Tuesday, June 16, 2015

Translated - She Wanted to Take My Younger Brother. I Asked Her “What About Me?”

She Wanted to Take My Younger Brother. I Asked Her “What About Me?”

An Interview with Steve Morrison, Founder of MPAK

By Kim Ji Young, Reporter, OhmyNews

Born in 1956. Nationality, the US. Hometown Mukho (Donghae City) in Kangwon Province. A graduate of the Purdue University in the US. A Senior Project Engineer at the Aerospace Corporation. A satellite systems engineer. Married with a Korean-American woman, has two sons and three daughters. Of the five children adopted two sons. Separated at five from biological family. Birth father, dead. Date of death unknown. Birth mother, rumored to be dead. Younger brother, no news of him. Adoptive father passed away in 2006 at 84. Adoptive mother is 91, in a nursing home in Colorado Springs.

A Korean adoptee, Steve Morrison will be turning 60 next year. His Korean name is Suk-Choon Choi. His life is indescribable with countless stormy life events. On May 10th at a hotel café in Myeongdong District in Seoul, I interviewed Steve Morrison, who was visiting his motherland to attend the National Adoption Day event.

In the year 2000 when he was 44, Morrison was at the forefront of the very first Gathering of the Korean Domestic Adoptive Family Conference, which was held in Kwa-Chun Civic Center. The year before, he founded the Mission to Promote Adoption in Korea (MPAK) which is the first non-profit organization consisting of adoptive families that have decided to be transparent on their adoptions (as opposed to keeping it secret).

An overseas adoptee Morrison is the pioneer in bringing about a significant change in the Korean adoption culture in Korea as he is the first to spread the concept of transparent adoption in Korea.  He is considered as the Godfather of the adoption movement in Korea, and as a successful adoptee himself, I was curious to know why Morrison was so committed in his endeavor to bring about positive changes in the Korean adoption culture while spending much of his personal time and resources. And I believe his life itself will tell the story.

The Separation of a Family of Four

I arrived early at the café. As I was waiting, Morrison walked towards me, with a slight limp. I glanced at him. His left knee did not bend. Then, I realized he was handicapped. After we got our coffee, Morrison began his story.

“I lived in a hut that was made out of hays, overlooking the East Sea. I remember the trains loaded with coals passing by, and there were military vessels and fishing boats floating in the ocean. I also remember the sun rising above the horizon. It was a very peaceful sight to behold.”

Morrison was about 4 or 5 years old, not exactly certain about his memories but that was the picture of his family he remembered – mom, dad, and a younger brother. However, this peaceful image soon turned into dark.

“I heard my dad’s business failed. I do not remember clearly but I think we were pretty well off at one time. But, ever since the failure my dad kept drinking. His face would become red and his eyes were furious – it was scary to at his face. Then he started beating all three of us, especially my mom.”

“Every day my dad drank, and my mom was physically abused. One day, while he was beating my mom, my dad stopped and had his eyes off for a second. Then my mom quickly put her shoes on her feet and ran away. Later, Morrison got to meet his mom at grandmother’s house but never after that. He clearly recalls the day his mom rushing out of the house, away from the father’s abuse.”

“I wasn’t born as a handicap. One day I was at my grandmother’s house, my right foot was swollen overnight. Then, I bent my knee but never could get it straighten out again. The day my mom left the house, I was taken to the hospital on her back. She was a very compassionate and kind-hearted woman.”

“On our way to the hospital, she asked me, “My dear, if your father lays his hand on me tonight, will you please tell him to stop?” How desperate she must have been to ask that to a five years old son.  However, my dad came home drunk that night and started to hit her again right before my eyes. Mom did not say a word.” 

“Many minutes have gone by, yelling and beating. My brother and I woke up at the commotion and we were confused and scared and started crying. As I watched my mom getting beaten, I finally remembered what she asked me to do. I took the courage to go up to my dad and asked him to stop. He looked at me with a look of embarrassment and said “I’m so sorry, my son. I’ll stop now.” But within a minute or so, he started strike her again.”

“My mom could not handle it anymore and tried to escape. But, soon after dad found her, brought her back in and started beating again. When he took his eyes off of her for a second, my mom finally succeeded in escaping him.”  

Although that moment brought a traumatic loss of his mother and the last time he would ever see her, Morrison seemed relieved as he described it as “successful.” He could never live with his mother again, but he was at peace knowing that this was the only way for her to be safe.

After his mother had left, Morrison and his younger brother of three years old lived a life of the homeless. Frequently dad would leave early in the morning and not come home for days without contact. To the brothers, their father really did not exist. It was 1961, only 8 years after the Korean War. It was a period of hardship as many Koreans faced starvation without the aids from the US.  How would the two brothers of five and three to survive?

