Adoption Survivor

dealing with it

About this girl…

with 28 comments

In her first life, Suh Young Sook (name assigned her by an institution) became a Korean foundling.

In her second life, Suki (misinterpreted Korean nick-name) was adopted to America by a troubled and dysfunctional family, which she traded in to become a child bride and mother of two.  Later as a single mom, welfare mom, jack of all trades, university graduate, then restless chameleon, she explored the ideas of beauty, meaning, and existence at every reinvention.

In her third life, Leanne (because Koreans prefer her name to sound foreign) has relocated to her native country to measure what she lost, what she gained, and to explore the profound impact adoption has had not only on her, but all other intercountry transracial adoptees and the Korean nation.

_MG_0995At this juncture, Girl #4708 is an investigator uncovering many truths that can only be revealed by the discomfort of culture shock.   Always a feminist, she is becoming aware of the need for advocacy for unwed mothers and has learned a great deal about the cycle of adoption and how it is a symptom of larger social pathologies and a global mind-set of colonization between the privileged and the defeated.  By living in Korea’s oppressive Confuscian society, she has come to believe the international adoption solution in Korea contributes to arresting development of social services which preserve existing family structures.

Girl #4708 is beginning to understand the society she was sent from, the realities of the adjummas who sent their children away for a better life, the awe inspiring economic development, the many centuries of culture behind it, and the realities of women and mothers here today.  None of it is so black and white, and she wants to share that with the rest of the world, that adoption is radical surgery and its efficacy should be questioned and be resorted to only when there are absolutely no other options.   She also wants to assist those who have already adopted in understanding how profound the dichotomy between loss and gain can be, and the schizm between the adoptee’s public family life and inner private feelings.

Girl #4708 is seeking the beginning of her story, and to know her real name and birth date.  As she uncovers the stories and gets closer to the truth, she is disturbed and lonely, but happier than she’s ever been.

Written by girl4708

September 19, 2008 at 8:17 am

28 Responses

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  1. Bravo… great Blog, thanks for all that you say.


    October 29, 2008 at 5:13 pm

  2. Hi girl4708:

    I love your blog and the power of your words. I’m a Korean adoptee currently involved in a Conflict Resolution graduate program. For an Intercultural Conflict Resolution class, I am in a group addressing intercultural issues in transracial adoption. As we dislike the typical method of interview/questionnaire and also know how much writing and discussing people have been doing about adoption for decades, we have turned this project into a letter project, and wanted to invite you to participate, if you so choose. We know many people have already written and created many complicated works and reflections around these issues, and also want to acknowledge that they can’t be distilled into one letter. If you would be interested in sharing something you have already written with us instead, we’d, of course, welcome that, too.

    I’ve explained the project in further detail here:

    Thanks so much for your time.


    May 13, 2009 at 5:35 am

  3. Girl #4708, I found this website while researching adoption and I was deeply moved. I would like to know if you have uncovered any new information about your birth parents and possible sibling. Please post an update. I wish you the best of luck in your research and journey to find out the truth in your history.


    October 18, 2009 at 11:05 pm

  4. Thanks, Gavi

    My parents have either passed away, haven’t heard my pleas, or choose to ignore them. I’ve come to accept that it may be too late for me, but I feel peaceful about that: I did everything a human could do to find them.

    I had to hire a private detective who has possibly identified the whereabouts of girl #4709. However, I am having horrible writer’s block, since I have ONLY ONE CHANCE to make a first impression and explain what kind of person I am and that I mean her no harm.

    I hope the right words will come to me and that she is receptive to them. Informing someone about another life may be just as hard as informing someone about a death. In the family.

    So that’s where I’m at. Petrified. I like having hope that there is something more than just me. I’m kind of loathe to give that up should the letter be sent and I never get a reply.


    October 19, 2009 at 6:15 am

  5. Girl #4708, I am so sorry that you found no success in contacting your birthparents. I understand your hesitation and fear about reaching out to the woman who may have been #4709. You are right in that hearing from you may open up many wounds for your possible sibling. Yet, you know deep inside that you have to try to contact her if you are going to complete your journey. You have come so far. Keep writing your drafts, take your time, and the words will come to you. I understand also the huge loss you will experience if you do not hear back from her. The thought of reaching a deadend in your search for this sibling and having to give up this dream must be terrifying. I wish you the best as you ponder this incredible decision.

    Even if you do not reach the desired outcome, you have said that this search has given you peace and purpose and a happiness not known to you before. Your work is helping so many adoptees with a shared history of abuse and potential adoptive parents like myself who want to make the best decision for all involved.

    Please keep posting updates. I will be waiting to hear if you have any positive contact with someone with a link to your true history.


    October 20, 2009 at 3:27 am

  6. Thank for you for sharing so openly. I too am a Korean Adoptee who only recently has begun my search for identity. Thank you for your words. Please keep posting!


    November 4, 2009 at 7:31 pm

  7. Thank you for your blog and sharing what has happened to you. I have a two-year-old daughter from China and I’m going to do everything I can to make sure she grows up feeling loved, secure and, most of all, knowing she can talk about her first family, fears and hopes. I don’t feel at all threatened by her having a first family and I plan to help her search when she is ready.


