A Letter from Omma to her Beloved Daughter

HLH is  doing groundbreaking work in Korea through our nonprofit foundation in bridging the language barrier and becoming one voice for Korean birth families and adoptees.  We share this first person account of a Korean mother who lost her daughter to adoption in their own words in real time of April 2018:

To my beloved daughter,

Thirty five years later, I am holding a pen to write to you with a heavy heart. I have been wanting to see you so much, but I had no idea how to find you.  I found out that by writing to you through Holt Adoption Agency, I have a glimmer of hope to find you. I am overwhelmed with emotions writing this letter.

I met your dad when I was 17 years old, on Christmas Eve at a party. When I got there, there were lots of people and it was snowing heavily. Your dad asked me to be his girlfriend. We continued to see each other after that day and eventually married. One day, your dad’s family had to move from Cheonan to Seoul. After a while, your dad said we needed to move in with his family in Seoul, which was an entirely different life for me. My new life in Seoul consisted of living with your dad’s family, my in-laws.  I found out later the reason why your dad’s family had to move to Seoul was because of financial difficulties. Shortly after, I became pregnant a second time, this time with you.  My mother-in-law was upset by this. She made things very difficult during my 10 month pregnancy. It was a sad period of my life where I had little control over anything. After I gave birth to you, my mother-in-law and her daughter had already made arrangements to have you adopted through Holt. My consent was never given. The day after you were born, a Holt worker came to visit me. I cried so much holding you in my arms and that was our goodbye. I was devastated. 

My memory of you has never changed. It is of you as a newborn baby that I had just given birth to. My heart is still so torn and painful from losing you like it happened yesterday. I always carry you deep in my heart. Would I ever be able to find you? Would I ever be able to see you again?

I wonder if you are alive.

I have so many questions but I have no way of knowing. If you are still alive, I wonder if you are happy, if you are married.  I would like to tell you that in Korea, you have me your mom, your dad, an older sister, a younger brother, and a niece and a nephew. Your sister is married with one girl and a boy. When you were born, you had many similar facial features from your sister and your dad. When I look at your sister’s daughter, I think about you. 

I am not able to see you, but I pray for you always. I know you left with your adoptive parents. I would like to express my sincere gratitude to your adoptive parents and I wish you and your adoptive parents health and happiness.

I love you so much and I am very sorry,

Your mom

한국 사회에 바치는 공개 질의서

한국 전쟁 종전 이래로, 한국은 계속해서 입양과 관련하여 논란의 소지가 많은 관계를 가지고 있습니다. 전쟁 오랜 시간이 흐른 뒤, 입양은 약 220,000명이라는 한국의 원치 않는 아이들을 발생시켜, 전세계적으로 15개 국가의 사회 복지 시스템으로 진화했습니다. 서양에서는 건강한 아기들이 끊임없이 발생함을 확인했습니다; 전 세계적으로 매우 인기 있으며, 제한된 자원. 이러한 충격적인 수치는 아이를 입양하고자 하는 양부모들의 끝없는 수요에 대해 한계가 없다는 것을 뒷받침합니다. 이러한 부모들은 아이를 입양하는 것에 있어 엄청난 특권 및 힘을 가집니다. 많은 경우, 이들은 자격을 갖추고 있지 않거나, 제대로 심사를 거치지 않습니다. 하지만 이는 세상에 메독 현수 오캘리헌 으로 알려진 어린 소년의 경우와 마찬가지로, 실재하는 어떠한 장벽에 대해서도 질문을 제기하지 않습니다. 그의 아버지는 그의 부인과 함께 전체 입양 과정 동안 고의적으로 숨겨온 정신적 질환에 대해 길고, 엄청난 이력을 가지고 있었습니다. 이 엄청난 뉴스는 현수군의 잔혹한 죽음 이후에서야, 최종 판결을 통해 비로소 세상에 전해졌습니다. 만일 대한민국이 입양 동화 같은 삶이 아니라는 것을 인지했더라면, 이 슬픈 비극은 일어나지 않았을 수도 있습니다. 이 사건은 전세계 입양아들의 삶이 중대한 이해관계를 가진 도박과 같다는 것을 폭로했습니다. 입양아가 희박한 확률을 깨고, “더 나은 삶”을 얻을 것인지, 결국 학대, 성추행, 고문, 심지어 죽음의 위기에 처하게 될지는 마치 세계적인 복권인 셈입니다. 지난 60년간 학대를 받은 많은 입양아들은 세간의 이목을 끈 이 이야기가 전국 뉴스에 보도된 이후, 이제서야 학대 받은 그들의 어린 시절에 대해 공개적으로 밝히고 있습니다. 이 골칫거리는 미래의 입양아들을 보호하기 위해 우리가 검토해야 하는 현상입니다. 수십 년간의 입양 이후, 정책이 더 나아져야 마땅한 시점에 이러한 일이 어떻게 일어날 수 있었을까요? 현수군의 한국인 양모가 현수군을 입양하고 싶어했지만, 입양 알선 기관에게 거짓말을 당하고, 이 아이가 어떻게 해외 입양을 위해 보내질 수 있었을까요? 국제 입양 시스템에 속수무책으로 걸려든 현수군은 어둡고, 끔찍한 비밀을 가진 사회적 지위가 높은 가정으로 보내졌습니다. 이 비밀은 너무나 끔찍하여, 그의 목숨을 처참히 앗아가 버렸습니다. 믿기 어렵게도 이 부부는 한국과 미국 양쪽의 입양 알선 기관들을 속였으며, 계획적으로 그들의 평가와 신원 조사를 불법으로 통과했습니다. 현수군과 같은 미래의 어린이들이 바로 형편 없는 입양 시스템의 무력한 인질입니다. 한국 사회는 국제 입양으로 보내지는 그들의 어린이들에게 무슨 일이 일어나고 있는지 알고 있나요?