“During the day, my brother and I would walk around the streets, always keeping our eyes on the ground. We were looking for coins. Luckily, we found some almost every day. We would then buy some bread and other foods. It doesn’t mean that we never starved.  In fact we looked pretty terrible.”

The brothers have lived like this for days.  One day they heard that their father had been arrested by police and never could reach him after. These young boys had no way to find him and that was the end. However, the boys did not miss him. To them, he was like a devil who made their angelic mother run away.

The brothers were all alone. Their only way to survive was to walk around the streets. One day, a lady who sold the steamed crabs on the street, and who was often kind to the boys by giving them some free steamed crabs, decided to take the younger brother home to raise him.

This lady bought new clothes and shoes and put them on my brother. I was so envious. As she was taking him away, I asked her “What about me?” She said she couldn’t take me because of my leg. That was the last time I saw my little brother, and neither of us would realize that it would the last time together.  I was only five… That was the last time I saw my little brother Dae-Chun.

It took less than a year for the family of four to be disintegrated. The loss of his angelic mother and his younger brother that he roamed the streets with, would bring pain and longing for the rest of his life.

Deepest Longing ‘Adoption’

As Morrison roamed the streets alone, he was later taken to an orphanage in Kwangwon Province with the help of a gentleman who found him. Shortly after, he was taken to the Holt Children’s Center in Nok-Bun Dong with the hope of surgery on his left leg. Although he was separated from his brother because of his leg, it was his leg that enabled him to move to a better facility.  

At the time, Korea was one of the poorest countries in the world and the children in orphanages hardly had chance to be domestically adopted. Common households were struggling to have three meals a day - that would be considered luxury. Nobody in Korea could even possibly imagine or hope for adoption. The only hope for the orphans was to be adopted abroad.

He was happy at the Holt Children’s Center. He no longer had to look for food on streets, and always had new clothes and shoes to wear. He would get along well with his friends playing with marbles cards, and enjoying soldier plays.  He was well taken care of by the loving hands of Mr. and Mrs. Holt.

Morrison also got a surgery on his leg where before he had to press down on the bent knee with his left hand to support his weight. However, this time the problem was the other way around – his straightened knee now would not bend. He couldn’t avoid walking crippled, but he didn’t have to support the knee with his hand. He was thankful and content with it.

He went to school and had a reasonably good grades. However, there was a deep longing in his heart in spite of his happy life at Holt. He missed his mother and his brother. Although he was five years old at the time of separation, he knew the love he has received from his mother and the dedication that she showed.  One day while he was looking out from the fence to a neighboring village, he saw a kid going to a picnic holding hands with parents, with a huge smile on his face. With a feeling of a lump in his throat, he remembered how he longed for a family of his own.

Like the other orphans that were being adopted to the US, he also wanted to be adopted by a family in the US to be loved. Time flew by as he graduated from an elementary school and entered into 7th grade. In the meanwhile, many of his friends were adopted abroad, but many others were left in the center. He remembers wondering, “Why am I not being adopted?” To be adopted was his biggest hope and dream.

He was in his 7th grade year in the middle school. At that time the law did not allow overseas adoption once a child passes the age 14.  That means that after February 27, 1970, Morrison had to give up his hope of being adopted and stay in the orphanage only until certain age, having to be on his own after that. Adoption was the only way of escape for him to go out into the world and have a shot at being successful, and also put him in the path of his family he always dreamed about.

Although his life at the orphanage was so much better than the life of living in the streets before, yet he yearned to have his own parents, and to have a chance to get educated in a good environment, and to become successful in life.

Towards the end of 1969, Morrison’s picture was along with 30-40 other orphans that were featured as the ‘children in need of homes’ section in Holt’s bi-monthly magazine. There was a note under his picture describing that there was not much time left to for him to get adopted as he was nearing the age 14.  Eventually, 11 American families reached out wanting to adopt him.

On May 28, 1970, Morrison got on a plane to America with a Bible and his diary in a bag.  He was fourteen when he arrived.

“My parents had two older sisters and a son the same age as me. There was also a 12 years old Amerasian brother that was adopted two years earlier.  We got along so well. We often played board games in the living room. My father was a biological scientist working under the government and my mother was a stay home mother. We were not rich but in the middle class.”

“My father was a modest, graceful, and a humble man. So was my mother. I felt loved by my parents and the five siblings got along very well. The way my father treated my mother was such gentleman-like. It was an awkward sight when I first saw them kiss every day, but as time went by I realized how beautiful it was. It made me think of my relationship with my biological parents back in Korea. It was complete opposite. It was then I witnessed the true image of being a good father.  ‘This is how a husband is supposed to treat his wife. This is how you love your children.’ I dreamed that one day I would become such a wonderful father myself.”

