Office Hours: John Palmer
- Office Hours: John Palmer
Professor Explores the Challenges of Korean Adoptees
By Nate Lynch
Published: Thursday, March 3, 2011
Updated: Thursday, March 3, 2011 11:03
Associate Professor of Educational Studies John Palmer recently
published "The Dance of Identities: Korean Adoptees and Their Journey
toward Empowerment." The book, which details the challenges facing
Korean-American adoptees, was published by the University of Hawaii
Press in October of last year. It is available for order at the
Palmer first entertained the idea of doing the study as a doctoral
student at the University of Iowa. However, as a Korean-American
adoptee, he was wary of doing a study that would involve issues that
were so personal to him.
"I didn't want to do this study because it would involve my own life,"
Palmer said. "But I wanted people to better understand the
Korean-American adoptee. I felt that I needed to be better prepared,
and I thought I would come back to it someday."
Palmer eventually decided to revisit the idea as a way to meet with
the leaders of the Korean adoptee community. As more and more members
of the community expressed their desire to be part of the ethnography,
his study became too large to treat properly in a couple of articles,
and thus the book was born.
As a Professor of Education at Colgate, Palmer devoted his study to
understanding how racial minorities – the Korean- American adoptees –
encounter the educational system.
"It is an in-depth ethnography using on-site visits of these
Korean-American adoptees," Palmer said. "My focus is on social and
cultural issues and racial identity. If we can understand racial
identity we can understand how the minorities encounter the
educational system social and cultural foundations of education."
Building off the concept of racial identity, Palmer explores the
"identity awakening" that many Korean-American adoptees undergo.
According to Palmer, Korean-American adoptees can go through life
without feeling a sense of belonging to either the Korean community or
the white American community. This leads to a general sense of
disempowerment which comes to define them. It is not until they find a
connection with their fellow Korean-American adoptees and become
empowered that they fully realize their identity awakening.
"Throughout the entire community, they [Korean-American adoptees] are
viewed as orphans," Palmer said. "You have this pity. Always pitied,
never empowered. They become angry; this is what they are up against.
Their disempowered identity is who they are."
Palmer found solace in the dedication and enthusiasm of leaders in the
Korean-American adoptee groups.
"The dedication that these leaders had to these groups was inspiring,"
Palmer said. "They were all volunteers. I just met some incredible
Currently on sabbatical in Seoul, South Korea, Palmer has several
projects underway. He recently turned in a manuscript on the
influence that globalization has on higher education in South Korea.
He has several articles forthcoming, and is currently occupied with
some extensive work in institutions of higher education in South
"I'm looking at the development of multicultural education in South
Korea. I've been asked to give lectures on multicultural perspectives
from the U.S. viewpoint," Palmer said. "I'm also going to be a
consultant there. I'm hoping to have some influence on the policies
of multicultural education in South Korea."