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Ep#43: Actually, we’re f***ing badass: Embarking on The Hero’s Journey 3.0 with Ben Kaplan

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

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