Monday, October 19, 2009

Day 1 in Korea: What I Learned About my Adoption...and Babies!

Day 1: We woke up and had breakfast in the hotel. It was great. Not only did they have the Western standard of bacon and eggs, they also had kimchi, pulgoki, and rice. Yum...

Mr. Chae picked us up and we headed up a mountain to see an overview of Seoul. It's really interesting because the city is so huge, yet it is wedged between mountains. Very beautiful.

Next, we headed to Gyeongbokgung Palace. This palace is from the last dynasty in Korea. It's really interesting, and if I got my facts straight, it lasted essentially until Japan colonized Korea in 1910. It sounds like a true story, anyway.

We then went through Bukchon Village. It's really neat because it's a historical village. If you ask me, it seems like it would be rather expensive to live there.

We even walked by the former home to the current president of Korea. So, it would be like living next to President Obama before he became president. Yeah, I doubt those homes come cheap.
The funny thing is that we saw these metal signs on the ground that said "photo spot"... they're basically telling you "This is a photo op!" I just love that.

Anyway, people say Bukchon Village is cool because it shows how Seoul is a city of contrast. Ancient coexisting with modern.

After that, we headed to Holt Children's Services to review my file.

We were already told that we would not be able to see the babies there because of swine flu. They didn't want to expose the babies to any of us.

We met with a young woman, Ms. Lee. She sat us down in a private room and reviewed my file with us. Surprisingly, I had a lot of questions and still got a little emotional over the whole ordeal. I really learned a lot about times and dates. It was important to me.
  • Born at 7:30 p.m. on October 13th. I never knew the time.
  • Born at "Moh Ja Bo Kohn" Center, or Mother/Child Welfare Center in Busan.
  • Went to a foster mother in Busan 2 days after I was born.
  • Came to Seoul and transferred to another foster mother, Ms. Kim on Feb. 7.
  • Ms. Kim was born in 1924 and had an elementary school aged daughter. She also took care of several children in her lifetime before dying in May of 1984 from cancer.
  • On my pre-flight evaluation, dated May 1, the Holt worker wrote that I, as a baby, "babbles a lot" and "cries if someone is not around her." Go figure. Anchor-in-training?!
  • My guardian in Korea was Mr. Kim (Kim, Dae Shick), the executive director of Holt. He was born in 1918. He was the one who had to officially sign off on my departure papers.
  • I flew to the U.S. one day after my pre-flight evaluation, May 2,1980.
  • I also learned that my birth mother had not been truthful about my relinquishment. She told the adoption agency she and my birth father had both agreed on my adoption. However, it was noted in 1998, that my birth father was surprised of my birth, let alone my adoption.
  • I came to the agency on July 3, 1998. The agency contacted my birth mother...and she and my birth father arrived in Seoul at the Holt office on July 6 to see me. At that time, though, I had already headed south towards Busan. We met on July 11th.
I feel so much better about what I learned! Little things that I never knew but always kind of wanted to. I feel blessed to have had two foster mothers because I know what kind of dedication it takes and how close those women usually feel towards the babies. I also feel bad that my birth mother lied to the agency because I'm sure that was extremely difficult for her. I think about her, as a woman, and how desperate and lonely she would have been. It makes me sad to think there are still women out there who have not seen a happy resolution... or that young women in today's society still feel like they have to hide their pregnancies or make adoption plans for their children. This doesn't happen as much in the states, but unwed mothers homes and secret pregnancies are still prevalent in Korea.

On a happier note, I saw a really cool picture of my mom and dad (Charles and Sharon) that they had taken in the 70s and sent to the adoption agency. I had never seen that picture of them before--not even in our old photo albums. That made me teary-eyed!

So, then I asked if we could see the babies. "I know about swine flu, but could we even peek through a window?" Ms. Lee didn't think so, and told us that so many people had died in Korea. But guess what, she asked... and my persuASIAN skillz paid off. We got to do it!!

We had to take our temperatures first, but after that, it was okayed. I think Jim had the most fun. He was super cute and seemed to be really touched by the whole ordeal. The great news about the babies was that all the ones in our room had been assigned already. And most are scheduled to come to the United States! It made my heart burst.

