Dear Adoption, Don’t Cry for Me Korea
“They are lucky to have you!” people often express to me, when I tell them where I’m from. Born in South Korea, adopted by a loving family at the age of 2.5 years in 1982 makes me one of the international adoptees from overseas. Even my adoptive family share the same opinion, but to be quite frank it is rather the opposite.
My family is the world to me and they were pretty much my universe until I had a family of my own. My mother. My father. My sister. In Sweden. I have always considered myself lucky to have a family who did their best to make me feel loved and safe. Protecting me. Caring for me with my best interest at heart. They did it and still do it extremely well and I am eternally grateful to them.
Nevertheless, a heavy weight lies upon me; it didn’t occur to me until I returned to Korea as an adult at the age of 25. The first visit was regarding my Master’s thesis doing a field study in Korea. During my second stay, I was fortunate enough to be an intern at the Swedish Embassy in Seoul. I had a wonderful time both times! During both stays, I got to learn vastly about the Korean culture, food, language, attitude and much more. But the most important thing was that I got to learn a whole lot about myself. About who I am, where I come from, what I value and so forth.
Yet, during both my stays, every Korean I came across felt enormously ashamed when I told them I was adopted. They even apologized to me for it. It was very surprising to me; someone I never met before giving a sincere apology for something I never acknowledged as shameful. The more people I met, the more concerned I became. I realized there is a loud, clear and outspoken collective shamefulness in South Korea, regarding adoptees overseas…
Dearest Mother Korea, I am hereby writing you this letter to make sure that you understand one thing. Don’t feel ashamed for all children that you had to give up for adoption. You were suffering and recovering from a war from the early 1950s. You were far too busy rebuilding a country. There was no time to waste. No money to spend. No homes to provide because you, Mother Korea, had to provide a house for yourself. And the result is astonishing. The economic wonder that you have accomplished is one of a kind and to be recognized as one of the four tigers in South East Asia. You made it big time in a few generations.
No one could ever have predicted this economic growth in such a short time. The economic growth and well-being is the result of the hard work that you put in. However, your hard work and effort come with consequences. Unfortunately, one of them was the extremely large numbers of adoptees. Being one of more than 200 000 overseas adoptees, make us quite a large number. No doubt about that.
Dearest birth Mother, you did your very best and were unfortunate to make heartbroken decisions time and time again. There was absolutely no safety net for you to take care of me. You had nowhere to stay. And you could never consider getting married if they knew you had a baby. The forecast was doomed and so you gave me up for adoption. This kind of decision has consequences for us both, but in my view, it was the right decision. You did the right thing. I am telling you; do not cry for me Korea. Please do not be too hard on yourself. And above all don’t let others judge you because they have never walked in your shoes. And never will. They will, therefore accordingly never understand what strength and character you were made of. I therefore conclude this letter thanking you for everything and I mean everything.
I am doing really well and I wish you could have a glimpse into my life. It is full of wonderful people and love. I now have a family of my own. A beautiful little baby girl. And a man who loves me just the way I am. I have a job that I like. Wonderful colleagues. Great friends. Far too many close friends to have the time to see on a regular basis. Far too many persons who have been there for me, in both good times and in bad times. And above all, a relentless family who never gives up on me.
Because of the hard decision you had to make many years ago, I am where I am today. In a happy place. In a happy family. With a family of my own. Surrounded by love, friendship and much more.
Abandoned at only four weeks old in South Korea in June of 1980. Found outside a police station in Pusan. Estimated date of birth, May 2nd. Stayed at an orphanage for more than two years before being adopted to Sweden to the most loving and caring family. Mother, father and an elderly sister. Resides in Sweden. Mother of a two-year-old beautiful little girl.