Korea is Finally Giving a Damn!

So here we are 65 years later. The tables are slowly starting to turn on the unstoppable kingpins of the adoption empire.  Adoption agencies and  adoptive parents who called all the shots on- getting as many children as fast as possible as much as they wanted with no limits- for the past 6 decades are having to go down on their knees and beg to the higher ups. It’s about time the MOHW arm of the Korean government and local governments take back control over adoptions. They blatantly relinquished it to private adoption agencies who did nothing but abuse their power when greed took over their good intentions, and this is the sad state of affairs we are in now with the aftermath of reckless adoption practices. It’s all to save children pro-adoption supporters say, even though lawmakers like Nam InSoon are the ones implementing laws to protect children from potential abuse. A very hard and dark reality of adoption that Korea is finally finally finally taking seriously. Of course the pushback will be there from the pro-adoption side of MPAK based in America! Abuse rarely happens in adoption and mostly in biological families they say. Well get this- Korean culture is a bloodline mentality and they know that a child that is not biologically related will be treated differently, and it’s even allowed because bloodline means everything. No need to pretend otherwise. Koreans go hard on bloodline, if you’re not my flesh and blood, I don’t have to treat you the same as if you were. Adoptive parents claim they do otherwise, but the unfair treatment that countless adoptees (in and out of the closet) had to endure for decades says Koreans are right and they make no apologies for it.  Having said that, I do believe Koreans care about adoptees. But, and a very big but- they first must understand the magnitude of adoptees’ situation and how serious it is, and how much we have had to suffer. All this time they thought we were living the American dream. Abuse or loss of birth family, didn’t even enter their minds. They are finally starting to get it and damn it’s about time. It is interesting to note that Representative Nam did not take strong action to change adoption laws until the death of Eunbi in 2016 who was domestically adopted in Korea. This so outraged Koreans that they did a year long, in depth investigation comprised of lawmakers, civic groups and legal professionals and now furiously proposing the law revisions to protect children. Why did the death of Hyunsu not cause any changes or an uproar in Korea back in 2014? Could it be that the Korean government didn’t want to upset their foreign allies who run their adoption agencies who have been the means for them to rid their country of their unwanted children? Perhaps the sad case of Eunbi is the wake up call Korea needed and this time there was no Holt adoption agency to bow down to.