“I Could Not Believe...the Transformation in My Life”

He was a good student. Math was his strength in school. He also enjoyed studying Physics and Chemistry. It was shortly after when Neil Armstrong took the first step on the moon in human history on July 20, 1969. In the middle school, he remembered reading all about Neil Armstrong in a youth magazine in Korea, and being fascinated by the space technology, and he aspired and dreamed about going into space.

When he was about to graduate from high school, he received numerous acceptance letters from colleges. Without hesitation, he chose to attend Purdue University where Neil Armstrong majored in the Aeronautical and Astronautical Engineering.

“I studied so hard during those 4 years. My parents were so proud of me. To see them being proud of me was very special to me.   Right before graduating in 1979, I got several job offers from big aerospace companies. I just needed to take the final graduation exam and that’s it – I’ll be going out into the real world.”

“I studied late into the nights as I was studying to pass the final examination to graduate from the college.  One day I got a call from my mother saying that my father had a heart attack and he’s not doing so well. I was shocked and so heartbroken…  I so wanted to just drop everything and run to the hospital to be beside him, but I could not give up the last exam. Every day, I called my mom to check on dad and went back to study, and call again and study again. Thankfully, the surgery went well and my dad was recovering. Right after I passed my exam and got my diploma, I took a plane to go see my father.”

“As I went into the room, my dad still had several tubes into his nose and arms, and he looked very weak and pale, but conscious when I saw him. I went up to him and held his hands and handed him my diploma. Lying down with no strength, he opened it and read it out slowly word by word from beginning to the end. I was watching him from his side, and as he ready my diploma I was deeply moved.  I was so touched… As weak as he was and as pale as he was, he was my hero and my role model. Despite him being weak, I remember being so proud of him.  I’ll never forget that moment.”

“Then I got to think about my early life as an orphan merely nine years earlier.   An orphan who was separated from his family, a boy who could not even afford a bowl of rice, is now scouted by several high tech aerospace industries with good salary and benefits, and a company that would give me a chance at a graduate school on a fellowship program with more opportunities…how could this be possible?”  

“I then thought of my childhood days of living on the streets of Kang-Won province. I was very proud and at the same time very grateful. I was moved when I remembered the sweats on the forehead of Harry Holt as he worked so tirelessly for us at the orphanage. I cannot even describe in words the love of my American parents. I couldn’t believe it. I remember asking in amazement how this could all this be possible?”

While he realized that his adoption has provided a life of abundance, his heart ached whenever he remembered his friends that remained in the orphanage and would never realize their full potential.  Especially for those few whom he considered smarter than him and those that were handicapped. He was very sorry that they didn’t get adopted.  In America, he knew that disability would not be a hindrance to him. But sadly it is a big hindrance in Korea.

Just before he graduated he made a promise to God.  That he would donate a portion of his earnings to the Holt International.  And he kept that promise.  This was the seed that gave a ray of hope to move the Korean adoption culture from a dark history shrouded in secrecy to being a culture of transparency and dignity.

Finding Korea Again After 13 Years

As he made his monthly donations to Holt, Morrison was invited to a regional Holt office opening in LA. There he met Grandma Holt for the first time after leaving Holt Il-San Children’s Center. He was invited to go on a Motherland Tour to Korea with other adult adoptees, and after 13 years of leaving Korea, the orphan boy returned as a man in 1983. In that same year, he was also selected to serve on the Board of Director at Holt. He was 27 then.

Five years later in 1988, the Olympic was held in Korea. It was the opportunity for Korea to shine to the world and the world’s attention converged to Korea. As the beauty of Korea was being shown to the world, there was a segment in the news that Korea still sends children abroad as an ‘orphan exporting nation’, and this infuriated many people in Korea.  Right after this there was a flood of criticism against intercountry adoption and calls for the complete stop to this ‘national shame’.

“I could not understand their anger. It didn’t make sense to me that children are being sent overseas only because the Korean nationals don’t adopt them.  And how can they criticize foreigners for wanting to adopt the children that they didn’t want?  If they have adopted and have done their parts to solve the problem, then they can say such things.  These were some of the questions I remember asking myself. Even now they don’t adopt.”

“Why don’t Koreans adopt? How can I change the culture of adoption in Korea? After much deliberation, I came to a conclusion that transparent adoption was the solution.  It was the secrecy in adoption that held Korea down for generations with no improvement in the adoption culture.  As long as adoption was viwed as shameful, embarrassing, and fearful, the culture of adoption in Korea would never change for good. The only way to reduce the number of intercountry adoption was to increase the domestic adoption.”

