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Archive for the ‘Why I hate Holt’ Category

Today I expanded my vocabulary with the word gaslighting. Gaslighting is a form of manipulation and brainwashing that seeks to make the victim to doubt her or himself, to make him/her question  her/his own memory, perception and sanity.

I had actually seen the word before but I had never bothered to read its definition until I saw it again today. I’m glad I took the time to read it because it perfectly fits what I’ve experienced as a child (and also as adult) in my adoptive family. However I will not tell my experiences of being gaslighted by my adoptive parents,  because there are many articles on internet that give examples of gasligthing in a family, in a relationship or at work and also because it’s a painful memory that I’m not ready to tell on a blog. Although equally painful, this post is about my experiences of being gaslighted by Holt adoption agency as a child (and later as young adult), because there is no example of an organisation gaslighting a child.

It’s not too difficult for an adoption agency to gaslight a child. All they need to do in a first step is to change the identity of the child. That’s what Holt agency did to me. They changed my birth date, my age and made a fake story to sell me to a Canadian couple.

I started to talk about my life and my family in Korea  15-16 months after my arrival. I could have talked earlier, probably six months earlier, if we hadn’t moved to Quebec, which forced me to learn another new language (and forget the little bit of English I had learned) only seven months after my arrival to the USA. One of the first thing I told my parents was that my birthday was not my birthday. I told them that a man had asked me my birthday only to give me a  different birthday and age and that he had ordered me to give my new birthday if someone would question me later.

As I was becoming more fluent in my new language, I would often recount  my life in Korea to them. They never told me directly I was a liar, but they would ignore everything I said and remain silent or act as if I was  lying.

For examples, if I said, “my mother died in a bus accident when I was six years old,” my mother would reply, “No. You were only four when your biological mother died.” If I said that I got lost after visiting my older sister at the house where she worked as a maid, she wouldn’t say a word. If I recounted the day I got lost with more details, such as, “I didn’t find my father where he was supposed to wait for me after I went to see my sister, so I left the street…”, then she would say, “No. Your father abandoned you to his landlord and after four days, the landlord brought you to a home for abandoned children. ”  Some time later, I told  my parents a couple of times that I believed I was not abandoned after all. I panicked when I didn’t see my father and I didn’t even wait a second for him to return, so I left believing that he had abandoned me and I got lost. Maybe he returned to the place  but  I was gone. My mother said that  he would have searched for me and found me if I was lost and I must accept the fact that I was abandoned.

(As I’m writing this, I’m in tears. I feel like I’m going to lose my mind  just like I felt when I was kid. So I have to take a break now …  )

Sometimes I felt angry but I never showed my anger. I often felt  like I would lose my mind. But I didn’t doubt myself. I continued to recount my past life, because I was so nostalgic I needed to talk about my past life. I told her about my sisters, my brother, my nephew, the games we played together, the food we ate, etc. My mother would listen to me without contradicting me when I told her about life in general in Korea. For example if I said there was no modern toilets in Korea, but there were outhouses, she would say, “So, Korea is thirty five years late compare to Canada” or “It was like that here too thirty five years ago.” That encouraged me to tell her more about Korea. But every time I spoke about my life in Korea involving my family or a member of my family, she would either remain silent or contradict me.

I gradually stopped talking about it… until the day, on the second year of my adoption, I read my adoption papers which were never hidden from me.

The papers were filled with lies and omissions.
Example of lies: “parents: unknown”. Example of omissions: the place I lived; my three siblings. (About 35 years later, I obtained an additional paper from Holt, my family background information, which only contains lies. “Myung-Sook says she has neither brother nor sister. She does not remember, either, where she lived before her coming to Seoul.” Read details here.)

I cried. I told my father that it was all lies. I felt like I would go crazy. I still remembered  my mother’s name. I told him her name and that I had one brother and two sisters. I told him their names too, except my elder sister’s and my father’s names which I had already forgotten since long time. I told him that I gave them my former address in Seoul where we lived before my biological father and I moved to the country side. There was nothing new in what I said that moment.  He yelled at me to stop crying, it was not a reason to cry. I stopped immediately, but it hurt like hell.