I fell in love with one little baby girl who was the youngest, but weighed the most. It was a little joke in the room among the nurses. She was such a doll, which you'll see in the video.

I wish I knew where these babies were going! I would write their families a letter and let them know how much their babies are cared for! Definitely the highlight of the trip so far.

Afterwards, we went to the Gwangjang Market Food Alley and looked at the Cheonggyecheon Stream. Mr. Chae told us the stream was a project by current president Lee Myung-bak. Apparently, Mr. Lee helped construct the stream as Seoul's mayor... and that launched his popularity and helped win the Presidential seat.

Also, the Gwangjang Market is really cool because it has the "food alley" where you can find long lines of benches, grills, and lots of hungry people. The old women try to get you to stop at their alley and eat some Korean pancakes...or octopus. We also drank this farmer's wine, called makali wine. It's a rice wine, that to me, tastes like a carbonated chardonnay. It's pretty good! And it goes down nicely with some Korean pancakes.

It's been a great day full of adventure. In fact, Jim is again, sleeping!


Frank and Natalie said...

Michelle! I LOVE your updates.
I would also like for you to bring the Tristan's back a sweet little baby (I think you and Jim need one too). Boy or girl... you pick. Please and thank you!

Your post really did bring tears to my eyes today.

Kim said...

Great photos! We should be headed to Korea in the next few months to meet our daughter! We are so excited - it was so nice of you to share your story! And since you were born at 7:30pm in Korea - it would still be Oct. 13th in the US! Our daughter was born at 1:35 pm on March 21 - I already thought that is is good because her birth date is the same here and there!

Jordan G said...

Glad you and Jim are having an excellent time! The photos, etc., are beautiful, and really show us what your experience is like (my favorite is Jim with the baby). I can't imagine how it feels for you to learn about your birth and very early life...just like I can't imagine not having you in our lives now. I'm so happy and thankful that you ended up in Springfield!

Jenn said...

Kim - great photos and wow so much information! I am sure your as exhausted as Jim! Keep sending us neat photos!

Natalie S said...

Looks like you and Jim might just be ready to be parents :)

Kathee Baird said...


What an amazing story. You know as I do that people have babies and don't treasure them.

You, were treasured and nurtured by many people.

My ex-husband was adopted too. His mother always told him that he was chosen because he is special, as are you. said...

Welcome home to your birth country! The Korean War Baby wishes you guys well, hope you enjoy your trip.
Call me if you have any problems, my wife is a cop. 010-4224-0773


Saras said...

Michelle, I am so touched. Thank you so much for sharing this. It's amazing to watch how you're going full circle. :) I love it. Share more!!!!!

Freeman Family Circus said...

Hi Michelle!! I am so proud to say that my son is in one of your videos!!!! (I am bawling as I type this!!!) He is the one in the basinet on the floor. His name is Seon-hong (Kaleb). Did you get to hold him? My arms are aching!! He will be our fifth child! We expect him home within this next month or so! I REALLY enjoyed reading your blog! My two SIL are adopted from Korea as well. Thank you for sharing your journey with us. It is very special to witness! Thank you for a glimpse of our porkchop!! Blessings from the Freemans!

Anonymous said...

one of the babies in the video mom is on the holt bb blog at

Michelle said...

Wow! I have more pictures and videos from that day... I posted them on Facebook! Are you on there. My husband and I are dying to know more about the Freeman family! blessings!

Freeman Family Circus said...

AHHHHH!!!! I'm dying to see more!! I sent you an invite to our Facebook. Don't expect much. I haven't been on there in a long time!!! I had to make up a new password!!! I sent you a couple messages there. Did you get my husband's email as well? We gave you all of our contact information. Be safe!!! Can't wait to read your updates after the kids are in bed!!

Anonymous said...

HI Michelle i am so glad you got in touch with one of the families but if it isn't to much work can you erase the comments with my emails in them because i have been getting alot of emails from people i don't know and i am only 16 so please and thank you