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In the Matter of Cha Jung Hee

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In the Matter of Cha Jung Hee

Hosu Kim reviews In the Matter of Cha Jung Hee, directed by Deann Borshay Liem (2010, 63 minutes)

In the Matter of Cha Jung Hee chronicles the unusual search for an adoptee’s ghostly double. Deann Borshay Liem, whose Korean name is Kang Ok Jin, was adopted by the Borshay family in 1966 under the name of Cha Jung Hee. Before she left Korea to join her new family, the orphanage director told her not to reveal that she was actually Kang Ok Jin and not Cha Jung Hee. When Deann had learned enough English, however, she told her adoptive mother that she was not Cha Jung Hee and that she remembered her mother taking her to an orphanage. Her adoptive mother responded that her Korean mother had died while giving birth to her and that her father had been killed during the Korean War. Deann was a war orphan. And so, as Deann became increasingly immersed in her new life, new culture, and new family in America, her memory of Korea, her language, and her identity slowly evaporated.

Then, one day, she discovered two different photographs, both of which were identified as Cha Jung Hee in the back. One photo was of her and the other was not. When she saw these two photos, she immediately knew that the other girl was Cha Jung Hee. She put this out of her mind until she found her birth family and received a letter from her older brother, Ho-Jin, who was still in Korea. He told her of long lost memories of her mother, five brothers and sisters, and herself as Kang Ok Jin, a girl of whom she had no memory. Distressed and shaken, Deann became obsessed with childhood images from home videos to capture the exact moment when she – Kang Ok Jin, later known as Cha Jung Hee – disappeared into Deann Borshay, the newly adopted daughter. She felt that if she were somehow been able to identify this moment, she perhaps could have retrieved her lost memories before they disappeared. Her longing for her identity did not cease, even after her discovery of her “real” identity as Kang Ok Jin. Rather, Deann could find “no proof that I was not who I was.” In all of her adoption records, she was an orphan named Cha Jung Hee. Her driver’s license and passport have Cha Jung Hee’s birth date, not her own. This orphan identity carried her forward to the United States and continues to surface in her present life. To put this ‘ghostly double’ to rest, Deann decided to search for Cha Jung Hee. \

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