I imagined all kind of scenarios to explain the lies and the omissions. In each scenario, I imagined my elder sister  telling to write the lies because she didn’t want me in her life.

We knew a Korean-American man. It happened he called us and told us he was going to Korea soon. My parents asked him to stop by St-Paul’s orphanage to ask the nuns about my siblings.

The nuns told him I had never spoken about my siblings to them. (It was partially true. I never talked about my siblings to the nuns because they never questioned me. However I had often talked about my siblings to my friends in front of one of the nuns and other staff including my housemother. I also repeatedly talked about my siblings to the housemother of another group, and I told her that the director had promised me to search my elder sister’s house to bring me to her.  I also talked about my brother and sisters to the director of the orphanage. Click here for more details). The nuns also said they didn’t deal with adoptions, they only took care of the kids, and only Holt dealt with adoptions.”

My parents said it was true, that only Holt took care of adoptions. It was the first time I heard the name of Holt. Before then, I thought everyone I had met worked for the orphanage. They explained me that Holt was an adoption agency that placed children for adoption while St. Paul was an orphanage where I lived. That day I learned Holt and St. Paul were entirely separate.

I had told them that St. Paul’s director had written my address in Seoul when he had came to my first orphanage. If he didn’t keep it, then  Holt or my first orphanage must have kept it. But I didn’t know the name of my first orphanage. I don’t know if the Korean American man asked them or not, but we didn’t get any answer about it.

They asked Holt. Holt said I had no sibling. And there was no additional information.

Again I felt going crazy.

My father placed an ad in a Korean newspaper, to no vail.

Did I imagine my life? There were brief moments I doubted myself. It must be a bad dream… I have to forget… No I can’t forget, I must not forget if I want to be reunited with my father…. Those are the kind of thoughts that came to my mind whenever my family came to my mind.

In 1988, the Seoul Olympics reminded me I had a family in Korea. My father placed another ad in a Korean newspaper, without result. I also asked a Quebec journalist who was in Korea during the Olympics for help, he promised me he would help me but he never contacted me again.

Bear in mind that I don’t blame my adoptive parents for this gaslighting.   They believed the lies they were told by Holt agency. I only blame the adoption agency… However, I never blamed Holt as a kid. On the contrary, I admired Holt agency and the Holts because I had often heard my mother praising them for having saved thousands of unwanted babies after the Korean war. But I was unconsciously angry at Holt for their lies.

In 1989, fourteen years after my adoption,  we went to Korea  with Holt Family Tour. I was 23, the oldest of the adoptees participating the tour. My anger at Holt that was buried deep surfaced once before and a few times during the trip. At the same time I admired the Holts for saving unwanted and orphaned babies, I especially admired them when they brought us to Holt Ilsan Center for handicapped children. Besides they ( Holt staff and the Holts, mother and daughter) were so nice that I felt I had no right to be angry at the saints.

On one of the papers we had received before the tour, my father had highlighted a paragraph that said, “You will be able to meet the staff at the Holt office. They are willing to help you if you are particularly interested in seeking information about your background. If you were abandoned, however, there is no where to turn further information.”
He had told me, “You understand. You were abandoned, so they cannot help you.”  I felt angry, but I had replied calmly that I was abandoned but old enough to remember I had given them an address, old enough to remember the names of my parents.

Old enough to remember, but not old enough to retain my mother language.

When I lost my mother language, I also lost the names of my friends and of most of my family members. Names, proper nouns, common nouns, all became foreign words. I was able to retain only the names of my mother, my brother and my second sister.

I tore the page of the telephone directory that contained the name of my brother in my hotel room. I asked a staff member to telephone each number by the name of my brother, Kim Daeyeul. The man laughed  saying, “Oh! My name is Kim Daeyeul too.” But he ignored my request. It was very frustrating I felt I would burst with anger, but I stayed stoic by habit. I asked the name of my first orphanage (I also asked to a St. Paul’s nun), they wouldn’t answer.

