Adopted Feels

Actually, we’re f***ing badass: Embarking on The Hero’s Journey 3.0 with Korean Adoptee Ben Kaplan

Episode Summary

On Adopted Feels, we’ve mainly interviewed friends and friends of friends (sliding into Joel Kim Booster’s DMs didn’t work, unfortunately - if anyone out there can hook us up, please do!). Until now. Korean adoptee Ben Kaplan contacted us out-of-the-blue to offer his story, becoming the first “completely random person” guest on the pod. It would be his first interview, so he apologized in advance in case he was a “noob” (which, for those of you like Ryan who are uninitiated to gamer culture, means 'newbie'). He wasn’t. Ben is incredibly warm, reflective, and generous. This is an in-depth and far-reaching convo about identity and self-exploration: we start with Ben’s time in Seoul, immersed in the underground art scene and doing it rough in a converted machine shop in Mullae, before reaching “rock bottom.” Ben then returned to the US, just as the global financial crisis hit, where he shelved a lot of the questions that Korea had raised, until recent Anti-Asian racism in the US reawakened feelings that had laid dormant for years. We talk about the 3 phases of Ben’s ongoing identity search, how he has come to see being adopted as a superpower rather than as a disadvantage, why he has recently started to think about changing his name, becoming the mentor he never had, and much more! Benjamin Kaplan is a Korean American adoptee currently living in Portland, Oregon. He lived in Korea for 3 years back in the late 2000s and during that time created a website focusing on the underground art scene in Seoul called, The Native Gaze. He now works as a Design Director of Brand Experience at Nike. His wife Erin is also adopted (domestically within the US) and after adopting their dog Pancho last year, they now have a true “family of adoptees.” Check out Ben’s work at and lots of cute dog content at