In 1999 he founded the Mission to Promote Adoption in Korea (MPAK) in America, then in late 1999 he took the movement to Korea.  MPAK was established in Korea, and the beginning of the movement to bring about positive changes to the Korean adoption culture through transparency in adoption took a root in Korea.  In the Fall of 2000, he held the first ever conference to promote domestic adoption in Korea at the Kwachon City Civic Center. 

In 2006, the first National Adoption Day (May 11) event was held in COEX building in Samsung-dong in Korea. In 2007, the number of domestic adoptions has exceeded the number of international adoptions for the first time.

For15 years after founding MPAK, Morrison takes his personal vacation from his work in order to visit Korea at least a couple times a year. This year he visited Korea on May 7th with packed itinerary schedule that consisted of attending several events and meeting with some important individuals regarding adoption.  He returned back to America on the18t h of the same month.

He will visit Korea once more sometime this year. While it is true that the Korean adoption culture has improved significantly over the past 15 years, the ratio of secret adoption to transparent adoption is about half and half.  And this is a reason enough to continue to drive him to visit Korea.

Friday, May 15, 2015

Family Court Update - From Korea

I have been in Korea for a week now, and each day has been filled with events and meetings.  Right now I'm down at the Kimcheon City (about three hours south of Seoul) at the Emmanuel Orphanage for the orphanage sponsored National Adoption Day event, which began last night and continues on today (Saturday) at the orphanage.

This trip has allowed me to visit all three agencies, and again I am impressed with their dedication to serve the homeless children, even through this unfavorable climate of dwindling adoption.

I have also met a few visiting adoptive families from the US that have court appearances.  To them their dates in the court was a culmination of long awaited home stretch to the conclusion of adoption. I was so impressed with the love and care that the parents have displayed.

In visiting with all three agencies, each agencies had different court schedules with two different judges.  The most often raised questions I have received from many adoptive parents waiting for the court date was why the new judge is not processing the cases fast enough, and the uncertainty of indefinite wait has tormented many waiting parents.

I have found out that the new judge has already held a court date (a few days ago) for the cases submitted to the court in January, and for those submitted in February she has the court dates scheduled in June.  The agencies thought the delays may have been due to her time period of trying to learn the new adoption process that she was not familiar with. 

At the same time, the judge that used to take long to process (at one time up to six months) has cut down his process down to three months.  So in essence the slow judge has now become a fast judge.

When I first posted the blog that these two judges will be more dedicated to the adoption process, it turns out that they still handle other civil matters, except they devote more time on the adoption cases.  However they are not solely dedicated to the adoption cases, which would have been nice.

I am hoping that the new judge (a woman) will learn the ropes soon and speed up her process from four months down to a shorter time.

I have also made a recommendation to the agencies to get all the entities (agencies, the ministry, the family court) involved in a conference to search for ways to shorten the prolonged adoption process that has not been good for the children and the waiting families, as the children go home as older children.  This has been very hard for the children and the families.  The more I see the challenges faced by the children and the parents, the more I am convinced that the children need to be home as soon as possible.

Saturday, April 25, 2015

Family Court Situation in Korea

I last posted on the development in the Family Court in Korea on February 24, 2015 (see the posting http://mpakusa.blogspot.com/2015/02/some-changes-happening-in-family-court.html) .  This is a follow up status as many have contacted me with the questions related to the Family Court.

Since the judging staff was reduced from four to two, there has been no noticeable delays experienced.  This is based on the feedbacks I have received from two different agencies. 

What's interesting (and relieved to hear) is that one judge in question has picked up some speed.  For instance, once an adoption case is filed with the court, this judge used to take as long as six months before a court date is set.  Now I am hearing that it's taking him two to three months (based on the information that the February submissions to the court have all been assigned with the court dates, and many of the families have already traveled and come back).

So despite the reduction in the staff of judges to two, they are able to concentrate more on the adoption cases, and no noticeable delays have been occurring.  And this is a good news for all the waiting parents.

I will continue to update with the latest happenings.

John Park, a Domestic Korean Adoptee Story - Part 2

By: Kim Ji Young, a contributing writer for Ohmynews

The original article in Korean is found in: http://m.ohmynews.com/NWS_Web/Mobile/Ten/report_last.aspx?atcd=A0002099245&srscd=0000011337

John Park is an adult adoptee who has been active as a CCM musician for the past 15 years, and he was adopted one month after he was born from an unwed mother.  Most adoptees in his situations are reluctant to interview.  They have accumulated the painful experiences that won’t easily heal especially when their adoption was kept as secret.

It was challenging get in contact with him, but once I requested an interview with him he was very willing. To him, his adoption no longer pained him nor brought sadness.  Although he had challenges in his life, he was able to overcome those difficulties and become a positive person. And this was possible because of his mother’s unconditional commitment to him, and the mother and the father that stayed with him patiently over the years.

