorder as a child.

Considering both Jade’s age at the time of adoption and the diplomat’s statement, however, I can’t help but feel skeptical about the Poeteray’s claim that they treated her no differently (first red flag: naming her Jade). It seems inconsistent to call the girl “very sick” and air her “severe form of fear of emotional attachment” in a statement to the international news media, and then request privacy. So, it’s OK to publicly blame the situation on their daughter’s emotional and mental health, but claim that what you really want is to be left alone? That would seem to serve to protect Mr. and Mrs. Poeteray and their two sons, but leave Jade exactly where she is now: on the outside.

And neglecting a child’s citizenship, an oversight? Correction: An international diplomat and consul neglecting his child’s citizenship, an oversight? Makes me wonder if there aren’t perhaps a few other oversights in the situation as well.

How much of that communication difficulty was about actual communication, and how much of it was about acceptance (or lack thereof), poor preparation, and assumptions that bonding with their adopted daughter would come easily? How much of this emotional attachment disorder is to be placed on Jade’s head, and how much of it isn’t being placed on Mr. and Mrs. Poeteray themselves?

Through all of these scattered reports, frequent mention is made of the “trauma” the wife has suffered, and the “immense suffering” of the “rest of the family,” but I have yet to see any notable acknowledgment of the traumas Jade has undergone, is undergoing, and will continue to deal with, most likely for the rest of her life.

My heart goes out to Jade Poeteray. I hope someday she discovers that a very large, supportive, international community of fellow Korean adoptee survivors is here for her.

Dutch diplomat says family treatment of adopted daughter is misrepresented

The Associated Press
Thursday, December 13, 2007

AMSTERDAM, Netherlands: A Dutch diplomat vilified in the Asian press and accused of having “returned” his South Korean-born daughter seven years after adopting her as an infant, said his family’s situation has been misrepresented.

In a statement published by Dutch newspaper De Telegraaf, Raymond Poeteray — a Hong Kong-based Consul — said his daughter was “very sick,” and suffers from a “severe form of fear of emotional attachment.”

“In contrast to what has been written, we don’t want to be rid of our daughter and there’s no suggestion we would disown her, right up until today. We are (her) parents and we feel responsible for her well-being and we always will.”

She had been handed over to social services in Hong Kong on the advice of doctors. “Although the specialists think now that (she) may not be returned to us, we continue to hope,” he wrote.

The story of the Poeteray family caused outrage in the Netherlands, Hong Kong and South Korea after the South Korean consulate said the family was abandoning the girl because she had trouble adapting to their culture — an idea that seemed strange because the girl was adopted at the age of 4 months.

Initial media reports suggested the couple had adopted the girl when they thought they could not have their own natural children, but they later conceived a son.

However, the couple also has an older son of their own.

The family firmly denied that they had treated the girl any differently than their own children, but had difficulty in communicating with her from the start.

“We tried intensive family therapy to find a cure. To our great disappointment, things didn’t get better, they got worse and the rest of the family began to suffer immensely from that,” he wrote in a letter signed by him and his wife, Meta.

“In mid-2006, on the advice of known medical specialists, professionals from the adoption organization ‘Mother’s Choice’ and the social services of Hong Kong, it was decided that in (her) interest she should be placed in a separate house and we would not be allowed to have any contact with her. The therapy for our family and our daughter continues to this day.”

Poeteray also said that the girl speaks Dutch, and that while it was true she had never been naturalized as a Dutch citizen, that was an oversight amid larger medical concerns over the girl.

An official at the South Korean consulate in Hong Kong said on Wednesday that the child also speaks English and Chinese — without specifying which Chinese language.

“We will do our very best to find a solution by which (she) too can find happiness in her life,” Poeteray wrote.

The letter concluded by asking the media to leave the family alone.

“This is indeed a private matter, for which we as parents bear the responsibility. … the publicity itself is already painful enough, but what’s worse is, it doesn’t help us find a solution for our problems.”

The couple were returning to the Netherlands on Thursday for further discussion with the Dutch Foreign Ministry over the incident.



  1. You know what this sort of reminds me of? The “inherently evil” adopted child in the American re-make of The Ring. Sorry, I don’t have any deep analysis here, just a pop-culture reference. (I usually hate those, esp., ahem, references to The Joy Luck Club in regards to reunions with birth siblings.)

  2. Totally. I kept thinking of “The Bad Seed” as I’ve been reading these articles. Jade, the problem child. Jade, the angry adoptee. *sigh* (Although the girl in “The Bad Seed” wasn’t an adoptee, just inherently evil.)

  3. That’s funny – I was reminded of a Korean horror movie called Acacia, about an “adoption gone (spookily) wrong.”

    It’s such an infuriating case all around. On the one hand, hooray that she got away from such obviously unfit parents, but boo that it had to happen in such a horrible way for her. Also, at the same time that it echoes the fears around adoption (that the child will be unassimilable), it also lifts the veil on some of the rosier myths (that adoptive parents are always the charitable actors and children are blank emotional slates). I wonder what they would have done if one of their “biological children” were autistic (for example).

  4. I think I heard about that movie this past summer from another adoptee while in Korea. (Might have been during Tobias’ & Jane’s presentation at the Gathering. Hmm.)

    I agree; I have so many mixed feelings about this case. At first I was simply outraged and so, so sad for this girl.

    Wait. I guess I’m still outraged, and so, so sad for this girl. But for more complex reasons, I suppose.

    I guess the part that still gets me is the overall sentiment: Procure a child to fulfill your fantasies and desires, and when things don’t go as planned, hand her off to social services with a tear on your hankie. And the way that that guy is painting himself and his wife & sons as the ones bearing the true suffering.

    One would almost wonder if the fact that they “overlooked” securing Dutch citizenship for her doesn’t point to an underlying doubt that they’d keep her around in the first place.

  5. Yeah, I second and third all the responses here. I had to post about it too, I was so angry.

  6. I just did a post trying to break it down, but it still makes no sense to me.

    I could understand the attachment issues, but “culture shock?” Then there’s that thing about the babysitter and the statement by Fernando Cheung Chiu-hung that’s she’s fine now? Huh?

  7. When I saw that they had named her Jade, I had already made a certain judgments about them… perhaps unfair but then one only has to read about the rest. I personally don’t care about any real or feigned woes that this couple supposedly endured at the hands of this ’emotional misfit’ as they continue to portray Jade. There’re are obvious flags – the citizenship issue (oh come on, it’s not like they were from bumfuck nowhere and had no idea how immigration works!), the different superficial reasons they keep coming up with… dude, I had eating issues when I was a kid.
    This may not be the most mature comment you’ll be getting on this subject: I believe they should both be publically flogged.
    On one hand, this may offer Jade a second chance to find a better home. On the other, I have to wonder about how much damage they’ve already caused…. Just imagining how alone she must feel, and must have felt in their fucked up household, I’m shedding some angry/sad tears.
    Fuckheads – and this is the quality of ‘diplomats’ The Netherlands has to offer? (See? Now I’m getting pissed off at the whole nation of Holland!)

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