My only reason for wanting to be part of the Family Tour was to search for my natural family. For my mother, it was only to honour a promise she had made me a year after my arrival, that’s to bring me to Korea.  At the same time, it was going to be her last gift to me, our last trip as a family together, before their divorce. Killing two birds with one stone, she was keeping a promise she had made a Korean girl we had fostered for six months in 1987 and with whom we had lost contact with. So my parents spent the only free days at the end of the trip to search for her and forced me to follow them and I didn’t get to search my family as I wanted. (I wanted to search only by walking in the streets of Seoul.) We managed to find the girl and meet her with the help of someone who had worked for the organization that had placed her with us and a Holt staff  member (We lost .contact again a year later!)

But Holt wouldn’t help me find my family. Nobody would help me. I found it extremely unfair that to help my parents find the girl they had foster for six months, a man had telephoned every school an entire day until he found her, while nobody wanted to call a few numbers on a telephone directory page to find my brother whom I lived with for the 8 first years of my life.

The tour leader said we could write any request on a piece of paper, such as a special place to visit. I wrote I would like to go spend time with  Korean family, to eat together, to sleep on the floor a night (just like I used to with my family), to visit places that were not touristic (I had in mind that I might miraculously find the place I used to live) and the name of my first orphanage. My requests were simply ignored. Meanwhile, an adoptive mother’s request to visit a school was granted.

In 2001,  a Korean friend I met at University invited me to go to Korea to search for my family. She found me a family to stay with. I wrote my story in 4 pages for the TV program that helped to reunite families. I’ve been so brainwashed to think the Holts were saints that the first thing I thought was to bring gifts to the kids of Holt Ilsan Center and money  to donate (a meager sum but earned  on a hard working by painting job). When I had visited Holt Ilsan in 1989, I had convinced myself that people taking care of disabled people couldn’t be bad and that their lies were only a mistake. But I was still very angry at Holt for their big big mistake. (Confused I was!) I called Molly Holt and emailed her.  She was so nice that I was impressed. She told me to send her my story, she would help me find my family, which surprised me.
I went to Holt office a week after my arrival to Korea. Again I was confused and surprised. The man who received me was extremely nice. He took note of what I said. He was going to help me find my family. I had a moment of anger and was extremely hurt when he brought me to a room where they prayed for the babies that were going to leave for adoption that day. He introduced me to a staff member who was an adoptee. For the first time I was with someone who could understand me completely.  She said I should go stay at Molly Holt’s house for the rest of my trip, and suddenly all was decided (I should say she decided and arranged everything, and I moved to Molly’s house). A few days later, I was volunteering at Ilsan Center. I talked to Molly about my anger at Holt. She admitted there had been some mistakes. She told me about three siblings who had been processed for adoption, but thanks God, their father had found them on time before they were sent to a foreign country, another story of a boy who was lost and sent for adoption (by another agency). She even told me another adoptee was abused by her adoptive father…. Everybody was extremely nice. Everyone was willing to help me and I had forgiven their mistakes.  Suddenly all was fine, I had forgotten everything.  After all they were all good Christians and I too was Christian. I thought I judged them wrongly, there must have been one person who made a mistake, but Holt was a good organisation.

I found my family through TV two weeks before the end of my stay. I stayed with my sisters the last week of my trip. I felt guilty for not being able to volunteer during that week and thankful that they didn’t say anything about it.

When I came back from the trip, I sent a thank you card to Molly for helping me find my family.

In 2003, I went back to Korea. at Molly’s house at Ilsan Center again. It’s during that stay I started opening my eyes to their ugly business of selling babies and started feeling again extremely angry at Holt. I found another place to stay for the remaining of my trip because I was too angry to continue to be at Holt Ilsan. But I was still confused, I was angry more at Korea than  at Holt. Molly had told me, “what can we do, if they (Koreans) abandon them?”
“It’s not Holt’s fault, it’s Korea’s fault,” I repeated myself. I bought a cloth for an abandoned baby who was at Ilsan. When I went to Holt office to bring the gift, I saw the foster mothers coming out from the office crying. Again I felt angry at Korea for selling babies and extremely sad.

A few weeks after I came back home, I realized that Holt hadn’t help me at all to find my family in 2001.  I had written alone my story which was translated from French to English before going to Korea. I had received the call from KBS to appear on TV before I had moved to Molly’s house, when I was still at the family’s home my friend had found. The only help I had gotten from Holt was  to go to KBS station, Ilsan Center’s driver drove me there. But it was his job to drive anyone working or volunteering at Ilsan Center.

