Last night (a random night in 2009) I received an email from my younger brother in Korea, all it said was ‘Sister…’ it almost made me cry and made me want to share my little, but quite touching story with you.
I wrote this post back in 2009 and reposting it here in its original version…
I was born in Seoul, South Korea in 1981 and I came to Denmark in ’82 together with my older brother who was 3.5 years old, I was around 18 months old. During that time, I had had three ‘sets of parents’. My biological parents, the caretakers at the orphanage and my Danish parents.
I remember being a kid, asking my dad about my “real mom” and he told me that she had died…that’s how I remembered it. Growing up in Denmark, I never really thought about my “real mom” or my “real dad”, except for the times when I would get really mad at my parents and tell them that I wish I had stayed in Korea, but I guess all kids have gone through these phases at some point growing up – and I always regretted saying it again.
This is me in my traditional “Korean Hanbok” dress that I had brought from Korea, I’m probably around 6 years old in this picture.
Three years later, I got a younger brother, he came home from the hospital with my mom in ’85. Growing up among two brothers, of course I always wanted to have a sister.
Eventually, years later, I went on to live with my brother in Copenhagen and one evening, sitting in the kitchen, my brother gave me a white envelope, I looked inside and found a letter and a photograph of a Korean man, holding a little girl and an older boy standing next to him. I had no clue who this man was, but then I recognised the face of my brother as a kid – 3 years old. The picture was of course my biological dad holding me on his arm and my brother standing next to him, I was speechless.
It turned out that my brother had contacted the adoption agency in Denmark and received this letter, that had been sent to us right after we came to Denmark in ’82, but because of regulations, the adoption agency weren’t allowed to notify us until the age of 18. This was in the summer of 2005, I told my brother: I never thought that you wanted to search for our biological parents? and he replied: I am missing 3 years of my life…you’re only missing 18 months and so I immediately understood why.
At that time my brother was studying at Copenhagen Business School and had done a semester exchange in Seoul 6 months earlier – and now he was going back to visit, he told me that he intended to look for our biological dad because now he knew his name and he had friends who could help him! I was of course happy about his decision.
Later, that summer, my brother took off and I stayed in Copenhagen, but only a few days after his arrival in Seoul, I received an email from him, saying that he had found our biological dad and he was going to meet him in these coming days….I was……I can’t remember exactly how I felt, but I remember thinking…I HAVE to go to Seoul as well! It was all very strange and it all happened so quickly. I had never in my life thought about searching for my roots, but it touched me in a way – words cannot even express.
I met my biological dad on a Sunday in the Gangnam district of central Seoul, he looked like a typical Korean man, black hair, and nicely dressed. I could tell from the first moment, that I resembled him in a way, his face and the way he walked. The first thing he did, was to walk up to me and take my hand and I whispered to my brother why do I have to hold his hand? He replied because you are still his little girl! I wasn’t too happy about the situation because it made me feel really uncomfortable, having to hold a stranger’s hand. To me he was just a stranger.
Luckily, my brother had already met him days before, so he was a bit more relaxed than me. We couldn’t really communicate because he spoke no English and my Korean was limited to: “I don’t speak Korean, do you speak English?” (hanguk mal mo-taeyo, yong-o-haseyo?) He kept saying my Korean name which is: “Pu-Ra” (pronounced bora) and he kept starring at me with a look in which, I couldn’t tell, was expressing happiness over sadness (perhaps guilt?!)
Later that day, I of course called my parents to tell them about the meeting and I clearly remember my mom saying it’s only the tip of the iceberg – and my mom was right, she’s always been right about these things, (she is indeed a very wise woman) because how could she know that meeting my biological dad, was only the beginning of what was about to happen….?!
It turned out that my biological dad had a big family, including a niece who spoke good english, she remembered us from when she was around 10 years old. One day you were gone, she said, but we never talked about it.
My dad had gotten separated from my mom not long after my birth and he was left alone with me and my brother and he didn’t think that he could take care of us, so he sent us to the ‘KSS Receiving Home’ in Seoul to put us up for adoption. My aunt, the wife of my dad’s brother, told me that she was against the adoption and that she had tried to pick us up from the orphanage, however, apparently it was too late and because the papers had already been signed, there was nothing she could do, instead she sent a letter to the Danish adoption agency with her phone number – and she had for good reasons kept the same number for over 20 years, just in case that one day, she would receive a phone call – and she did!
During my stay in Seoul, I ended up staying a couple of days with my dad and my cousin, despite communication trouble, it was great getting to know my biological family, very strange – a very surreal situation, but I was extremely happy to meet them.
Back home in Denmark, I kept regular contact with my cousin and she said that her mom (my aunt) had been trying to look for our biological mom as well, during my first visit, I had asked my dad about her, but he said that he didn’t know anything about her, not even if she was still alive. I still can’t figure out if he was telling the truth or not…it felt as if he lied, even with his very bad English, I could tell something was off…however…I still thought that she was dead.