I was born in Seoul, Korea and adopted at four months old. Prior to being adopted a foster family took care of me.
My adoptive family was unable to have more biological children and started to look into adoption. They initially sought to adopt domestically but the process proved to be quite lengthy. So, they started to look into international adoption. Once Catholic Charities sent my adoptive parents my baby picture, my adoptive mother instantly fell in love. Shortly after I arrived in the States to my new family.
Unfortunately, my adoptive parents ended up divorcing when I was four years old. A few years later my mother decided she wanted us all to be closer to her family. So, she moved us from Westminster, MD to Clarksburg, WV while my adoptive father remained in Baltimore County. Typically, I would see my father one weekend per month, unless it was a holiday or summertime, in which case I would see him for longer periods of time.
It seems ironic that I was given up for adoption by a single mother only to have my adoptive parents divorce. My adoptive mother struggled as a single mom and their divorce probably affected me just as much as my adoption.
Nonetheless, some of these earlier memories are my most cherished. I felt very happy and free as a child exploring my grandparents’ backyard which seemed so vast and magical at the time. Or playing on sand dunes next to my father’s house which was situated by the Chesapeake Bay, chasing dragonflies or catching small toads.
Eventually, as I became older I began to experience racism and became more self-aware of my differences. These encounters only magnified the dull sense of loss that I felt for my biological mother.
I’m now 35 and have worked through the issues of racism, identity, and loss that I grappled with throughout my lifetime. Because of this, I decided it was a good time to search for my birth parents. Holt Korea has sent two telegrams to my birth mother notifying her that I’m searching for her. The Korean government is still verifying identifying information on my birth father.
I worry that my birth mother may refuse contact with me or that the search for my birth father will be inconclusive. Yet I’m grateful for this time and for the connections that I have made within the Korean adoptee community. The community is diverse, unique, and full of some of the most supportive and helpful individuals that I've ever encountered.
Overall, the whole search process has been helpful for me. I’ve reflected on how historical events such as the Korean War, cultural factors such as attitudes towards single mothers, or socioeconomic issues like poverty have all shaped the international adoption industry in Korea.
Then on the other side of the coin, I’ve reopened my old wounds from racism, the feelings of forced assimilation, and made peace with the lack of preparedness or cultural understanding by my adoptive family. Somehow while reflecting on all of this, I feel that enduring adoption has given me a small sense of enlightenment by having a much more complex human experience. I’ve consciously made peace with my adoption, rather than bury or suppress my feelings. This process has driven me to strive to lead each day with empathy, intention, and kindness.
By telling my story, I hope I can reach other adoptees, or anyone else feeling alone, to feel a little less alienated.