According to wikipedia, gaslighting is a form of manipulation that seeks to sow seeds of doubt in a targeted individual or in members of a targeted group, hoping to make them question their own memory, perception, and sanity. Using persistent denial, misdirection, contradiction, and lying, it attempts to destabilize the target and delegitimize the target’s belief. Instances may range from the denial by an abuser that previous abusive incidents ever occurred up to the staging of bizarre events by the abuser with the intention of disorienting the victim.

Holt has lied about my identity, my family history, and made me question my memory, perception and sanity.

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Seoul then and now:korea-evolution

Koreans doing laundry then and now:
laundry

Television then and now:
TV

South Korea’s economy then and now 

korea economic

 

Baby boxes then and now:

korean baby boxes

Baby boxes then: Babies in cardboard boxes on a flight operated by Harry Holt Proxy Adoption Program, some of the airplane’s seats were removed to make room for the boxes. (1) and (2)  Baby Box now: baby abandoned anonymously in a metallic and heated box built and operated by pastor Lee at his church.(3) and (4)

International adoption began in the aftermath of the war, to save biracial babies from racism. It continued in the 1960s, 70s and 80s because of poverty and rapid industrialization that led to mass abandonment of children. In the 1980s and 90s, the country is rich but adoption is needed because of Confucian values that make families reluctant to raise someone else’s male child, because of stigma against unwed mothers.
International adoptions, say adoption supporters, should  continue until Koreans change their mentality, until Korea evolves…  But that will never happen as long as there is an adoption agency that prevent Korea to evolve.

Korea now…

 

child support

Park Eun-jeong (not her real name), a single mother of two, suffered a car accident just seven months after her divorce back in 2014. Her husband had agreed to wire 800,000 won ($688) monthly for child support when signing his divorce papers. But he abruptly changed his phone number and stopped paying the funds after learning about Park’s accident. (5)

 

(1) “Impressions on Meeting the Harry Holt Plane” by Arnold Lyslo, 1958.
(2) To Save the Children of Korea: The Cold War Origins of International Adoption, by Arissa H. Oh.
(3) Opinion divided on the merits of South Korean pastor’s ‘baby box’
(4) Should This Man Get a Nobel Peace Prize?
(5) South Koreans still struggle with idea of child support, Korea Herald.

 

 

 

 

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“Give an orphaned or vulnerable child a birthday to remember!” Holt International says.

holts liar

About three months before my 9th birthday, on January 29th, 1975, Holt gave me a birthday to remember.

There were about 12 of us girls who had been transferred from another orphanage. Holt gave each of us a birthday to remember.

There were no gifts, no cake, no birthday party. Nothing like that.

There were two (or three) men sitting behind a table with lot of papers. One of them was the director of St. Paul’s orphanage.

One man asked us our age, while others were busy writing on the papers. We were all the same age.

He then asked if any of us knew our birthday.  I  raised my hand and I answered proudly because I was the only one to know her birthday.

The man  gave each of the other girls a birthday and a new age. He also gave me a new age and a new birthday.

My birthday is on April. He gave a new “birth”day on November.

Another man said, “From now on, if someone asks your age, it’s important to give your new age… and you, MyungSook,  your new birthday.” He repeated it several times that it was important to remember our new age.

We did what they told us without questioning…

I didn’t question then because I was only a vulnerable child who obeyed the adults.

As an adult I want the world to know how adoption agencies are using the words “orphaned child”,  “vulnerable child” and “give a birthday”.

Vulnerable, I was.

Orphaned, I was not.

I want the world to know how Holt gave me a “birthday” that has nothing to do with my birth.

birthday

My family background information made up by Holt is here.

I want the world to know why I hate Holt and adoption agencies.

family background

 

 

 

 

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Holt records E - blog

As you can see above my family background information contains eight sentences. I’ll go over each sentence to show how a so called reputable agency creates an adoptable orphan.

1) Myung Sook’s mother is deceased.

Indeed, my mother died when I was six.

2) Sometime after her mother’s death, the child came to Seoul with her father, who left his hometown due to financial hardship.