    February 22, 2010 at 4:12 pm

  8. Lots of Great information in your post, I favorited your blog so I can visit again in the near future, Cheers

    Kayla Cronan

    February 25, 2010 at 9:56 pm

  9. Great blog. I half-heartedly did a birth parent search a few years ago but stopped. I felt uncomfortable in the adoption agency, talking to a worker about it. It feels like it’s my own private issue and I don’t even like talking to my wife about it. But I intend to start looking again one day. I think I consciously put the issue in the back of my mind.
    Keep us updated on how things develop and I hope to hear more from you.


    March 2, 2010 at 10:48 am

  10. Having read about the abuse you suffered at the hands of your adoptive Father (and the total emotoinal abuse of your adoptive Father), I can’t imagine that your friends can’t empathize with you, and that people told you to “get over it”. It hurts just to read what happened to your young self,and if people can’t empathize, then that’s their lack of humanity. Please know that there are still people in the world who read your words and even if they’ve never experienced the horror of it, can understand why it’s something you can’t just “get over”, and can grieve with you for the losses and abuse you suffered….so sorry….

    I hope it makes up in some small way, for the callous indifference of shallow people..


    March 7, 2010 at 12:07 pm

  11. Thanks for the responses, all…

    Update is the letter was returned. I will, at some point, hire a more thorough investigator to help me find her again. HOLT is still unapologetic about preventing me from giving her a welcoming note (through them as an intermediary) to “protect” her. Their policies are inhumane.

    As for my former friends who wanted me to “get over it.” They were responding to my mysterious PTSD behavior. At the time, I was unable to talk about everything here on the blog. They were impatient and irritated because they’d never met someone with so many seeming contradictions before. They were extremely sympathetic and empathic people towards others, but unable to stretch beyond the standard responses.

    I wouldn’t call them shallow: maybe self-absorbed and immature. It’s okay: their abandonment forced me to explore all of this, so I guess I should thank them.

    It’s nice to know I’m not the only one on this journey, and that some people actually do understand. You can’t get much deeper than identity. Losing that is unfathomable.


    April 9, 2010 at 1:27 am

  12. Were you in Ilsan, or a different orphanage in Korea? My husband was “found” when he was “3” and sent to live there in 1969/70 he stayed in the orphanage and in foster care until 1981 when he was finally adopted. Eventually I would like to visit Korea with him and our children, but I would like to get to know more about the past he left behind. When I read your other writing it made me desire to find out more about Holt and whether or not we was really abandoned and why it would have been so late in his life and not as a newborn.


    September 26, 2010 at 10:04 pm

  13. Good question! I was shuffled through some orphanage near Wonju for four days, and then sent to a Holt orphanage in Seoul – though my paperwork does not say Ilsan.

    When the plight of Amerasians was broadcast in America after the war, a huge outpouring of charity-minded sensation-minded requests for Korean children appeared. These post-war children were the first wave of Korean adoptions.

    After all the Amerasians were gone from Korea, there was now a huge vacuum of western demand for Asian children to fill, which Holt created, and which Holt found a way to re-purpose from its original war assistance efforts. And thus began this endless legacy of Korea exporting children. In the early 60’s most of the children who became orphans were not relinquished at birth, but were abandoned. They were abandoned en masse for many reasons, but mostly because of economic hardship, and this is the second wave of Korean adoptions. Having been abandoned outside IN THE MIDDLE OF WINTER, and having seen HUNDREDS of other similar cases from just my little county alone, I am convinced that these abandonments occurred BECAUSE of Holt’s canvassing for children: Everyone knew that abandoning children would equal adoption to the west where the children might get more rice and a better education. Nobody in those early days really knew the implications of international adoption.

    I am very angry about this. The way Holt “helped” Korea was by convincing families to deliver their children to a better life (break up their families), instead of giving real help so families in need could stay together.

    The assumption that Korean adoptees were given away as newborns is based upon later developments: from the 3rd wave of Korean adoptions to today where adoption was ONCE AGAIN re-purposed in order to meet demand. This was a result of Korea’s economic development programs where young people left their country homes to populate factories. Without family oversight and without birth control (still a problem) many illegitimate children were produced. Now that adoption was now an INSTITUTION in Korea, it became possible to offer adoption as a method of rejecting birth and erase family shame. Because adoption was an INSTITUTION in Korea, it became the defacto solution for families to force their daughters to erase family shame. Because there are no alternatives to support or allow young women with illegitimate children to thrive on their own in Korea, adoption and losing one’s child has become another way in which women are penalized. International adoption is so often an anti-feminist act. And the institution of adoption means that local governments never have to create viable social services for women and families, because International adoption releases the patriarchy of their responsibilities.

    Once Korean adoptees move to Korea and learn about this society, meet the unwed moms, grieving ajummas, and speak with Koreans who were NOT adopted, the magnanimity and charity of the west seems really self-serving.