 

“This Is Me” Sung by Keala Settle at the Oscars

“Settle, like many, has battled insecurities and self-doubt her whole life.  Born and raised in Hawaii to immigrant parents (her mom from New Zealand and her dad from England) and the eldest of 5 children, Settle says she always had the undying support of her family. But that didn’t stop her falling into the bad habit of self-criticism.

Body image issues; a feeling of unworthiness; a constant questioning of her own talent and existence — all has plagued her. It was a lot of hiding, a lot of being afraid, a lot of running away from the industry and wondering why I’m here on earth and not accepting that what I have to give was enough or whether I was able to be the one to give it. I learned not to give power to that doubt and that insecurity anymore,” she says. Everybody has those feelings.”

This is Me by Keala Settle from the Oscars

I am not a stranger to the dark
Hide away, they say
‘Cause we don’t want your broken parts
I’ve learned to be ashamed of all my scars
Run away, they say
No one’ll love you as you are

But I won’t let them break me down to dust
I know that there’s a place for us
For we are glorious
When the sharpest words wanna cut me down
I’m gonna send a flood, gonna drown them out
I am brave, I am bruised
I am who I’m meant to be, this is me
Look out ’cause here I come
And I’m marching on to the beat I drum
I’m not scared to be seen
I make no apologies, this is me
Another round of bullets hits my skin
Well, fire away ’cause today, I won’t let the shame sink in
We are bursting through the barricades and
Reaching for the sun (we are warriors)
Yeah, that’s what we’ve become (yeah, that’s what we’ve become)
I won’t let them break me down to dust
I know that there’s a place for us
For we are glorious
When the sharpest words wanna cut me down
I’m gonna send a flood, gonna drown them out
I am brave, I am bruised
I am who I’m meant to be, this is me
Look out ’cause here I come
And I’m marching on to the beat I drum
I’m not scared to be seen
I make no apologies, this is me
and I know that I deserve your love
’cause there’s nothing I’m not worthy of
When the sharpest words wanna cut me down
I’m gonna send a flood, gonna drown them out
This is brave, this is proof
This is who I’m meant to be, this is me
Look out ’cause here I come (look out ’cause here I come)
And I’m marching on to the beat I drum (marching on, marching, marching on)
I’m not scared to be seen
I make no apologies, this is me
When the sharpest words wanna cut me down
I’m gonna send a flood, gonna drown them out
I’m gonna send a flood
Gonna drown them out
Oh
This is me

 

A Korean Adoptive Mother Speaks Truth

It’s a very big deal when Koreans adopt because of the importance of family bloodlines. It makes news.  Adoption is stigmatized, shameful and kept a secret to save face for everyone. This lengthy article goes into great detail about a Korean family; a pastor and his wife who adopted and the earth shattering events that led to this decision in their lives.  The father was very much interested in adopting but the mother was not emotionally ready. Then a loved one passed away and that changed their view of the world and opened their hearts to reconsider adoption.  They adopted in 2004 and since then the adoptive mother recently published a book about the new “universe” that was created with the adoption of Hee Eun. The adoptive mother, Kim Kyung-ae talks openly with a journalist about their lives as an adoptive family. This is breaking huge barriers and social norms in a society based on dynasties, patriarchy, ancestry and bloodlines. Even with all that formidable pressure, Kim Kyungae comes across as extremely well read and sensitive to the adoption issues within Korea and internationally. She speaks as a Korean adoptive mother, so we get a firsthand glimpse on adoption from inside Korea. What is even more amazing about the article is the forthright and candid commentary on her views on adoption overall. Those statements are noteworthy and translated below. 

“Mom, adoption is both sad and happy.” – Hee Eun

“Hee-eun came to my home with her own past, present and future, her own colors, her own pains and joy…..We chose to have an ‘ open adoption ‘ without secrets. Efforts to answer our daughter’s questions honestly.

Kim Kyung-ah said, ” Sometimes I feel helpless when I think about the issues concerning adoption. I only adopted one child. The complicated number of adoption issues, the large numbers of children who are adopted internationally and the lack of support for single mothers.

The Korean adoption issue is more complicated than I thought. Adoption can also be a form of “child abuse” because it is a violation of the original family and it is an involuntary decision done to the child. 

