The Temporality of the Late Arrival : Fanon, Trenka, and the Question of Returning


Rasmussen, Kim Su, Sorensen, Eli Park

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In this article, we want to explore the deeper significance involved in the gesture of returning for Korean adoptees coming back to their country of birth. Around 200.000 Korean babies have been sent to western families since the end of the Korean War. This makes it the largest and oldest post-war transnational adoption program worldwide. By now, the majority of this group has reached adulthood, and many Korean adoptees have returned to search for their biological relatives; some have even settled down in Korean society permanently. In our article, we want to focus on Jane Trenka’s two books The Language of Blood (2003) and Fugitive Visions (2009), and the theoretical framework by Frantz Fanon, especially the one he develops in the work The Wretched of the Earth from 1961. In her most recent book, Jane Jeong Trenka captures the experience of a Korean adoptee returning to and trying to settle down in her native country. The description of this experience has many similarities to, albeit also differences with, Fanon’s theory of the native intellectual returning to his or her colonized country. Trenka’s book offers a perspective which in many ways is uniquely different than the one we typically find in the majority of Korean adoptee autobiographies, in which the protagonist typically lives in the West and travels to Korea on a shorter or longer visit; in Trenka’s new book, there is no intention of leaving Korea again. But what does such a radical re-location involve more specifically, and how does this experience influence the stylistic dimension of Trenka’s writing? Frantz Fanon here offers an insightful reflection on the gesture of returning as a process of emancipation. And yet, as we argue, Trenka’s new book also reformulates the Fanonian vision in unexpected ways. Read alongside, Trenka’s work and Fanon’s theoretical framework reveal some intriguing challenges and perspectives for the adopted subject embarking on the hard and difficult journey back to her native country.


 Strategies of Assimilation
 Returning to Korea
 Decolonizing the Mind : Fanon's Native Intellectual
 Phases of Adoptee Literature
 From The Language of Blood to Fugitive Visions
 Returning Too Late
 Works Cited


  • Rasmussen, Kim Su Independent Scholar
  • Sorensen, Eli Park Seoul National University


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