    Your husband may have been abandoned during the transition between the 2nd and 3rd waves of Korean adoption, (too lazy to check exact dates) where older children (they were mostly all older children at first) were beginning to be passed over for a new supply of infants. His long stay at the orphanage might indicate that there was something that made him less adoptable (along with age) such as a scar or disability, etc. Ilsan has long been the orphanage where the unadoptable are cared for. And as with all orphans anywhere, after some age it is almost impossible to be desired for adoption. Fortunately, I’ve heard only good things about foster families in Korea…

    Adoptees in reunion often discover that their recorded abandonment histories are fabrications. (I’m assuming that’s why you put “found” in quotes) What most people don’t know is that abandonment is and was actually illegal in Korea, and so the abandoning parents had to mask their identity and the adoption agencies purposefully assisted in this when identity was known, in order to have a “legally” fully abandoned child. Adoption was also re-purposed by Korean society and utilized to lesson burdens and neutralize complicated family scenarios. Relinquishing was often not done by the parents, but by meddling family members, usually aunts or grandmothers. Since this was also illegal, adoption agency records have often indicated “abandonment” in these cases. They fail to mention when the children aren’t abandoned by their mothers…

    Almost every single file contains inconsistencies, errors, and omissions. And a lot are just outright fabrications. And to become adoptable, we are all turned into paper orphans, with fictitious family names, when actually we have living parents walking the planet, some of whom never intended us to become orphans. It’s a huge mess. That may never get cleaned up. And meanwhile, some of us, like me and your husband, are middle aged and our biological families are approaching the grave.

    Your husband will have a shocking and amazing time should he come to visit Korea. Assuming you are Caucasian, that will buffer him from some of the problems those of us who come alone looking Korean but knowing nothing Korean have to face.

    I hope I’ve been helpful and wish you and your family the best on this journey of discovery.


    September 27, 2010 at 2:17 am

  14. There seems to be little support for adoptees who are also dealing with surviving abuse, as well as very little info regarding statistics, if any at all. Do you happen to know how much this is even addressed within the adoptee community? I can find support for each issue separately, but I am a Korean adoptee and I’m also a survivor. I can no longer pretend these are separate issues. I have little opportunity to attend national adoptee gatherings, and have, up to this point, been reluctant to do so for fear of bringing to light these issues and how they would be received. Maybe these fears are unfounded and I would find tremendous support.

    I am sorry to hear that you were not able to locate your birth family. I have seriously considered searching at various times in my life, but have felt I’m better off leaving well enough alone. Being a survivor plays a huge role in that decision, my fear is discovering dysfunction in my bio family. Are you still living in S. Korea? I’ve only begun to realize attitudes towards women, adoptees, mixed races, it now causes conflicted emotions, rather than longing to reconnect with my place of birth.

    Wishing you well this holiday season.


    December 23, 2011 at 6:04 pm

  15. Hi Melinda!

    Apologies for taking so long to approve and reply to your comment – been preoccupied with adoption-related projects and moving…

    My experience with adoption abuse support is that acknowledgement is relegated mostly to privately shared narratives. Among the so-called “angry” adoptees there seems to be an extremely high proportion of abuse and/or dysfunction, which I believe is not talked about because that would be used to diminish their arguments for adoption reform. I think this is unfortunate that they aren’t more public with their private lives, but the fact of the matter is that the public likes to pathologize anyone who has suffered abuse and illogically attribute critics of the adoption industry to mal-adjustment, which is too bad, because a rational argument is a rational argument. And, a lot of adoptees are deeply concerned about their credentials and reputations. However, the fact that abused adoptees exist is damning in its own right, and adoption reform needs to be based on and address the reality of the situation, and it won’t be able to as long as we stay silent, for whatever reason. ADDED: And because so few adoptees make themselves available to speak to, it’s anybody’s guess how many were abused in some form.

    Re: statistics, there are none that I know of. Reporting abuse is problematic as the public tends to dismiss re-troactive reporting, attributing it to anything from sour grapes to false repressed memories to melodrama to…Statistics are usually based on reports to authorities and/or recorded tragic events. Never mind that nobody acknowledges or recognizes the added pressure adoptees have to build a publicly accepted facade of family normalcy which makes reporting as children even more difficult. And, as I’ve written about elsewhere, especially in the United States documentation is a problem, as each state in the Federation has different definitions of what comprises a family so it’s impossible to identify who are adopted or not. It is especially difficult to survey adoptees because we are a self-identified population, the majority of whom are grappling with basic identity issues in silent isolation. The adoptees who comprise the adoptee “community” are only a small sample of the whole population because only those who are actively exploring their identity issues are going to speak publicly about something that causes so much personal conflict. So, to gather statistics from the adoptee community is in itself limited. And, as you know, it is a minefield of political factions under a lot of influences of various stakeholders.

    You are right to be skeptical of your reception at such a disclosure. Revealing abuse has a polarizing effect among adoptees and it leaves one vulnerable to judgement as mal-adjusted. The reception I’ve gotten has mostly been at worst pity, which doesn’t feel good, or at best sympathy, which can feel awkward. For those who have a political agenda to promote adoption, the reception is typically dismissive, treating you like you are an anomaly. Amongst fellow abuse survivors there is usually a lack of response and changing of subject, but the topic gets re-introduced by them much much later when they have decided that your disclosure has allowed them to also disclose to you. Most other abused adoptees are also being cautious and proceed with great reservation. Or, there are those who are beyond that and they get excited to find a sister/brother in solidarity. Or, you get to the point I am at and you just don’t need to talk about it anymore.

