Julayne Lee

Julayne Lee was given up for adoption in South Korea as a result of the Korean War. She was adopted by an all-white Christian family in Minnesota, where she grew up. She has spent over fifteen years working with Overseas Adopted Koreans (OAKs). She lived in Seoul and now resides in Los Angeles, where she is a member of the LA Futbolistas and Adoptee Solidarity Korea - Los Angeles (ASK-LA). She is also part of the Adoptee Rights Campaign working to pass the Adoptee Citizenship Act to ensure all inter-country adoptees have US citizenship. NOT MY WHITE SAVIOR is her first book.

After I Left Korea

*published in the 2017 City of Los Angeles Department of Cultural Affairs Asian Pacific American Heritage Month Calendar and Cultural Guide (p. 111) 

My heart began its million year fast

late night rendezvous unfound

peeks darkened street corners

final subway trains

eternal Saturday nights

drunken Seoulites fight snowy midnight taxis

find movie theaters

hair salons

24 hour speed ramen

noraebang, spas

until 530am trains

bring new days.


My heart traveled Busan bullet trains

devoured beach film festivals

watched bad Korean movies

non-descript streets,

crooked, stone cobble alleys

corner markets glimpsed

simmering sundubu fogs glasses.


My heart flew across the Han River

drank overpriced appetizers at The Havana Monkey

friends crowded plastic covered booths

dodged Psy’s Gangnam hagwon students.


My heart closed its meditation eyes

Buddhist temples chant 3am

remember times kept alive

friends’ laughter dines on Korean BBQ, gogi jip

smoky, poorly lit January street kitchens


My heart felt August cold air conditioners

monsoon flooded shoes

July sweat drenched heart memories

coming going friends

revolving subway doors


My heart’s million year fast

stays alive

after great grandchildren hearts

awaken buried memories.

Return to Sender

*published in Cultural Weekly

*Since 1953, Korea has sent over 150,000 children to the USA via inter-country adoption. Due to a loophole in the Child Citizenship Act, there are numerous inter-country adoptees living without US citizenship. Some have been deported to their country of origin.

Korea exported me to America
Before I could speak my name.
Minnesota, Land of 10,000 Lakes
Better Life, education

Forever family bruises
denied me US citizenship.
Homeless, absent high school degree
starvation shoplifts
military time served
America’s Promised Prison Land

Deported back to Korea
Incheon Airport lobby
solitary confinement persists
no Welcome sign
not even a환영합니다

family reunions surround me
mother’s bouquet
embraces graduated daughter

No arms encircle my ghost body.

Korean streets handcuff
my life sentence
birthland homesickness
leftover kimchi barely sustains
midnight Han River bridges
protect my frozen soul
brain resists foreign language
throat chokes syllables
language is life

Let me survive.
My lifeless sentence.


All poetry contained in this website is subject to the conditions that it shall not, by way of trade or otherwise, be lent, sold, hired out, or otherwise circulated without the author’s prior consent in any form of binding or cover other than that in which it is published and without a similar condition being imposed on the subsequent person circulating content.

All rights reserved. No part of any poem may be reproduced, stored in a retrieval system, or transmitted in any form or by any means, electronic, mechanical, photocopying, recording, or otherwise, without the prior written permission of the author, except as provided by U.S.A. copyright law. 

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© 2018 Julayne Lee. All rights reserved.