Saturday, April 25, 2015

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.

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