    However, I think it’s like the old adage that you have to kiss a lot of toads to find a prince: finding someone who understands proves worth it in the long run. If you read about the first gathering and (if memory serves me correctly) one adoptee at the table of second wave of adoptees revealed their abuse, and the discussion turned to abuse as a topic. And it was some incredible figure like over half were abused, and they all broke down in tears, relieved to have finally spoken to others, some for the first time, and to know they were not alone. So it’s a risk one takes, but of value. You WILL find tremendous support amongst those who were abused. You will also find a lot of negative energy. You will sadly find that abuse has taken its toll and done great damage to some, and you must protect yourself from these unstable individuals. But most abused adoptees are socially adjusted and it feels good to compare stories. We all go through difficulties managing our feelings of betrayal and rage, some better than others. Some have found balance and are an inspiration. Some live in bitterness and will die in bitterness. I have spent my whole life repressing these feelings, the last four years working through them, and recently have rejected allowing them to rule my life.

    The hard part about meeting other abused adoptees (actually, any adoptees) is recognizing where they are at in their process and that it won’t be at the same place as yours, and that that’s okay. That’s been quite traumatic for us, finding kin and then realizing that despite finding one another, we are always essentially alone on our own paths. But that’s what it means to exist anyway. What matters is that we touch people and allow them to touch us, so that we do more than just survive and just exist, but live. I guess what I’m saying is other abused adoptees (and any adoptees) can be a comfort and a pain, but really we have to do the hard work on our own. For me personally, I compartmentalize these issues when thinking therapeutically, though I recognize where they overlap and do analyze them systemically. And I keep my interactions with other adoptees to a minimum, because it’s too easy to squander precious time with visiting adoptees and adoptees who are anesthetizing themselves from the hard personal work, because I recognize they are in different places in their process and it often disrupts my own, but it is nice to periodically connect.

    Searching is not for the faint of heart, to be sure. But it was also very valuable. The closest I got was talking to the partner of the deceased police officer that found me. And that brought me incredible peace – just to see a real person connected even indirectly to something that was previously just fiction. It placed me in space in time. My life was less a figment of my imagination after that. I may have an incomplete history, but at least it was something where previously there was nothing. It allowed me to face the dead end and let it go. I’m not sorry for any of it, even not finding family. I did all one can do and I am at peace with it being too late for me. I continue to work on birth family search issues though, because it’s not too late for others.

    I have talked to other adoptees who have uncovered all manner of dysfunctions in their bio families. Even in happy reunions there is always dysfunction. I mean, this is why we were turned into orphans. If not our mothers, it was their families. If not our fathers, it was our country. Our whole story is one long story of dysfunction. The world – is a dysfunctional place. There never was or will be the fantasy we hoped for, which is why it was fantasy by definition. But to be sure, there was some love there too. What you find will be what you find. It’s your own life and you have to set up your own clear boundaries. But you are still entitled to your own story.

    I think the great, great thing about searching and living in Korea has been the awful, gut-wrenching discovery process. Epic. All those forces you speak of and the whole spectrum of conflicting emotions that go with it – especially criticism and blame – are mighty and self-destructive foes to vanquish! Some people go through their whole lives not being able to name the enemy, yet this process makes us intimately aware of the enemy and all its names, as it’s in our faces every day. In that bizarre way, we are privileged. In a weird way, it’s almost addictive. A lot of adoptees live and leave and come back repeatedly. I’ve grown as a person because of this remarkable experience. I’ve gone from feeling assaulted every day to making peace with Korea. I did not reconnect with this place as a lost returning daughter, but accept it and created new and different connections. I am no longer afraid of Asians. I am also no longer burdened by being an adoptee. I am still righteous, but I’m no longer bitter and angry. It’s psychically dangerous, but worth it. I highly recommend it.

    Currently I am packing my belongings for my return back to the states. After three years, it will be nice to start again with all this behind me.

    Happy holidays to you, too!


    December 28, 2011 at 6:24 pm

  16. Hi Girl #4708,

    I am a well-educated Caucasian parent of three young biological children. I would like to have one more child, but for various reasons, I should not (and will not) go through another pregnancy. My husband and I have started thinking about becoming a fostadopt family. Through those classes – we have just started the process – I have been introduced to the idea of transracial adoption. I stumbled upon your blog via Google.

    I’m intrigued by the threads I have read regarding transracial adoption here. I have a lot to think about. My question is how much your experiences as a transracial adoptee may have been changed for the better with a more supportive family environment? It’s pure speculation, and perhaps a futile exercise. Regardless, I am curious.

    As a potential adoptive parent bringing a child out of foster care, I don’t care what the child looks like (race), although I understand that superficial looks (race) has a strong impact on sense of self for all of us.

    I’m very interested in your thoughts. Thank you.


