Meeting My First Biological Sibling – My Korean Adoptee Adventure

March 8, 2015 Other, Personal Work

Dan-aka-DanWhat a huge 6 months this has been, I almost don’t know where to begin.  Last year, the Korean American Adoptee Musician and Rapper Dan Matthews made a documentary called “akaDAN.”  Many of you may have heard about it or even see it and if you haven’t you need to.  Click this link for the 10 part YouTube series.  Each part is 8-16 minutes long, but well worth the watch.  It was funny, emotional, and showed a lot of amazing things about the Korean culture and the adopted community.

This documentary convinced me to do a little more research into my past and some statistics of the Korean adoption community.  In the last 14 years, about 20,000 South Korean children have been adopted to the US.  You might think that’s a fairly large number, but now let’s compare to the period of 1970-1989.  About 110,000 Korean babies were adopted overseas to countries all over the world in that 20 year surge.  Yep, I was 1 of 110,000 babies.  Why the surge?  Without going too much into detail and all the foreign policy, the general information I read online was that there was a success in the adoptions during the 1960’s domestically and internationally that led to rapid expansion. In the 1970’s this diminished, causing a lot of infant care centers and foster houses to close which meant they needed to increase international adoptions and rely more on those versus the domestic ones. Also a new organization was formed, the Eastern Child Welfare Society which helped find homes for many of the children, including myself who was adopted through the US affiliate Dillion International.

cropped-dillon-logo-mast

Through Dillion International, I arrived to my loving family in Oklahoma at the age of 5.5 months old.  My sister Amy was also adopted through the same agency, although not blood related. Nevertheless, we grew up happy, safe, and very fortunate.  I love my sister and my parents, and wouldn’t trade anything for the opportunities I had.  They raised me with love and support to the man I have become. My parents and sister are amazing, and feel truly lucky in the life I’ve lived. Only last year did I hear some horror stories of a few Korean Adoptees getting adopted into families as servants and essentially slaves.  A sad and probably abusive environment which I can’t even imagine.

familySo back to 2014, and I’ve been married to my wonderful wife Allison for 4 years who asks me if I’d like to search for my family too.  With such an inspirational story of akaDAN, I started wondering about it more and more.  I had always wondered, always been curious, but never needing anything serious to push me towards searching.  I have a wonderful family here, and now with Allison’s family too.  I didn’t need closure, or answers to emotional holes in my past. I was happy where I am, and who I have become.  And I do believe greatly in the nature vs. nurture concept, as I see a lot of similarities between myself and my parents now.  Yes, I wanted to visit Korea and learn more about my heritage, but as far as I knew, there wasn’t much more.  Allison suggested I find out mainly for medical history purposes at least, and after speaking with Dillion international, I found out that when adoptees search for their history, there is actually only a 10% chance they’ll find something out and reconnect with their families.  So I made the leap last August, and filled out the paperwork.  Dillion International was very helpful and very responsive.

Only after a few months that I filled out the paperwork and sent in a letter and photo to the agency that they got a response from Korea.  It was such big news that my representative from Dillion had to call me directly instead of email.  The letter and photo was received in Korea by the agency and sent to the last household address and phone number they had.  Someone responded instantly.  It was my brother!!!  Wow, I have a brother!  I’d never had a brother before.  This was starting out very interesting.  Then she continued.  And you have 5 sisters!!!!!!   WHAT?!?!?  Yes, I was the 7th and youngest child ranging in about 25 years of ages.  And what’s more important, they have always known about me and wondered where I was.  A photo was sent, and a familiar looking face peered back at me with my brother and his wife, my biological parents, and his daughter at her first birthday.  I’ll pause here while your mouth closes….

MyBirthParentsBrother

Now comes the unfortunate part, both my biological parents have already passed away.  My father in the late 90’s and my mother only 3 years ago.  This sad news was almost expected as I am not a young pup anymore, and I knew these odds searching at such a later time in my life.  Barely missing the opportunity to ease my biological mothers curiosity and concerns about my wellbeing is definitely something that falls into the category of unfortunate timing.  From what I learned recently, this was even one of the things she requested from my siblings in the last weeks of her life.  Find your baby brother.  I sent my condolences to the family in a reply, along with a few more photos and stories.  As my email was sent out to the agency again, reconnections of 6 new siblings and their children as well, started to sink in.

Months later, after the holidays had passed, I got another letter. This time more photos, more information.  So much to soak in, so much to read.  They were so excited that they had reconnected and all wanted to meet me of course.  Although none of them speak any English, the agency had been translating stuff for now.  I had talked with a friend here to help me with any future communications, and I have even been pressured by my wife to learn a little Korean.  Rosetta stone, here I come.

Siblings

So after seeing a photo of all my siblings together and 1 of my brother in laws, I get a response stating that my youngest sister is coming to the US.  Conveniently, she has a Herbalife Convention in Los Angeles and has made arrangements to come out.  She really wants to meet me and had her close friend with her to translate for us.  So yesterday I went out to the LA Live area where she was staying and met her and her husband for the first time.  Allison accompanied me and we sat and had coffee and juices for 2 hours.  We talked about everything that we could, the past, the family, the jobs, and more.  She asked questions about if I truly was raised in a happy family, as that was one of her mother and siblings concerns.  She wanted to know my hobbies, and I wanted to know more about the family.  She kept saying it was weird looking at me, as it was like looking at her older brother only younger.  We talked about other similarities including that she and her husband both played competitive Table Tennis at one point, just as I did when I was young.  It was a great first meeting and she commented that the rest of the family was very jealous that they weren’t there to meet me as well.  They hoped I can come visit to Korea someday soon, as they said they have so much to show me, feed me, and share with me.

KyoungMee Sister_brotherinlaw

So after 38 years of being in the dark about my past, a little documentary and a push from my wife has created 6 months of emotional and fascinating outcomes that I never expected.  Old stories, new connections, and a whole lot of things to come.  No, I’m not moving to Korea.  I still love my family very much.  They support me in all of my research and findings and are just as curious as I am about this new information.  I don’t blame or have any ill-feelings towards my biological parents at all.  In fact, I greatly appreciate what they did and had to do by sending me off to a life of love and happiness here.  I can’t even imagine how hard that must have been.  But times were hard, and sometimes it’s the best decision for the greater good. I can see that my biological family has a lot of love and loyalty. They love each other, their kids, and even their long lost baby brother.