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 .  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:

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)

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…)