    February 29, 2012 at 7:19 pm

  17. I’d like to add this to the latest post (another person just posted a similar question) at if you don’t mind. There you can get the opinions of other transracial adoptees. Let me know if this is okay with you.


    March 11, 2012 at 11:54 am

  18. if anyone knows of or has any information aboute a girl person that was born to a korean mother and a us arny father moon insook was the mother and I was the father cacote edward d date of her birth was in 1963 us army hospital soual korea. please contact me here. she was adopted through the american red cross to the states in the late seventhys so I was told.

    Her name was Poppie Ann Calcote

    October 12, 2012 at 4:36 am

  19. A few random searches about Korea social conundrum of adoption guided me to your blog – I found it instructive, moving and inspiring.

    My position on adoption is still equivocal but I just wanted to share a bit of my background here to let you know that I appreciate your writings very much.

    I was born in Seoul in 1976 and was sent to France a year later. My adoptive mother died only a year after the adoption so unfortunately I did not know her. I keep very close bounds with my adoptive father. Being mixed race (Black and Asian) and growing up in a white country, I often found myself in the uncomfortable position of sitting between three [sic] stools about my identity – I tried many stances, and not always the good ones.

    But despite growing up with some questions about my birthparents and my early story, I have never been actively searching for answers, until very recently…

    I am the father of two beautiful girls and my older daughter, 14, has been diagnosed with a very rare condition. She spent two weeks in hospital for various tests and to undergo an operation. Doctors at some point suspected an inherited genetic condition and I started to resent a feeling of guilt, helplessness and urgency because the only word I can put on my heritage and half hers is “unknown”.

    This is when the past comes back. You believe that you have gone through it all and that you are a strong grown up man that nothing can hurt. And suddenly you realize that what is missing will be missed. I always believed that founding a family would be the definitive answer to my broken past but the reality is that not answering a question is not an answer.

    I am not too sure where to go from here but your posts, opinion, stories and answers from your readers helped me a lot reflecting on my own experience.



    December 27, 2012 at 4:39 am

  20. Dear Fred,

    Forgive me – I had meant to reply and for some reason I thought I had.

    Thank you for sharing your story. It resonates with me because I, too, had no interest in searching for over four decades.

    That’s how profound things often are – they don’t present themselves as obvious or pressing, and we are so intent on the challenges in front of us that we miss their message. Ane nothing is more profound than identity. Nothing defines or distinguishes us more than the story of how we came into being and the legacy we perpetuate. To separate a person from their story/truth is fundamentally inhumane, in my opinion. It has nothing to do with arguments for or against adoption or best interests of children. It has everything to do with what is basic to humanity, what should be an inalienable right.

    Still, we must persist. But it can certainly effect our lives and – as you point out – your children and my children, who are also denied their legacy, their story, and a profound portion of their identity. And biological life.

    Thank you also for the closing of peace. I have much of that these days! After spending every day of five years deconstructing what happened, my process is fully spent. There’s nothing left but peace after that. Not even any enmity for my father! I think forgiveness has been a side effect of that process.

    If there’s anything I’ve learned during my stay in the country of my birth and my foray into adoption activism and social justice activism – a lesson lost on many – it’s that we are responsible for our own happiness and that we owe our authentic selves space in which to grow. You and I have arrested our development while founding our own families, but others arrest their development by only deconstructing. We adoptees must also construct. We must take this appreciation for the profound and learn to trust and find comfort in others, so we can grow; so our children can grow. So we can not only survive, but thrive both emotionally and spiritually.

    Now for some practical advice: It’s not for the faint of heart, but you might be able to leverage your daughter’s condition to gain indirect access / contact with your biological parents. You should get a statement from your physician stating that this intervention is necessary for your daughter’s health. Please read my guidelines for initiating birth family search:

    Also, as a transracial adoptee looking to deconstruct (a necessary part of the adoptee discovery/healing process) you may enjoy my other project: which is a public panel of adoptees of many races from many countries giving voice to issues without the interference of non-adopted opinion or agendas.

    I’m emailing you and you can contact me anytime.

    Girl 4708


    February 3, 2013 at 1:47 pm

  21. Hi Leanne,

    Thanks for posting your story. I am in the middle of a search for birth parents myself. It is sad but somewhat comforting to know how many of us adoptees are out there! I was born in Seoul, Korea in 1968. My older sister and I were adopted in 1974 to Arizona to a wonderful large Irish Catholic family. My birth mother is Korean and my father (no record) was African-American. I often wondered why it took so long for us to be either adopted or be put up for adoption. From the Holt records, apparently my birth mother was “servicing” soldiers for money but she had to have known that we would not look pure Korean so why not bundle us up and put us in the orphanage right away? I have my family registry and her name and date of birth. I also have the name of our assigned guardian and multiple other names on official papers in my records. I suppose at the time, mixed children (especially half African-American) weren’t that desirable?

    Holt couldn’t help me much because apparently now one needs an ID number to find a birth parent. No ID number on my family registry. Years ago, my sister wrote a letter to an address on the registry. She got a letter back in broken English with a tiny black and white photo of a Korean woman. Supposedly it was from our birth mother and translated by someone she knew. She talks of how she thinks of us her “babies” everyday and how she has gone on with her life. To be honest I am skeptical. I feel like it could have been written by anyone, just to keep us quiet.