In the Part 1 of the interview John was introduced with the traumatic experience of finding out his adoption truth, which led into his rebellion, and the mother that showed an incredible patience in waiting for him.  Many people have read his story and were moved in their hearts. In this 2nd part I present to you the rest of the story – Kim Ji Young (the writer)

The fact that his organ matched exactly with that of his mother’s was an incredible discovery and a thankful one, despite the fact that he wasn’t born from her. He was happy that he is able to share his organ with his mother as he always lived with guilt. To think that a son who does not even share one drop of blood with his mother would now finally be able to do something good for his mother as a good son should.  So the date of the operation was set. However…

He heard that there was a chaos in the hospital and he quickly rushed to the place. The mother adamantly refused the operation, saying that it was unconscionable to take her son’s organ just to survive. She refused to the end.

- Could she not be forced to operate?
“No. Because she clearly stated her heart…It was too difficult. This was more than just being able to convince her, but more than that I became angry.”

- So…Without the operations what happened to your mother?
“She continued with the dialysis, but soon…she died in September 2003.  She was just into the late 50’s. (John’s age at the time was 28).”

- It must have been very difficult for you?
“Words cannot express the pain I felt.  At the time I joined a team with a hit music. So I felt comfortable being in that group.  I thought, “from now on I can just serve my mother…but it was so hard, really…and the father who was of the same age took it very hard as well.”

- How long did the pain last after she passed away?
“To be honest, I still cannot open… the album containing my mother’s pictures. Even to this day it is very hard for me.  When I think of my mother…” (John is saddened at this point, his eyes becoming moist with tears.  A quick break before continuing with the interview.)

- What seems to be the reason for not being able to look at your mother’s pictures…?
“I feel that my mother died mainly because of me. That’s it. It was because of me her illness became worse. So it is something that is incredibly hard for me to swallow.”

- The images of your mother must be living in your heart?
“Of course. The feeling is stronger as I am now raising my own children.  Time to time, little by little. Come to think of it I remember well on my wedding day, that it is usually the brides that cry. On that day I had such a hard time trying to hold my tears.  It was at the thought of my mother.  If you look at my wedding picture you will see me with my lips tightly sealed. That’s because I was trying hard not to cry. It was extremely difficult to hold.”
- While it is impossible to postulate to the past, especially in ones life, but if you knew about the adoption truth earlier in your life, do you think things might have been different?  
“At that time it would have been impractical but I would have chosen to be transparent about the adoption. I believe that is the right thing. One must definitely disclose the adoption truth, speaking from my own experience.”

- You admitted that during the period of rebellion your only thoughts regarding your birth parents was that of anger.  Once that period was over were you not curious about them and try to locate them?
"The truth is that I met my birthmother. About 2 years ago.”
- Did you search out of curiosity?
“I once met a man who was into a publishing business, and through him I wrote my own book titled (<The Confessions of John> Jihae Sam Publishing Co, 2013).  In trying to write the book, I had some struggles.  I was not a professional writer.  Through the internet I tried to search under adoption and I ran into the Korea Adoption Services (KAS). On its website there was a section on ‘Finding the Roots’. I called them and after checking my identification they contacted me right away. They said that I was adopted through Holt and gave me the phone number to reach.”
“So I called.  It was two years ago which would put me at 38.  While it has been a long time, thankfully they had my detailed data intact.  So I examined my adoption records. I found that I was briefly cared by a foster family. I also found out that my birthmother and her mother (maternal grandmother) came to the agency together.”
“The social worker in charge looked through the papers and noticed a phone number written on the corner of a page.  It turns out that about 4 or 5 years ago my birthmother visited Holt to learn about my whereabouts and knowing that she could not reach me without my consent she left the phone number just in case, hoping perhaps I would reach her someday.  The social worker called the number and my birthmother answered. The social worker asked me if I wish to meet her. ‘Of course I will’ was my answer.”

- Before meeting her were you not angry after seeing the documents?
“At the time it wasn’t because of the anger, but because I wanted to meet her and tell her something.  It was because there was something I had to tell.  I was told that most of the adoptees would meet their birth parents for the first time and ask ‘Why did you give me up?’ But for me it wasn’t about that at all.  I simply wanted to tell her that I forgave her.  In my youth I resented my birth parents for the life I was living and did not even consider them to be the parents at all. But I started to think how difficult it must have been for her, and how terrible it must have been for her to live the life of guilt, and all I could think was the word forgiveness.”  