Korea was not responsible at all before 2012 and left the [domestic] adoption entirely to private agencies. The state neglected the children it should be responsible for and take care of. Korea will suffer from the fallout and serious consequences in the future. Even now, when an adoptee tries to find his biological parents after he has grown up, he is often unable to find them because the records at the time were falsified or didn’t exist “

Kim Kyung-ah speaks at lectures and writing activities to break the prejudice surrounding adoption. 

명예백인

입양과 관련한 보이지 않은 상처는 입양아의 가슴과 마음에 큰 상처를 남긴다.

입양인들은 부모를 잃은 것 뿐만 아니라 모든 가족, 문화, 언어 그리고 자신의 출신도 함께 잃은 것이다. 그들은 모든 사람과 모든 것을 잃었는데도 불구하고 이들을 입양한 양부모들에게 잃어버린 것들에 대해 위로 받지 못하고 무시당하는 경우가 많다. 전형적으로 모든 사회, 가정, 친구, 그리고 다른 입양인 들은 학대 받는 입양아들이 이러한 고통을 말할 수 있다는 것만으로 만족해야 한다는 분위기에 그들의 트라우마는 더 악화되고 있다. 입양인들은 행복에 대해 자신의 삶을 해석할 수 없다는 것처럼 강요 받고 있는 것이다. 이것은 분명히 현수나 다른 많은 입양인들 만의 경우가 아니다. 모든 입양인들은 다른 곳으로 입양되면서 손실과 비극적인 환경을 경험하게 된다. 양부모로부터 단지 학대가 없다는 이유로 입양인 들이 트라우마와 고통이 없을 것이라고 생각해서는 안 된다. 사랑과 이해심이 많은 양부모들이 많다. 그렇지만 입양인들은 그들이 입양되었다는 자체에 배려하는 마음이 없다는 것에 고통 받고 있다. 이것은 의도치 않은 형태의 무시 이지만 깊은, 보이지 않는 상처를 유발 시킨다. 국제 입양인들은 전형적으로 가족 안에서 “명예백인” 으로 살아가길 기대 받고 자란다. 이러한 역할은 입양인들에게 일반적으로 받아들여지는데 현상인데, 심각한 부모의 실패 이다. “정서적 무관심”이라고 한다. 입양인들은 감정을 인정받지 못했기 때문에 감정이 성장하지 못하고 상처를 받게 된다. 그리고 그 상태로 어린 시절 트라우마를 겪은 어른이 되는 것이다.

The Adoption Empire That Even God Doesn’t Approve Of

Korean Adoptees were never meant to return. But they do by the thousands and show up at the door of adoption agencies demanding to see their file. Upwards of 4,790 in 2012-2015 alone. Agencies are still playing the “we can’t tell you anything” game but the “Secrets and Lies” switch has been outed on adoption agencies. God doesn’t approve of lying. That’s Leviticus 19:11 for the SuperChristians who never sin. The gospel of adoption has been exposed.  The internet is powerful, virtually uncontrollable and global. Anyone can create a platform to get their message out to a worldwide audience. Black market policies that created a closed adoption system are still holding on but the power elite of adoption lobbyists, adoptive parents and government deals in bed with adoption agencies can no longer ignore the mobilizing force of adult adoptees and the momentum we are gaining. 

“When international adoptions from South Korea began in the 1950s, the process was not designed for reunions.”

“Then she said, in 1991 and 1998 someone who claims to be your mother looked for you.”

Fostervold was stunned.

“I was really upset,” he says, sitting inches away from his birth mother. “Then I asked [the social worker] why no one told my adoptive family because they have lived in the same house with the same phone number for 47 years, so they [KSS] could have easily written a letter or called.”

Especially stinging, he said, was to learn his mother had first contacted KSS looking for him more than 25 years ago.”

Trauma Goes Mainstream on 60 Minutes

Childhood trauma goes mainstream on 60 minutes special this Sunday with Oprah Winfrey. 