    I have had a very good life and only recently have become interested in finding my birth parents because my mom died 2 years ago at age 87. I am married and I have an 8 year old daughter so I am more interested in knowing my heritage. I am thankful my 93 year old father is still living and clear minded.

    I am at a crossroads. How does one continue the search? I have all the identifying information needed and the Korean government makes it near impossible to do the research! I have recently received my results from the 23and ME ancestry test. I was interested and hopeful because I have cross matched with a possible 2nd cousin here in the US that my have a clue to who my father was. If he or anyone in his family is still living, I could find out more of what happened! I have communicated with some people already and I’m hoping this cousin emails me. As far as my ancestry goes, I am 50% East Asian (korean) 40% Sub-Saharan African and 10 percent European (Northern and Non-specific). I am fascinated with this knowledge. What is crazy is that I have 3rd to distant cousins on the Korean side that are living in the States. I was born Lee Lil Young. My sister was Lee, Nenda. We came from Hong Sung county- I think it must have been a public house or something. Then I went to Holt from Heung Sun Kun- I don’t know if that was an orphanage or not.

    So many questions! Such precious time that has gone by. Thanks for posting the transracial eyes forum. I will look into it! I wish you the best in your search.



    April 26, 2013 at 4:50 am

  22. OMG. I’ve lost this twice and will attempt a third time!

    Hi Lisa,

    Thanks for your comments. I will try to enlighten you as best I can, but of course, a lot of it is speculation since I don’t have all the information. The rest is kind of just knowledge I’ve picked up over the years that I share everywhere else and being resourceful.

    You are very lucky to have so much information! Very few of us have actual family registries with names and relatives and addresses…

    It is not surprising you were in an orphanage so long. 1) people adopting generally want infants, 2) people adopting generally don’t want sibling groups, and 3) people adopting at that time were generally white and didn’t want children who were black.

    From what I’ve learned from reunion stories, the child’s social history as recorded by the adoption agencies regarding relinquishment is generally true – true in the broadest sense of the word. A lot of messy details were left out, and anything that could make the adoption agency look ugly was left out. Occasionally overly zealous caseworkers glossed over minor details like aunts and grandmothers relinquishing on behalf of unwilling mothers. You know, minor things like that. But the vast majority are true, and their vagueness is convenient and protective. They had a lot of cases to process and were in a hurry.

    Assigned guardians are meaningless. We all had those. It was just a paper formality so we could be made legally adoptable.

    It is not true that an ID number is required to find family. It is just easier that way, Police investigators with special certification are allowed access to the citizen database and can do name searches. A name search may turn up several hundred names, because name combinations are not that unique in Korea, so they must be correlated for age, location, sex, etc. For each positive result, a discreet letter must be sent and the investigator can only hope that the person is willing to risk possibly exposing themselves by responding. This type of work is not officially sanctioned by the police department, must be performed on their own time, and puts the investigator at personal liability, but there are many stories of adoptees who have convinced them to do so. Only one police officer in all Korea is a full time separated family investigator, but that is officially for Korean citizens who have filed a missing persons report. He helps adoptees whenever he can but of course has a huge backlog and is under intense pressure and scrutiny. Anyway – it IS possible to ask for a name search at larger police stations.

    Family registries typically don’t have citizen ID numbers on them.
    Personally, I would not be so skeptical of the letter your sister received. Adoption agencies do not have the time to fabricate such things and create ruses like that. They can’t handle the case loads they have. They especially wouldn’t have gone to the trouble to translate anything for a birth mother. One has to harass them into spending time or money on any translation services…I believe the letter is from your mother. At worse, the cases could have been mixed up and she was writing to some other child. But I think that is your best lead and you should pursue finding her again. DNA testing could rule out if it’s a mixed up case.

    I would suggest you go public with your story on Korean daytime reality t.v. like I did. It is, historically, the most effective way for us older adoptees to connect with our very aging biological parents and middle-aged families. There are very few reunions documented for adoptees our age, so I would also suggest managing your expectations. In addition, I now advise people to not only think you are searching for mothers – the odds are much more likely that you will meet aunts, uncles, missing siblings, etc. You can try and apply for a first trip home scholarship through GOA’L or ask them to assist you in a birth family search and to be put on the waiting list for KBS’s “I Miss That Person” show. If you can not make it to Korea, they also can set up remote telecasts via skype. GOA’L has been having structural and staffing difficulties the past few years so services are not what they once were, but the first trip home program is still quite strong and presumably well funded. And if you go there they can hook you up with a volunteer translator. Or, you can try what I did not because I could not afford it: advertising in newspapers. Of course, just like here newspapers are less and less relevant.

