I was born in Seoul, South Korea in 1989 and immediately placed with a foster mom for four months. The Korean adoption agency was able to find me a family in Denver, Colorado. My childhood was great. I have two older brothers, a very loving mother and father.
My parents are now divorced, but we’re all very close. I was extremely lucky to land a spot in this family.
I have been back to Korea twice to meet my biological mom. The first time was in 2000. I was only 11 years old, but I was dying to meet a blood relative. My whole family traveled to Seoul - dark haired dad, blonde mom, and two red-headed brothers. On the day of our meeting, my biological mom said she could only talk for one hour. We had traveled 14 hours to meet for one, but it was still worth it. A translator met her in a coffee shop where she had to spend the first twenty minutes convincing her not to get cold feet.
She was incredibly nervous and ashamed to face us. She wanted to meet in secret, so we waited in a white van in the alley behind the shop. No one in her family knew about me at this time. She had married a man and had three kids - all my younger half siblings. We spent a short, but emotional forty minutes together. When I asked about my father, she avoided the subject – only saying, “he was a bad man.” I had always been told by the adoption agency growing up that my parents went on a few dates. When she got pregnant, he left her.
I found out years later, it was quite different.
Fast forward to 2011 - I had just graduated from University of Southern California. I got a plane ticket to Seoul as a graduation gift from my parents. There, I would spend a month by myself. I asked the adoption agency to get in touch with my biological mom, but she had moved three times. They called over and over, but (due to secrecy) could not leave a name/number with the strange man who answered the phone. Turns out it was the wrong house the entire time.
Two weeks into stay, the agency miraculously found her. An aunt on my mom’s side had come looking for me (a few years before) and the agency found her phone number buried somewhere in my adoption papers. I reunited with almost everyone on my mom's side of the family: three half-siblings, five of my seven cousins, aunts, uncles, and even my biological grandmother. My grandfather passed away years ago.
It was an emotional roller coaster for the last two weeks of my trip. I spent many days with the family - even some without translators. My family wanted to hold me, eat with me, go to amusement parks, even sleep next to me even if we couldn’t talk. A lot of communication was through hand signals, pointing, Google translate. Despite being an adult, my biological mom continually bought milk for me, since in her eyes, I was still a baby.
Eventually, we had to talk about my birth father. The translator, my mom, my grandmother, and I were able to sneak away from the rest of the family, so we could talk in private. In 1988, my mom met some new so-called,“friends.” She begged my grandparents to let her go camping for the weekend. They had a bad feeling about it, but they agreed because she had a hard time being social and they wanted her to meet some good people.
Her "friends" drove her a day outside of Seoul to a camp where she was raped. She had no car, no license, no way to get home. The man did not even tell her his name. The only thing she overheard was that he was getting married the next day. A million thoughts crossed my mind: What kind of camp was this? Was it some sick labor camp? Or was it a sort-of bachelor party where everyone was getting wasted? Were there other girls experiencing this, too? Or was she the only one? My birth mom explained how it was “staged.” A horrible plot to lure her out to this campground - wherever it was. These people (not her friends at all) were in it for something... most likely money. To this day, I still do not know my birth father’s name.
The translator and I cried the entire train ride back to the guest house. I’ve lost a lot of sleep over the years - having bad nightmares and visions of this place where my biological mom was taken. I was angry and upset FOR her, for a very long time. On the bright side, she says I was the only reason she got through the pain of it all. She had me inside her when she had no one. She couldn’t tell her family at the time since unwed pregnancies were taboo in Korea. A secret like this could've gotten her disowned. She lied to her parents about a job in the city, spent nine months at an unwed mother’s home and came home after giving birth. The doctors wouldn't even let her hold me the day I was born, for fear of a bond being created.
Currently we have a great relationship. We talk via text/social media and I consider her a very close friend. Her whole side of the family knows about me now. They found out about me when I was already in my late teens. I am in contact with my half siblings and some extended family. A few speak pretty good English.
I am not in contact with my birth father. Most of me, 95%, never wants to meet this person in my entire life. The other 5% is slightly curious about my other half. After all, he did give me life. I have a lot of questions. “Is he a better person now? Did he learn his lesson? Did karma come back to him in some way? Does he have a big family? Are they good people?” I have forgiven him in my heart, hoping he’s become a better person. It’s not worth holding on to anger...it only makes things worse.
My family is very important to me. Some people refer to them as my “American” family... or “American” parents. To me they are just my mom, my dad and my brothers. They are the main thing I have. They are the ones that pushed me, supported me and raised me to be who I am today. My parents provided me a life that I never would've gotten in Korea and I will always thank them for that. They helped me get music and dance lessons, get into sports later, do all the normal things a child would do.
The main challenge I had growing up was dealing with feelings of abandonment and loss. Regardless of your story, every adopted child feels abandonment and loss. In some ways, they need even more attention. As I grew up, it turned into wanting a lot of friends. Eventually it turned into boyfriends; I wanted to feel loved. There's always a void you are trying to fill in some way or another.
However, the main thing that kept me going was my music. It has been the greatest outlet for me. I've found that the more I immerse myself in my songwriting and lifelong career goals, the more I find out who I am. I can just be me - I don't have to try as hard to fill the void.
If I have one piece of advice for parents looking to adopt... it’s to be transparent. No secrets. Growing up, I was always told I was adopted. It was always a very open topic of discussion with my parents. It's OK that you're not blood related, you’re still family. It's OK that you don't look like your family. You hear these stories about kids who didn't know they were adopted because their parents never told them until they were fifteen. That, to me, is astonishing; a huge no-no. The kid already knows deep down they’re different. I’m sure it comes from a good place, but it is far more detrimental to a child’s identity than helpful. Encourage your child to visit his/her homeland, because nothing will change (even meeting biological relatives) the family bond they have created with you.
Adoption means the world to me. It's a very beautiful thing that I wish more people would do. There are too many babies without homes. I plan on doing it when I have the career and funds to take care of someone else. I'm always open to getting involved with more organizations. I love giving back and answering any questions if it helps adoptees and/or their parents.
I’m sharing my story because I want other adoptees to know they’re not alone. Everyone's story is important. I don't think anyone's situation (prior to being adopted) is ideal; that's why we are where we are now. I hope adoptees can look at the good and not dwell on the bad. I also hope they have - or can find - a passion or a dream.
My personal goal is to become a successful songwriter. I would like to be a ghost writer for other artists and get into commercial jingles. If I can touch one person with my music, it’s good enough for me. I hope my music makes it’s way around the world - especially South Korea. I want my birth family to hear my song and know automatically it’s me. Music is truly the universal language - it’s the best way I know to breakdown the language barrier and reconnect with my roots.