“Children are much more sensitive to trauma than adults, it literally changes the wiring in how the brain functions. If you have developmental trauma, the truth is you’re going to be at risk for almost any kind of physical health, mental health, social health problem that you can think of.” – Dr. Bruce Perry, leading expert on childhood trauma 

“If you don’t fix the hole in the soul, the thing that is where the wounds started, you’re working at the wrong thing…..What I recognize is is that a lot of NGOs, a lot of people working in philanthropic world, who are trying to help disadvantaged, challenged people from backgrounds that have been disenfranchised, are working on the wrong thing,” Winfrey added.

When will adoption agencies and adoptive parents address trauma for the sake of the adopted children? Isn’t it time to put children’s needs ahead of business, marketing, selfish motives and image?

초현실적인 Surreal~안날레이

서울은 혼잡스럽고 갑갑하다
나는 폐소공포증을 느끼고 무력하다
낯선이들의 자비심에 기대야 하는 나는 외롭다
나는 말할 수 없다, 나는 방황하는 피난민 신세로 전락한다
Seoul is crowded and congested
I feel claustrophobic and helpless
lonely at the mercy of strangers
I can’t speak, I am reduced to a refugee that wanders
 
하지만, 내 모국은 나를 부르고, 나를 향해 외친다
내가 반드시 돌아와야 한다고 자신의 의지를 담아 부른다
이 무력감, 벙어리에 귀머거리가 된 듯한 느낌에도 불구하고
이 채워지지 않는 갈망은 도대체 무엇이란 말인가?
나는 이 나라에 속하지 않는다는 것을 알고 있으면서도 여전히 이 나라를 그리워한다
yet, my birth country calls to me, cries to me
beckons me with a will of it’s own that I must return
despite feeling powerless, mute and deaf
what is this insatiable longing?
knowing I will never belong but still longing
내 나라는 나를 버렸고, 내 정체성을 잃었다
그리고 그 댓가로 나는 내 동양인의 눈을 버렸다
내 눈은 내 백인의 정신에 어울리지 않는다
 I have been disowned by my country, disowned from my identity
and in turn I have disowned my slanted eyes
they do not fit my white mind
내 양부모는 내 이름을 바꿨다
친가족으로부터 단절되었을 때 내 영혼도 잘려나갔다
나는 사랑 없이 살아야만 했다
사지가 잘린 채로 살아야만 했던 환자처럼
renamed by my adoptive parents
my soul was amputated when I was severed from my birth family
like an amputee is forced to live without limbs
I have been forced to live without love
어머니와 아버지가 있다는 건 도대체 어떤 느낌일까?
사랑하는 가족이라고 불리는 그것을
나도 경험해 보고 싶다
what does it feel like to have a mother and father?
I would like to experience this thing called a loving family

What It Looks Like When Adoptive Parents Don’t Get, By a 16 Year Old KAD

Reblogging this Dear Adoption blogpost for the Korean nationals following our blog and for readers to see how really significant it is that such a young adoptee has the language for his/her feelings and openly discussing their hurt, frustration and loss without shame or guilt. Until recent history in the adoption world, fierce adoptee activists and social justice warriors have spoken out about the one sided narrative of adoption. That set off a firestorm of attacks and retaliation from adoptive parents and adoptees alike. But this, this is the result- that the younger generation has found their own voice and can wrap their minds around the concepts of loss and trauma and be validated by other adoptees; that what they are feeling is ok. That it’s a normal part of the grieving process of losing one’s birth family, and that nothing is wrong with them.  If this teen did not have the safe space and support of  the online blogging/adoption community to turn to, how would he/she handle their pain?  The well meaning but extremely hurtful comments from their adoptive parents is the brick wall that many adoptees have faced for decades. The fact that this teen wrote so simply and honestly says it all, on what it looks like when “adoptive parents don’t get it”.

Why is it so hard?

You never met your birth mom. She was just the body God used to bring you to your real family. Isn’t that beautiful?

Why is it so hard?

You should be thankful for everything you have.

Part 2

For my whole life I was told love means one mother gave me away and another mother purchased me. Yeah it sounds cold to say “purchased” except that is actually what happened.

Do you know what love is?

I am supposed to feel loved by the abandonment from my birth mom.

Do you know what love is?

I am supposed to feel loved by the transaction between my birth country and my parents.

Is that love?