    As for ancestry mapping through DNA: I’m not convinced it’s all that useful in most cases. Most African American have some blood of European decent so that doesn’t really help. In my friend’s case, her story would make more sense if she was the product of a Japanese businessman. In a case like that, ancestry mapping could narrow the field down quite a bit. In addition, DNA banks are not comprehensive yet. A friend has started Korea Reconnect, which is a Korean specific search registry and eventually a DNA bank, because basically all registries by all the adoption agencies and the government to date suck. Even in its infancy, this one is 100 times better. All adoptees in search should take the time to register there so it can become the default place Koreans search.

    Now, here’s some hopefully helpful information for you: Heung Sun Kun is not a public house or orphanage. Heung Sun Kun IS Hong Sung County IS 홍성군. (Kun is Gun is County) That county is in Chungcheongnam-do (Do is Province), which is a long ways away from Seoul. I am thinking your mom tried to escape the profession and raise you in the country and perhaps she had family living there. OR, another very likely and common story is she had you and your sister and placed you with her mother in the country. So some circumstance may have come up where your grandmother could no longer care for you and you were placed in an orphanage at that time.

    Typically, children in long term care stayed in local orphanages and went to Holt’s Seoul orphanage when they were about to be sent abroad or if they were difficult to adopt. You can look for orphanages in Chungcheongnam-do at the Korean War Children’s Memorial site here: That’s where I went when Holt told me they couldn’t give me a list of orphanages in the area where I was found and that they didn’t know what orphanages they got their children from back then. (lazy bastards) I found four in the area I came from and was able to visit. Sometimes, not all, but sometimes, adoptees are able to obtain more documentation from the orphanage they stayed at that was not sent on to Holt. And for long term stays like yourself, you are typically recorded in their log-books, so you can narrow down the dates of when you arrived there and maybe more details.

    You’ve got A LOT of information for an older adoptee! Find the woman who wrote that letter – and try and narrow down orphanages in Chuncheongnam-do near Hong Sun Gun. You’re bound to at least see your name in a book there, if not more info. Best of luck on your search!


    April 27, 2013 at 3:17 am

  23. Also, any Korean having anything translated into English is a rare, expensive and time-consuming proposition. And having photos printed and sent abroad is also not so common. The person who wrote that letter cared a great deal and is probably, truly, the mother of two children relinquished… I would certainly pursue that address again. The property may still be in the family. Country properties don’t change hands as often as they do in the city.


    April 27, 2013 at 3:31 am

  24. I’ve just begun reading your blog. I found you via a Google search for “Korean Adoptee Abuse.” I’ve only read your post of questions after the Woody Allen press, this introduction and “Losing Two Mothers.” Tears effortlessly fall from my eyes when I read your words. Although our lives are of course so different, I have never met anybody who has a life so familiar. I am a Korean adoptee, abused by two older men in my adoptive family, one being my father. In my newer, modern, adoptee world (I was adopted mid-80s) I was part of the Prozac nation, institutions, emergency shelters, squeaky clean. With money and pills, I was washed clean of my trauma as a teenager so our family could be a suburban, multicultural, gem.

    As an adult, I’ve decided to try to be the very best daughter I can be. I show up for every holiday, I force myself to phone and I act as if I am well. I do this because they are emotionally fragile, easily broken, survivors of abuse themselves, too shallow to empathize but mostly because I do love them. Very much. But no matter how hard I fake it, no matter how much I genuinely want to, I will never feel comfortable around them, sincerely warm in my feelings for them nor ever trust them.

    At home, I am a broken mess. My PTSD, anxieties, addictions, alcoholism and self-harm continue to strangle and drown me, preventing me from a normal life, a steady job, going to school or making friends. I’ve mangled and ruined three long term relationships. I still pang for someone I am in love with, whom I attached to feverishly as adoptees sometimes do but who left me for someone with sanity and how can I blame him? I have nobody to talk to. I often contemplate suicide but I couldn’t do that to my adoptive parents, or my very loyal pup whom I feel is truly my only family member. When I have tried to explain any portion of my pain to my one and closest friend, she always supplies a simple solution (ie. just talk to your parents, just be confident and you’ll make friends, everyone doesn’t like some part of their body). I have just begun my search for my birth family and I am already heartbroken at the prospect. My birth mother was unwed, which means Holt-Korea will unlikely allow me to contact her.

    Thank you for being brave and writing your blog. I am sorry if you feel like I am burdening you but from the few paragraphs I’ve read my entire life is changed. I have met Korean adoptees before but none who were willing to share anything deep with me. I feel so alone every day. I wish I wasn’t adopted here into this life and yet the pressures on young people of Korea is just as damning, if not more. It makes me feel as if I shouldn’t have been born at all and that is just so selfish, to take life for granted. Life is beautiful but I cannot bask in any of its light. I dream of going to Korea, knowing well it will not be a homecoming but another realization of not fitting in. Still, maybe if I can find some pieces of my past I can be just a little less broken.


    October 1, 2014 at 9:25 am

  25. Thank you for sharing some of your story. I think sharing is really helpful for everyone. And you do it well.

    I wouldn’t exactly call myself brave. My parents both passed away and I’ve no stomach to put up with the family I’m estranged from. In that sense, you are much braver and tougher than I.

