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TV Preview: In the Matter of Cha Jung Hee

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The final installment of POV’s Adoption Stories is a film by Deann Borshay Liem, scheduled for Tuesday, September 14, at 10PM/Eastern and streaming on-line September 15-October 15). In the Matter of Cha Jung Hee is both an adoption story and a mystery. It tells of a little girl in a Korean orphanage in 1966.

Cha Jung Hee, an 8-year-old war orphan was to be adopted by an American family. The day she was scheduled to leave Korea another girl went in her place, instructed to reveal her true identity to no one. In her new life, that little girl came to be known as Deann Borshay.

In the Matter of Cha Jung Hee  is a cinematic memoir of Liem’s search for her roots. Her memories were not those of a war orphan, and she eventually learned that her family was living. She visited  them in Korea many times after discovering the truth in the 1980s, and her birth mother visited her in California.

However, Liem was haunted by Cha Jung Hee, feeling as if she had been “trespassing on someone else’s life.” After contacting 101 Cha Jung Hee’s, she went to the media, starting with newspapers and then television. Following media exposure, she began visiting with various women named Cha Jung Hee.

Liem’s story is truly fascinating. As she searches for the Cha Jung Hee whose place she took in America, we see that she is searching for the person she is, and who she was. Finding the right Cha Jung Hee would not change who she is, and would not change the fact that no matter what the circumstances of joining the family, her parents loved her.  When she found the woman she believes is the “right” Cha Jung Hee, she also finds an acceptance of herself, her life, and her place in her adoptive family.

The tale is a bit more complex than one child being sent in place of another, and the bureaucratic details that influenced her life are revealed to be ironic, but maybe also fortuitous. This Adoption Story differs from the previous two that focused on the adoptees assimilating into their adoptive families, yet all three detail their search for who they are and who they will be.

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