Meeting Once More

The Korean Side of Transnational Adoption

231 pages

3 figures

May, 2013

ISBN: 9780814760260



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Elise Prébin was born in South Korea in 1978, was raised in France, and is now living in New York City with her husband and daughter. In 2006 she obtained her PhD at University of Paris X-Nanterre in social anthropology, was a postdoc and lecturer at Harvard University from 2007 to 2009 and served as Assistant Professor at Hanyang University (South Korea) from 2010 to 2011. She is now an independent scholar.

All books by Elise M. Prébin

A great mobilization began in South Korea in the 1990s: adult transnational adoptees began to return to their birth country and meet for the first time with their birth parents—sometimes in televised encounters which garnered high ratings. What makes the case of South Korea remarkable is the sheer scale of the activity that has taken place around the adult adoptees' return, and by extension the national significance that has been accorded to these family meetings.
Informed by the author’s own experience as an adoptee and two years of ethnographic research in Seoul, as well as an analysis of the popular television program "I Want to See This Person Again," which reunites families, Meeting Once More sheds light on an understudied aspect of transnational adoption: the impact of adoptees on their birth country, and especially on their birth families. The volume offers a complex and fascinating contribution to the study of new kinship models, migration, and the anthropology of media, as well as to the study of South Korea.


  • "Thoughtfully written, drawing on her own life experience as well as her anthropological training, Prébin provides us with a new window into the complex world of trans-national adoption. She weaves together kinship, media, and globalization as well as recent Korean history to offer us lessons about today's adoption practices."

    —Barbara Katz Rothman, author of Weaving A Family: Untangling Race and Adoption

  • "A compelling ethnography of Korean adoptee reunions, which come to life not as inevitable kinship connections, but as social and cultural work. To great effect, Prébin zooms in on South Korea’s signature reunion television program as a window on nothing short of the country’s emotional life. . . .  A must-read for those with interests in adoption, kinship, media, and the Koreas."

    —Nancy Abelmann, University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign

  • "In this beautifully written book, Elise Prébin breaks new ground in the literature on transnational adoption. Juxtaposing the halting, uncertain course of her own emerging relationship with her birth family to the highly stylized emotional scripting of a popular Korean TV show, Prébin situates adoption in the context of other narratives of separation while analyzing its potential for realizing biological relatedness. She offers a highly original account that moves away from polarized debates to engage with the implications of transnational adoption over time for the birth family, the adopted person, and the sending nation, providing a powerful new voice that will transform the way we understand relatedness.”

    —Barbara Yngvesson, Hampshire College

  • "Anthropological readers will admire the innovative way in which the author uses various recent anthropological perspectives when dealing with a topic that did not even exist a generation ago. She also invites us to rethink the supposedly fundamental distinction between the anthropologist and 'the other' that dissolves in her case."

    —Jan de Wolf, European Association of Social Anthropologists

  • “Prebin’s ethnography is a must-read for anyone interested in South Korean family and kinship, the state, and the media.  It also provides an important intervention in the study of adoption, which has given too little attention to biological families and their reunion with their adopted children.”  

    Korean Studies