    My public confrontation with my issues has been therapeutic for me and writing was necessary as the only tool I had left to try and untangle what seemed too overwhelming to figure out. At the time (and still today) there is, to my mind, very little exploration of those gray areas that are so confusing. I found myself chafing using the word “abuse” and also knew that I had physical tension whenever “adoption” came up. Likewise, I also didn’t feel comfortable fully demonizing all the misguided good intentions gone awry. I have a tendency towards black and white thinking and yet intellectually view that as a sign of immaturity. I want to be a better human than that. I want to grow and evolve. I want to not be defined by this thing that was done to me, or to let it rule my life. And I feel that starts with trying to understand all parties fairly.

    I guess that’s why I’m bothering to respond — I like how fair and honest you are about what happened to you, the aftermath you live with, and how you handle it.

    Best wishes to you on your search. Manage your expectations, and know that you can never truly go home again, even if you do find something. But you CAN find peace through the process, even if you find nothing. We need to process. It’s a lot. No rose colored glasses are going to eliminate that or make it any easier. But I think it’s worth it. Hardest thing I’ve ever done.

    If you’d like to follow my journey/search and stay in Korea, you can read my blog:

    It’s expository, messy, and sometimes embarrassing; my views and positions change a lot — Primarily because I began quite willing to demonize and blame what I didn’t understand, or tried to embrace some cultural identity that wasn’t mine, but ended up finding and embracing some of the nuances. It’s a document of a person changing and best read in chronological order. Korea starts in February 2008. Hope it helps some.


    October 2, 2014 at 8:46 am

  26. My name is Allen Thomas and I am looking for my son and daughter, whom I’ve not seen since they were lost to me over 40 years ago. I was an American soldier in South Korea, met and married their mother, had our twins, and then lost them when I had to return stateside and she would not return with me, or allow me to take the children. By the time I was able to make arrangements to go back for the children and fight for custody, she had adopted them out and would not give me any information regarding their whereabouts. I have been searching for decades, unsuccessfully; but have decided that perhaps Facebook could help me to find them. Please pass this around and help me find my children. Thank you. Fraternal twins – boy & girl – born in Seoul, Korea, at Songnim Gynaecology, Namyong-dong, Seoul, on September 10, 1967. The twins were adopted out by their mother in the late 1970’s. Their names were James Allen Thomas and Sandia Lynn Thomas. The mother’s name was Sun Kun Thomas, born December 5, 1942. Father, Allen Thomas, was U.S. Army. We have photo’s, birth certificates, and other legal documents. Would very much like to find both children.

    Alan Thomas

    May 7, 2015 at 12:36 pm

  27. I am not a adoptee, but I can not even find the words to express my sorrow for what happened to you and so many of the adoptees. I found this site after seeing this heroic lady on a YouTube Korean Global Adoption Link. I was just trying to find out if anything ever came to light? When I searched, I was able to find this website but nothing else. It is now January 2021, and there has been no comments on this website since 2015. Furthermore, I have not been able to find any other updated information about her situation. Did she ever submit DNA testing to numerous family tree agencies? I would even consider donating my time to help her search if I can be of any service. If anyone knows what happened, then please let me know.

    Mike Auerback

    January 7, 2021 at 2:18 am

  28. Hello Mike,

    Thank you so much for your concern, interest, and offers of assistance. I stopped writing because I overwrote and thus didn’t need to anymore! Highly recommended and therapeutic.

    The Korean tv station helped me obtain Girl 4709’s name and a friend did some super sleuthing and we found her living in Washington State. We were not a DNA match, but had remarkably parallel lives. Almost 50, I was the first adoptee she’d ever met. Holt told me she didn’t return their call so she must not want to meet. She said she called and said she was interested. We all had high hopes and anxiety and a little disappointment as well as relief. We have not kept in contact, as I think it was a lot to process. If you’re interested in reading about the search, finding and meeting her you can type in Kim Sook Ja in the search icon at the top of my other blog about moving to Korea and living there 4 years. It’s a true blog. A journal. Not essays like this. It was a difficult and important experience.

    I’ve also had another false match, one coming from a possible brother. Also not a DNA match. He was terribly disappointed. I suggested he contact Girl 4709 and he said she didn’t match the date like I did. Sometimes I want to rip out my hair because Koreans can not get it through their heads that orphan names and birthdays are often fabricated. One Korean man I went on a date with insisted that it should be easy to find my family since SUH was an uncommon last name. I told him previously that it says right on the paperwork that name was assigned. But why would an institution lie? No. Your name was probably Suh. We didn’t go on more dates after that.

    I am registered with two DNA databases and have applied to GEDmatch and also the Korean consulate for Korea’s database (but have gotten no response) The problem is there is no international database and Koreans are the most dispersed diaspora on the planet. A second cousin once removed doesn’t think it’s a close enough match to bother giving me his family tree.

    I returned to the states in 2013 and have just been staying low and making a living. I do not participate in adoptee anything. In 2016 I was diagnosed with Asperger’s/Autism. I love and appreciate that aspect of my identity. I’m really okay with just being without family and having made my own. I’m anxiously impatient for retirement and obsessively crafting how that will look in the future.

    Life is mostly good.


    January 7, 2021 at 10:50 am

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