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Archive for August, 2009

My life as Myung-Sook

I was born in Seoul, Korea, as Myung-Sook. I was the youngest of four children.

From the perspective of westerners, Myung-Sook couldn’t be happy because she lived in a poor family, in a one multifunctional room, with her parents, her grandmother and her older siblings. Myung-Sook was actually very happy.

I didn’t know anything about the western countries. My universe was my neighborhood and my family. I had everything I needed to be happy in my universe: foods, cloths, a home, and my family. Being the youngest, I was cherished by my family.

My father worked in construction until he lost his job following a work accident that left his arm almost paralyzed. He could no longer rent a big house, so we moved twice near there. Around that time, my elder sister married a rich man.

The family income came from the work of my mother until she died in a bus accident on her way to bury my grandmother when I was six years old (western age). My father received a substantial sum of money for her death from the insurance company.

Some time later, he lent money to his fiancee so she could pay an engagement ring for her daughter as well as her wedding. After she got the money, his fiancee decided to not marry him using the pretext that she didn’t know he had two other children besides me and she disappeared without repaying him.

My father was determined to find a new mother for us. He met a widow, a rich owner of tavern, with two daughters. I don’t know the reason but he also lent this woman money after they were engaged. Right after obtaining the loan, his second fiancee refused to marry him and she never paid him back, pretending at last that she didn’t know us.

Meanwhile, my brother quit his studies and left us to work.

To make matters worse, a couple whom my father lent money declared that they couldn’t pay him back.

As we became poorer and poorer, occasionally we searched garbage cans to find plastic, which we would sell.

A this point, a westerner would say that Myung-Sook was certainly very unhappy. Well, Myung-Sook would tell you that she was happy. She wasn’t sadder or happier than any child living in a rich family. She lived with her father and her older sister Marie, and she had all she needed to live happily.

Despite poverty, I have never suffered any hunger because I could go eat with my married sister and my nephew (and eventually a niece) at any time. Sometime, my brother gave us some money and once a week,my father and I went to Suwon by bus to get the money from the family who owed us. I eventually started going there alone to save the transportation cost.

One day, my father asked my sister Marie to accompany me so that she could replace me from time to time. The couple said they couldn’t reimburse us but they knew a rich family who needed a maid and they offered her the job. My father refused the offer and sent her back to Suwon to tell them to pay us back.

The following day, Marie was missing. I went back to look for her and I found she was gone to work for the rich people. My elder sister was angry at our father about this news and she also tried to bring Marie back, without success.

Not being able to pay the house and to save the transportation cost, my father moved to Suwon with me where we had a free housing. Every day, I had to go to the couple’s house to reclaim the money they owed us. It allowed me to eat with them each day.

We lived in extreme poverty but I was very happy, happy to live in the countryside surrounded by nature. My father was unhappy and desperate.

One day, he took me to see Marie to try to get some money of her pay from her work. While he was waiting in the street, it was my job to tell her employer that if he refused to pay us, my father would take back my sister. I was the go-between, between my father and my sister’s place of work, until my father wasn’t where he should have been. I immediately thought that I was abandoned, I didn’t wait a second, I walked straight ahead until the night… and I ended up in a police station.

The lies behind my adoption

1st lie
I told the policeman that I lost my father while we were visiting my older sister. I gave the address of my former house in Seoul and I mentioned my elder sister lived near there. I also talked about my brother to a son of a policeman.

I was transferred to another police station that took me to a place for lost children. Within a week, I was interrogated again and this time, I told them my father left me in the street near my second sister’s home. Since I was abandoned, they transferred me to an orphanage.

At the orphanage, I gave my former address once more. I told them if they could take me there, I could live with my elder sister and I could even go to my new home by myself. A lady promised me that she would do her best to find my former house and my elder sister. It was the first lie.

2nd lie
Three months later, a man came and asked the children who knew their addresses to raise their hands. For a third time, I gave my former address in Seoul. Of course, I didn’t forget to tell him that my elder sister lived near the house and that I could live with her. This man promised me to come back after finding my home. A week later, when he came back, I thought he would bring me to my sister. It was the 2nd lie.

3rd lie
The man brought me and other children to St. Paul’s orphanage. He was known to be the driver of the orphanage but maybe he was also the director since the only office of the orphanage belonged to him. Few days after our arrival, we were at his office in front of some unknown men (employees of Holt Children’s Service).
The gentlemen gave us new birth dates and new ages. I was the only child to know her birth date, but they also gave me a different birthdate. We were ordered to tell our new ages if someone would question us in the future. We found this game very funny because we were made all younger by few months to a year or two. I didn’t know that this game was only another lie for the international adoption; I didn’t know I had became the Holt adoption product #K-6714 to be sold to would-be parents of USA.

4th lie
The other gilrs told us that we couldn’t go to school with them because we would be leaving to the USA soon. A lie! They could have sent me to the school if they wanted to! During my 10 months there, I was considered to be a newbie who wasn’t allowed to go to school because of my imminent departure to USA.