- So where did you meet her?
“It was at Holt. I met her on the 5th floor.  I could not control myself as I drove there. I had no confidence that I could call her as mother, and even though I was her son I still could not bring myself up to call her as such.  I knew that I would have to at least hold her hands, and I was not confident on that either.  Once I arrived, I hesitated a long time and prayed, and finally I mustered up enough courage to go up to meet her.”

- Was your birthmother waiting for you?
“She had arrived first.  It appeared that she met the social worker and cried while waiting. As I opened the door and went inside, it was really something when the very first word out of my mouth was ‘Mom’ instead of calling her mother since I thought I could not call her in such a way. I hugged her. I told her as I hugged her. I said that there was something that I really wanted to tell her and that was the reason why I wanted to meet her, and it was that I forgive her.  We held each other a long time and cried together.”
“My goodness, that wasn’t easy for me. Even as I professed my feelings I remembered in my head the wandering years of my youth. But as soon as I uttered the word forgiveness, I just felt forgiveness in my heart.”
- Once you met the birthmother, I mean your mother, now you must know about the circumstances surrounding your birth?
“The birth father was an older guy in her neighborhood.  They dated during the high school years and she became pregnant after a mistake.  But my grandmother was an extremely strict person. For fear and shame, my birthmother could not disclose her pregnancy to anyone. Not even the birth father knew about it.”
“She was not familiar with the pregnancy to birth calculation and she was finally discovered and the chaos followed.  As soon as I was born, my grandmother took me away without ever allowing me to taste my mother’s milk, and sent me away to an agency the next day. My birth father did not forget my mother but I was told that he died early.  I think he died without ever knowing of my existence.”
"I am happy. I like my mother, for just being there…”

- How did your mother do after that?
“Some time later she married and had a son, and then later divorced, and now she lives by herself. I learned that I had a brother.  Her marriage must have been difficult for her.”

- How old is your mother…and what about your brother’s age?
“My mother is in her late fifties. My brother is in his early thirties. He works in the design area and works hard. I have a great relationship with him.”

- Do you continue to meet your mother periodically after the first meeting at Holt?
“I wouldn’t say periodically but at least a few times a year.  Once in a while we see one another, but we do exchange messages through Kakao Talk.”

- Do you consider your birthmother living an ordinary life in terms of finance and in other areas?
“I would say ordinary but more like just getting by. I feel like that I should look out after her as a son, but I myself have a large family to take care of and I am unable…but while our bonding is not deep, but we are very comfortable with one another. My mom’s personality is somewhat like me in that she is upbeat and positive, and she is also ‘cool’.  She said that ‘as a son that you would not consider me as your burden’ and just be happy like this.”

- Do you visit her during holidays?
“Umm…Because I have a family it is not easy for me to move the whole family around with my wife. My wife needs some time to get adjusted.  She now has a new mother-in-law all of a sudden.”

- I’m thinking that perhaps there is some feelings of, ‘She is not of my flesh’?
“No, I’m just fine. I really like my mother. Just her being there is good. While we cannot see that often, I am happy that at least we can exchange some phone messages.”

- I once met a person like you and interviewed him, and he told me that he could not call his birthmother as mother.  He kept referring her as ‘that person’.  He has a mother that raised him. He felt that he was betraying his mother who raised and loved him and thus never could call his birthmother as a mother.  
"I think most adoptees are like that.  My social worker at Holt told me that is common among the adoptees.”

- Since you are not like that, do you believe your faith has something to do with it?
"I believe so.  Just because I choose to be that way doesn’t mean that everyone else must think the same way, but I do want to be a good role model to many that are in my position.”

- Don’t you have some new memories of your mother who passed away?
“The thing that always comes to my mind is how guilty I feel.  The fact that I didn’t treat her well. Even while I was looking and meeting my birthmother, I couldn’t help thinking even for a moment, ‘Perhaps my Mom watching from the heaven feels betrayed’.  But my birthmother also lived a life of suffering and the guilt and shame, so I feel that I need to make her happy for the rest of her life. My birthmother still says time to time, ‘This Mom feels so sorry to my son’, but I tell her not to say such things.

- Have you seen other adoption cases around you?
"There is this one case that’s not like mine, but I realized that this was the way it should be. This person was a Christian musician and she has adopted two children, and she was open about the adoption.”
“When her children were old enough, she said to her children, ‘Mommy has something to share with you. Although you didn’t come out of my tummy, you are my child and I am your mommy.’  The children know. The only thing that really matters to a child is the love of his mother as he goes through various experiences and growth in his life.  It helps him by assuring, ‘Even though I have this identity, my mother truly loves me regardless.’  This is what helps a child to mature in his life.”  


