In memory of Appa

This post has been updated with new information. See the box at the bottom.

I wonder how the social worker at Holt could sleep at night in 1970, after sealing my destiny. He did his job and went home that day, exhausted from all of his work. How could he play God? When he wrote down lies in my journal, I’m sure that he followed rules. Holt must have had guidelines about what to write into the journals in order to make them seem real enough, just to make the work efficient in order to make money fast. They had to maintain the number of kids to be adopted at all times, and of course it was better to have as many as possible, and since the orphanage earned more on overseas adoption than in domestic adoption there was always an incentive to send kids abroad to make room for more.

I wonder if the workers at Holt Children Services feel the weight of their conscience when they know that they have falsified so many journals for so many adoptees worldwide. I’ve wondered many times whether the same social worker that received me in 1968, who sat in his office when my father came to bring me home again, some day in the early Seventies. He must have told my father the biggest lie ever, that he had to go and look for me at another orphanage in Korea even though he knew that I had been sent abroad. So my father began to search after me at many orphanages, all over Korea, a search whitch lasted for several years until he died in sorrow and despair. When he handed me over to the orphanage, he was not told that he would never see me again. If they had told him that, he would never have let them take me.

So here I am today, an angry and sad adoptee, wanting to tell the world that a huge injustice has been done to me, and to my Korean father who was desperate to get help for his children in need. This has also affected my oldest sister’s life, because she too searched for me for many years. She was still only a teenager when she started to search, after she promised our Father on his deathbed that she would continue his search after me, so that we sisters could be together. She too longed for me for so many years. She is my hero. Only after our reunion in 1986 she has had peace in her heart.

This was not the act of a father who wished to abandon me, but the opposite. He loved all of us children, but he needed help in a difficult time to make a better life for us all. It was only 16 years after the Korea war ended, and our mother died suddenly, so help was greatly needed. My story is not unique, but rather a typical sad event that this sentence fits perfectly: Adoption is a permanent solution to a temporary problem. It hurts so many, and affects so many aspects of our lives. Today we sisters have very little contact because of difficulty with language, difference in culture, and the fact that, although we are family by blood, we are also strangers to each other.

Adoption adversely affects everything in life. We lose our parents, most importantly our mother, which leaves deep emotional scars; the primal wound. But we also lose the life we were meant to have, our heritage and so much more. All I can do now is pick up little pieces here and there, in an attempt to reconstruct my story from the past.

As tragic as our story is, if conditions in Korea had been different back then, this would not have happened to us, my sisters and I. To put things right for the future, it will be necessary to change both the welfare system and the general attitude towards adoption, and hopefully with time the adoption business will end.

These days, most babies that go to adoption are from unmarried single mothers, where many of them have been pushed, bullied, threatened or tricked into giving up their newborn. Korea needs to move into the 21st Century and stop looking down on those women, remove the shame of being young, unmarried and pregnant, and a single mother.

Korea, my homeland, my heart cries for the way in which you regard people who don’t follow the masses. There’s even still racial discrimination. Get a grip, and please change for the better. I feel ashamed for the land where my heart belongs; the Land of Morning Calm, please earn your name once more, be tolerant and helpful instead of breaking apart mothers and their children through unnecessary adoption, messing up their lives forever.

Many of us who were adopted as very young are now grown up, we’re looking into our past and digging up our true history, and uncovering old sins of the adoption system as we do so. Hopefully the world will see us, and learn that the adoption industry is cruel and unloving, and that by adopting children, the new adoptive parents are supporting that industry. Today, many are working to end the adoption business, to rouse consciousness about the fates of adopted children. This is my only comfort when I think back at my first two years in Korea, and my abusive childhood here in Norway. I hope that it has not all been for nothing, that many will read this and help tell the world that we are too many who suffer the consequences of adoption.

I feel that my Appa would have been proud of me, if he had known that I am trying to change the world in this little way; to make it so that no more children will have to experience the ocean of tears and grief as we sisters did, and I still do. That no-one else will be separated for the rest of their lives.

My dear Appa: rest in peace. You probably died in 1976, when I was 8 years old here in Norway. If I had only known then that you had come to take me back home. I wonder if you would have recognized me; a very shy, frightened, sad little girl, carrying too many burdens on her shoulders. Would you have seen the sorrow in my eyes, would you have eased my pain, and would you have loved me as much as you did my other sisters? In my heart I know the answer, I will always treasure you.

~ Khara

Update: In the time since I wrote this post, I have found out that my father died in July of 1974, not 1976 as I previously thought, at which time I was five years old, not eight.
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