5th lie
Meanwhile, I was happy because I was well fed and well treated (the opposite of the first orphanage) and I had many friends. From time to time, I was sad because I missed my father badly but I thought that the man (director or driver) was searching my former house in order to take me to my sister.

Several of my friends went to the USA. I had no idea what the word “USA” meant, but I knew they left the orphanage forever; I also knew that the USA was a rich country where rich American parents were waiting for us but I still didn’t know exactly what it meant. We were talking about the USA as a country of fairy tale. For example: “In the USA, milk flows from the walls”, “In USA, toothpaste is red and you can swallow it like a candy.” I began to dream of the USA while continuing to hope to be reunited with my father…

Finally, it was my turn to leave the orphanage. The nun took me to a place (Holt office). A social worker took me to the USA …. Between Holt office and USA, only two minutes had elapsed! Actually, I wasn’t in the USA yet but when I saw the modern house (where I lived few days), I thought I was already in the USA.
Nobody explained me the word “USA”. Lie by omission!

My past legally erased
I was reborn as Kim after the airplane has landed on the american soil with my visa.

While the adoptees have to fight to access to their adoption records, I had access to mine at 11 years, only two years after my arrival. My adoptive parents never tried to hide it from me, there was nothing to hide. My adoption record is filled with falsehoods made up (legally) by Holt agency, and my birth certificate is filled with the faked birthdate made up (legally) in the country of my purchasers (adoptive parents).

Social history

Social history1-blog

According to this document, I was born Nov 20, 1966, in an unknown place and was admitted to Holt from St. Paul’s Orphanage Jan 29, 1975. It says that I was abandoned but it doesn’t say when and how. Since there is no other information, it could have been at anytime between my birth and Jan. 29, 1975.

Actually, I arrived at the orphanage at the end of Jan 1975 (at 8 years old, western age). What happened between 1966 and 1975? Holt erased my past between 1966 and 1975 to make me adoptable.

I’ll skip many other lies I read in my adoption papers.

hojuk

This is an “orphan hojuk” made by the adoption agency (and the Korean government) to make me adoptable.
It is a legal document.

“Legal” doesn’t mean true. Legal doesn’t mean ethical either but everyone involved in adoption has a different definition of ethical.

“Legal” only means permitted by laws. My birthdate is a false birthdate made up by the adoption industry. In my hojuk, there is no information about my family. At the time my orphan hojuk was made, I knew the names of my parents and my father was still alive.

At age 11, I didn’t know anything about “hojuk” or “orphan hojuk”; I didn’t even know about Holt or adoption agency. When I read “Father: no record”, “Mother: no record”, “Birth place: unknown” with a false birthdate, I cried. I felt a void in me, then I felt anger at Korea and Koreans for rejecting me. Even if I loved my adoptive parents, I was ashamed of having been sold to strangers by my own people. It was the first time that I felt hatred, hatred towards Korea and Koreans for selling me.

While crying, I tried to explain to my adoptive father that I had a brother and two sisters. I told him everything that was written was a lie except my name. I told him the name of my mother and the names of two of my siblings that I still remembered. He yelled at me saying that there was no reason for me to cry. I stopped crying immediately, but continued to suffer like in a hell.

Another lie
Later, we contacted the orphanage. The nun replied, “she never said she had two sisters and a brother”. Another lie! I often talked about my siblings, especially of my sister Marie, to other children in front of them. I also talked often about my family to the cook. They also said,“we are not involved in the adoptions; we only take care of children. Holt is responsible for adoptions.” Holt replied, “we have no other information.”

Then, I was called a liar for inventing a family or having too much of imagination about my past.

During a family trip with Holt, in 1989, I asked them to give me the name of my first orphanage. Both Holt Korea and the nuns of orphanage refused to give me the information. An employee of Holt Korea even laughed at me when I told him the name of my brother. I asked him to help me by calling every Kim Dae-Yeol I found in a telephone directory. He answered laughing loudly, “Oh! My name is Kim Dae-Yeol too!”

Lost, not abandoned
I went to Korea in 2001. This time a nun gave me the name of my first orphanage (probably because I told her that I had no adoptive family left).

At my first orphanage, I found the following informations that I had given them myself. My name, my age (Korean age), my former address in Seoul, the name of the city where I lived (Suwon), and the name of my father.

address

I went to KBS to find my family. My brother-in-law recognized my name and my father’s name. He told my sisters to watch the program next morning.

My family didn’t know I was sent to the USA. My siblings told me that I was not abandoned. They stopped searching me only after one day, thinking that I would come back by myself. My father died of liver disease in loneliness three years after losing me. My brother died in 1990 in an accident.

Because my birth father is dead, I don’t know with certainty if he abandoned me or not. But, I know for sure nobody has ever tried to contact my family contrary to what I was promised, and Holt didn’t get his consent to put me up for adoption.

Those baby sellers lied and made up a (legal) paper to snatch me from my (birth) country and my (birth) family without any consent.

I had a family before being adopted.

I became an orphan the day Holt put me up for adoption. I lost my culture, I lost my identity. I lost the family I had before being adopted; the difference of culture and language has prevented us to stay together. I have no other family. I also lost my country. There is no country that I can call my country.

For an update of this post, click here.

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