Author’s Note:  In the life of John Park, the ‘fake’ mother really did not exist from the beginning.
I meet a lot of people in the world, and each person I meet presents with new personality and air, and even their smells are different.  Each person generates his or her unique fragrance to the world. John Park displayed the spirit of brightness and that of positive attitude. His attitude and his voice was so positive that it was very hard to imagine that such a man had lived a life of confusion and wandering.
Through the same difficult experiences in life, some look at it with pessimism while others look at it with optimism. If one was to completely describe him, there would need to be more complete facts.  However, to explain John who is so bright and positive, it is impossible to leave out two persons.  It is his mother, whose faith in John never wavered and believed that he would turn around, and waited in quietness during his time of rebellious periods. And it was his father who along with his wife stayed the course through the time of quiet waiting. Their faith was justified.
25 years ago, when his cousin revealed through the conversation ‘John, your mother and father are not the real ones.’ He may have been factually correct but not true.  From the beginning, there never was a ‘fake’ mother and father in the life of John Park.

Saturday, April 11, 2015

John Park, a Domestic Korean Adoptee Story - Part 1

This article appeared on Ohmynews (Korean).  It was an interview of a domestically adopted Korean adoptee who has become a professional Christian musician.  The interview was done by Mr. Kim Ji Young.
The article shows the struggle that John had upon finding out that he was adopted while he was a teenager.  His rebellious life and events were very dynamic and eventually led to where he is.  It's interesting to read the heart and mind of an adoptee that went through such a tumultuous teenage years, and only to come to find himself through the loving parents that never gave up on him.

An Interview with John Park - Part 1

A Domestic Korean Adoptee Becomes a CCM Artist

By Kim, Ji Young  (김지영 기자, Ohmynews)

The original article appeared on (in Korean) http://www.ohmynews.com/NWS_Web/Tenman/report_last.aspx?CNTN_CD=A0002096790

It was during the Winter break of his 8th grade year. He was in the thick of his adolescent years.  A cousin of his who was a year younger than him very cautiously broke the news one day.  It was the secret that was difficult for any 14 years old teenager to face.

 “John, from what I heard from my mother and father is…is that your parents are not the real ones. You were abandoned as soon as you were born and they adopted you.”

It was the truth that he could have responded with “What are you talking about? Don’t play a joke on me.” But his cousin’s words pierced his heart.  What was interesting was that it was during the time when he sometimes wondered, “Are they may real parents?”

He thought that anyone could be asking such question while living with parents, and he was in that stage of life. But as the words of his cousin flew into his heart and pierced him, he felt frozen.

Since young he was a mischievous boy. He received much love from his father who was a career military man and his mother a loving homemaker.  His father never spanked him and truly love him like his own son. He was their only child and a son.

One night he had an argument with his parents. He was deep into his teen years. And he let it out during the heated argument.  “I know it all. You are not my real parents. I heard it all. And that’s why you are doing this to me.” He used other words that he shouldn’t have uttered. He was thinking an expected response from them, “What are you talking about? Where did you hear such a foolish thing?”

But instead his mother dropped to the floor and just sat. And John’s heart also sank with a big ‘thud’. What was only a belief became a confirmed fact. Several minutes have passed. What disturbed the quite static air was his mother’s wailing cry.

On March 18, 2015 I met to interview John Park (40), a contemporary Christian musician (CCM) singer at the Bangbae-Dong district.  He was transferred to Holt Children’s Services only a day after his unwed mother gave birth to him.  And he was adopted by his parents a month later and is now a grown up adult adoptee.  He even had a chance to meet his birthmother a few years ago, and he continues to stay in touch with her. 

He was a singer, eight years into his marriage with three children. His life and all the things he has gained through the years, and his positive view of family was like a clear mirror that reflected the adoption of his past and that of the current days.

- So what happened after your mother cried?

“My Mom cried and she temporary stopped, and then started to cry again saying ‘John. It isn’t true.  I don’t know what you heard, but you are our son.  You are the son who is the gift of God to us.’  And then we all cried and it was a mess.”

- So did your life change after that incident?

“Actually from that day on…I became rebellious fast.  I knew the truth, but I could not accept it.  I could not accept the fact that my parents were fake, and what made me angrier was that all my relatives knew about it except me, and I felt so foolish because of it. Even without this particular experience, a teenager usually rebels a lot during his teen years. But for me it was much more than that and I really became rebellious.”

- For example?

“I was rebellious to no end.  I did not answer them, I fought them and I didn’t go home at nights, and when I did go home it was usually after playing around all night long with my friends, and I did not listen to them no matter what they said.”

- How long did this go on?

“It went on for a very long time.  Through my high school years to my early twenties.  But I knew. I knew how much my parents loved me and raised me. So at times I thought to myself that I shouldn’t be doing things that hurt them.  But no matter what, whenever I tried to say something, I said things to make them angry. I had a wicked heart.”