Our hometown was Seoul.  I was born in Seoul. I lived in my birthplace with my family until the spring of 1974. My mother died in 1972.  My father and I moved to the countryside, Suwon, in 1974 because of financial hardship. My elder sister and her family still lived in Seoul near our former house. My brother still lived in Seoul at his workplace that was a few minutes away from our former house by walk. My second sister had left home to work as a maid in another part of Seoul.

3) For a while he worked as a labourer, but his income was very low.

My father lost his job in 1970 following a work accident that left one arm paralyzed. Since then he worked only one day for the landlord, one week as street vendor, and a day to sell cigarettes. I wouldn’t count these as a job. He didn’t work during the four to five months we lived in Suwon.

4) Then the father disappeared leaving Myung Sook in a boarding house.
5) After waiting in vain two or three days for the parent to return, the landlord transferred the child to the Lost Children’s Center; it was on 9/10/74.
6) She was in turn transferred to St. Paul’s Orphanage on 1/28/75.

The last time I saw my father was near the place where my second sister lived and worked as a maid. He wanted to get some money of her pay. He had told me he would wait for me while I would go meet her boss to tell him  that if he didn’t want to pay my father would take my sister back. When I returned, my father was not at the place he was.  I left the place thinking that he had abandoned me.  I didn’t even wait a second for him to return.(It was not the first time I thought I was abandoned. I feared abandonment since my mother’s dead.)  When I thought of going back to the place where my father was supposed to wait for me, I realized I was lost. So the one who disappeared was me, not my father. (While I was lost, my father was scolding my sister for my disappearance, and then they were searching for me.)

I ended up in a police station which transferred me to another police station, which in turn transferred me to a place for lost children. After a day or two the lost children’s center transferred me to a children’s shelter on 9/10/74.

A man (from St. Paul’s orphanage) came to take a few girls. The second time he came, he asked those who knew their address to raise hand. I raised mine. I told him what I had already told to an office worker of the orphanage, that I lived in Suwon, but I didn’t know my new address yet and I gave him my former address, and  told him to bring me to my former address in Seoul, that my elder sister and brother were still living near that place, and that I even knew how to go back  home by myself alone from there, etc.  The man promised me he would search for my elder sister and would come back.

He came back a week later to bring us home. In fact he just transferred us to his orphanage, St. Paul’s orphanage, on 1/28/75. He put me up for adoption without searching for my elder sister and my father.

7) Myung Sook says she has neither brother nor sister. 

I talked about my elder sister, brother and/or second sister at each place I went except at the second police station where I didn’t stay long enough to talk. I talked  about my brother at the first police station, I told the policeman how I lost my father after visiting my second sister. I told the same thing at the lost children’s center. I gave my former address to the first orphanage worker and the second orphanage director and told them my elder sister and brother lived there. I often talked about my siblings to other kids in front of the nuns and the housemother while living at St. Paul’s orphanage.

8) She does not remember, either, where she lived before her coming to Seoul.

Read  what I wrote for #3, 4, 5  and 6.

Remark: I found the  correct dates 9/10/74 and 1/28/75 on the record of the first orphanage. I also found the former address and the name of my father.

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In 2001 I was reunited with my family after 27 years apart. Both my sisters called while I was on the air with the KBS show I Miss That Person. They said, among other things, that they searched for me the day I went missing.

I thought they were two impostors, but everything went too quickly, I hadn’t had the time to say my thought, everyone applauded and my airtime was passed to someone else…

When we met in persons a week later, they said, “you were not abandoned.”

Back in 1976, when I had started speaking the language of my adoptive parents, I had told them that I believed I was not abandoned. But my adoptive mother convinced me to that I was abandoned. So during 25 years, I had lived as an abandonee. It was the reason why I was available for adoption, according to my papers. abandoned

“You were not abandoned,” repeated my sister (through a translator), “I don’t care if you don’t believe me, but you were not abandoned, you were lost. You were a missing child.”

Last November when I was in Korea, pastor Kim of Koroot who translated us said, “your sister says you were a missing child.”

Yesterday, May 25, was International Missing Children’s Day. But I didn’t have the heart to write about it. So I’m writing in the middle of night, at almost 2:00 AM to honor missing children.

Suggested reading:

Your child is missing. Would you want their adoption to be easier?

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