Monday, January 2, 2017

Cheese in the Trap

Older-child adoption. KDramas. How in the world are these things related? It's all a part of...

Cheese in the Trap. When I started watching this Korean tv show, I never expected it to talk about adoption. Suprisingly, a particular episode dealt with themes such as: older-child adoption, biological and adopted children, trauma and emotional baggage. The events are obviously dramatizised for television and the actions are probably not explicitly intended to make the viewer think about adoption, but there are many adoption-related issues that arise. 

This is the story of Yoo Jung and the Baek siblings, In Ho and In Ha.

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Jung, biological child and father's oldest son

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In Ho and In Ha, biological siblings whom Jung's father wanted to adopt.


We find out through flashbacks that In Ho and his sister were orphaned at a young age and went to live with an abusive aunt for a short time before running away. While living on the street, they ran into Yoo Jung's father, who gradually invited them into his family. Years later, when Yoo Jung is about to go to college, his father surprises all of them, by asking In Ho and In Ha if they would like to be formally adopted. The adoption never really materializes, but the Baek's stay connected with Yoo Jung's father. However, after that night, Yoo Jung grows colder toward In Ho and In Ha. In the present, we see Yoo Jung, wealthy but isolated from his father and the Baek siblings sharing In Ho's small apartment, but pretty much living on the streets. 

While these events are fictional, I found the representation pretty believable. Many orphans may have relatives still living, but choose or are forced by circumstances to fend for themselves. Some end up living in small, crowded apartments. Jung's standoffish behavior and isolation are also understandable, which I'll get into later. 

Now I've given a little background, I'd like to look at how each character's behavior is related their experiences of orphanhood, abandonment and adoption

In Ho

 When they left his aunt, In Ho found himself stuck in a gang. As I watched this, I was reminded of the statistic: 70 percent of orphaned boys becomme hardened criminals. Yet he managed to get himself out and found job which allowed him to live independently. 

Seo Kang Joon | Cheese In The Trap:

He has had little guidance in his life and though he is naturally smart, the lack of discipline makes him prone to outbursts and he has trouble controlling his anger. 

Though he is the younger brother, In Ho demonstrates more responsiblity than his sister; but she is also his sister and he feels responsible for her well-being. In many ways, he seems like the older sibling. His past with In Ha and their shared blood ties them together. 

When they live as part of Jung's family, we see that he craves a father's love and attention. Yet, he is smart enough to know he is an outsider; he is not a son in the biological sense like Jung. 

In Ha

In Ha may seem over the top in her behavior, but looking deeper, I realized her flightiness may be traced back to her past as an orphan. For example, when we meet her, we see that she is always shopping and she constantly needs to borrow money. She is living for today, with no thought of tomorrow. An orphan graduate, Alex Krutov says in his book Infinitely More that orphans who have had no guidance in their lives, often have no undestanding of money. It's not unusal for an orphan to spend a hundred dollars on Adidas sneakers and have nothing to live on for the rest of the month. This is In Ha's problem; as an orphan no one has taught her how to take care of herself. She has grown up always having someone to depend on

In Ha clings to Jung's father, firstly, for financial means. Life with him is easier, because she does not need to work, go to school or apply herself. This is part of the "orphan mentality." After depending on others their whole lives, it's not uncommon for orphans to start thinking: Why should I bother? I'm just an orphan. Someone else will provide for me. Her victim mentality means she blames others, while not considering her own actions. She uses her past as a reason to live selfishly. 

In Ha also clings to Jung's father and later, to other men for a deeper reason. Growing up without a father has left In Ha craving the love of any man to give her the affection she missed as a child. Finally, throughout the show, In Ha constantly manipulates others to get what she wants. This is a common characteristic of kids who have grown up in orphanges. 


Jung is his father's biological son. At first, he develops a close relationship to In Ho and his sister and all three kids get along well. But the night his father formally asks about adoption, we seem him begin to grow colder toward the Baeks. Jung is at war with himself. We learn his own father was very distant in his childhood and while Jung's family is wealthy, he did not grow up with an outwardly caring father. 

After being emotionally neglected by his father, he is angered the Baek siblings get the attention and affection that is, in Jung's mind, supposed to be "his." He quietly resents them more and more, but also feels bad for it, because a part of him knows In Ho and In Ha really do need a family. Then, Jung finds out the main reason his father wants to adopt In Ho and In Ha was to give Jung siblings, to help him develop normal relationships with other kids. He is hurt deeply by this realization.

Jung's reaction when In Ho confronts him, asking if he really doesn't want
them to be adopted into his family.

So..What does it matter? 

As I watched this story unfold, I noticed one thing again again: how the characters constantly clung to the past and in doing so, could never free themselves from their pain.

As an adopted child, I could be struggling with many of these same issues, but I am not. Why? My identity is not in my past as an orphan--it is in Christ. Let's look at the issues each character struggled with once more. This time, we'll see how Christ could help.

In Ho struggles with blood relationships and and craves the love of a father. 
God's word tells us we have been adopted into His family (Ephesians 1:5) and through Christ, we can call God "Abba, Father." (Romans 8:15). So, if we are rooted in our Heavenly Father (who is rich in unfailing love) we realize earthly relationships are not what is ultimately important. While In Ho may have been abandoned and failed by many people in his life, Christ never fails. 

In Ha clings to father-figures, while living for herself as she her past as an excuse.  
Like her brother, In Ha is searching for something, only her Abba Father can fulfill. God's word tells us "...that anyone who belongs to Christ has become a new person. The old life is gone; a new life has begun!" (2 Corinthians 5:17). But we, like In Ha, must choose to accept Christ and let go of the past. This is where the title of my blog comes from: as an adopted child, instead of being burdened with my past as an orphan, I chose to accept the Indescribable Gift of Joy and found freedom in Christ. 

Jung was emotionally neglected and resents the idea that his adopted siblings get more love and affection from his father than he does. 
This is something many adoptive family's may encounter unexpectedly when they arrive home with a new child. Perhaps Jung's father might have done well to consider his motives for adoption. Was it to really help the Baeks? Or for something else? Springing the adoption on all three children, without telling his biological son first, might not have been the wisest choice. 

Now, even if Jung had expressed his disagreement, it doesn't mean the father should not have proceeded with the adoption. Rather, he could have found out why his son disagreed with the adoption. This might have gotten the father and son to the heart of the issue-- Jung's own need and desire for love from his parent. Finally, while Jung may have also been failed by others, he has a choice: to react out of anger and hold grudges, or to love freely. (James 1:20 and 1 John 3:23). 

Again, this story is fictional, but I believe that in many ways, it portrays an accurate picture of what adoption and orphanhood may look like. It highlights many struggles of adopted kids and even biological children with adopted siblings. I hope I've provided an overview of these themes ( even though there are more I'd like to discuss and some I'm sure I missed). 

My final word is this: adoption is a gift modeled to us by God himself through Christ. It is a blessing to adoptive families and children alike. If you'd like to learn more about adoption or adoption counseling please visit Ting Ministries, find us on Facebook, or email us at

If you've read this post and have any questions or comments, I''d love to hear from you! 

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