- What was the reason?

“I wanted to show them how angry I was and how I felt betrayed.  That this is how I am feeling – really bad. At times I wanted to die. Because I could not handle it, and I wanted to lay it on my parents so that they will suffer as well. Therefore I changed into an attack mode and did not go home, and hung around with lots of bad friends…”

- And you roamed the streets? And even got into some fights?

“Of course. Because there was a lot of anger in me.”

- What did your parents do in times of your rebellion?

“My mother cried every day.  I believe my father tried to encourage my mother to be strong.”

- Did your father drink?

“He usually didn’t, but when my Mom suffered he was always at her side to help her. They were both very harmonious with one another.”

- And your mother became weaker?

“She had diabetes.  But despite her weakness she ran a beauty salon.  She became weaker as she could not take care of herself, and I made it worse by being such a pain in her life, thus her weakness became worse rapidly.”

- So did you mature through the process? Or was there something that happened?
“It was the sight of my mother who was suffering so greatly because of me, and at the same time she did not speak a word of rebuke to me but just waited.  This moved my heart.  I married and became a father to my children, and I looked back to where I was.  Now I’m in the same place where they were.”
“If that happened to me I would have given up on my son. One could assume that a son, despite being raised in a loving family could experience some letdowns in life. But my mother never gave up on me. She only cried, and she said no words but only waited for me. And that could’ve been the hardest thing for her to endure…” (There was a slight tear welling up in John’s eyes).

- Did you have any curiosity about your birth parents, or longing or questions regarding them?

“At that time there was no longing but an anger filled my heart.  It was this. If she was going to abandon me why did she even give birth to me? Why did she bring such a misery into my life? It was a mixture of anger and hostility.  I believe it was largely those sentiments that drove me into a life of despair and rebellion.  But I was able to return to the normal life after a period wandering mainly through the tears, prayers, and quietness of my mother. At the time of my marriage I did think about my birth parents and wondered who they were, and whether they were still alive.”

He could not lose his mother doing nothing

After getting into a college on his third try, he took some time off to serve in the military.  Although he was later discharged, he had no desire to go to the college.  His majoring in business administration was not compatible with his personality.  While he was concerned about his future and what he would do in his life, one day he happened on a passage of a book ‘Do what you like best for your career’.

Ever since he was young he loved to sing. And he sang in front of many people. He came to the conclusion ‘I am most happy when I sing.’ So he started to go on several open auditions.  He even made some demo CDs and visited and auditioned in many agencies for about a year.

Even though he attended the church with his parents in the early years, he did not know that there was a Christian genre category in music. He gave auditions and sent demo CDs regardless of the genre.  One day he got an acceptance from two different agencies at the same time.  One place specialized in secular music, and another place specialized in the Christian music.  It was the time when his mother’s health was getting weaker.  So he conferred with his mother on what he should do.

But it was useless to ask his mother who has been a devout Christian all her life. He has never seen such happy face in all his life. The mother was so happy with the fact that her son was becoming a Christian singer who will praise God, and the thought of this made her so happy as if she was going to recover from her illness immediately. Of course he realized that it was he that made his mother’s health worse, and he saw no reason to decide any other way upon seeing how happy his mother was. This is how John Park became a CCM singer and he has walked this path for the past 15 years without wavering.

He has found a profession that he has always loved and enjoy, and he could also redeem and serve the parents that he gave such hard times during his youth.  However his mother’s illness became worse by day, and had to undergo blood dialysis.  Her condition reached a point where without an organ transplant there was no way for her to continue living, and it seemed that she was preparing her death. Even though she was on the list for the organ transplant, there was not enough time left for her even if the organ became available. 

When the suggestion was first made to have her undergo a transplant, she adamantly opposed it.  She had no desire to live like that.  She would not accept the transplant from a family member just to lengthen her life.  But this was not an acceptable solution. He could not bear the thought of losing her without trying something. After all, how she has lived and how she was victorious through it all, and now all they had to do was to enjoy one another and love the rest of her life. 

Through the tears he begged her to get the treatment.  He even asked a doctor to join him to encourage her to at least examine her condition.  But even for a family member, the chance of having a match is not that high.  There was almost no chance that his father would have a match, and John Park was out of the question because he wasn’t born from her.

All he cared was that he be able to calm her down and help her to overcome her reluctance to the surgery.  But the doctor did not realize that John Park was an adopted son. The examination was done and the results came out. For the doctor, it was an obvious result.  But for the rest of the family members it was an unbelievable result.

The doctor said, “Even among the family members the match is hard to come by, but your son has an exact match.  I think we should proceed with the surgery.”

(The story continues…)