Dear Mom.

Dear Mom,

How are you handling COVID in Korea? I assume you still live in Korea, but I honestly do not know where you are living. I do not even know if you are still alive, actually. However, today I am going to assume you are both alive and living in Korea. I heard Korea is doing really well with the pandemic – probably the decades of habit in wearing a mask really helped. And the homogenous culture. In Louisville, Kentucky, it was as controlled as it could be for a little while. But then people started getting antsy and making “wearing a mask” a political statement or protest and our numbers have increased. My husband and I do not go out much. We were homebodies before the pandemic but we certainly are even more so now, uncomfortably so.

I suppose I’m small talking at the moment because I’m not sure where to start with my letter to you, and current events seems like a global thing to talk about. I have recently been involved in the adult adoptee community online. It has basically given me a purpose in life. Prior to the pandemic, I lived my life without any kind of community. I stopped going to church because it has been a painful process of understanding my time at my college ministry. It was a cult. I was in a cult. So I took a step back after being in several ministries for 13 years of my life.

So back to the adoptee community. Did you know there is such a thing? Where adoptees from all over the world use social media to communicate and build friendships? It’s amazing. If there was one thing that came from this pandemic, it was this community coming into my life. We talk about things that only other adoptees understand in similar ways. Abandonment. Rejection. Identity. Racism. Of course there are so many people who understand these issues, but adoptees GET these issues to our core.

What kind of community do you have in your life? Do you know any other birth moms? I know the culture of single mothers is so different in Korea and very much not accepted by society. I hate this about Korean culture. Ultimately, it seems to be a huge reason why mothers relinquish a child.

I hope to hear from you soon. Some days I have hope to meet you and other days, I feel the impossible weight of our separation. I hope you are well.

Love,


Kang So Yung, 강소영

I Miss That Person.

I have been searching for my birth family for 11 years. Actively searching for 11 years. In 2012, I lived in Korea and decided to pursue an adoptee’s last option – going on national television. For an adoptee who has no information, this is considered to be the last resort for our search.

I appeared on “I Miss That Person” on July 27, 2012. It was a popular show for anyone who had lost touch with someone in their life and wanted to reconnect. There were several adoptees who were interviewed on the show. The week before me, a Michigan adoptee reunited with his birth mother.

Much like any popular broadcast network, KBS (Korean Broadcasting System) likes a good show. Tears. Emotion. Drama. They told me it was okay if I cried. I had the feeling they were encouraging me to. But alas, I did not.

I felt nervous. Anxious. What if a family member was watching? What if someone put together some puzzle pieces of the past? I was sweating so bad, I was so nervous. I kept touching my face. Some makeup person kept powdering my face between breaks. I was nervous having to work with a translator. I was nervous about stumbling over my own words. I talk slow so I was also nervous about moving too slow for the hosts.

The interview went fine. It was as expected. I had 12 minutes with the hosts and translator. It was an adrenaline rush. It felt forever and flew by so quickly.

Nothing ever came from appearing on television. The KBS contact told me there were many callers after the show but no one had a solid piece of information on my family or my story. I left empty-handed and waited for anything to come from it. Weeks. Months. And all was forgotten.

Isn’t it something that I have to go on national television and share my entire adoption story just to attempt to gain some kind of information about my own life? It felt both liberating and embarrassing. But I did it. And I have been doing it over and over for 11 years. In online news outlets. Over the radio. In newspapers. Contacting my agency.

I would still like to return again and visit my hometown of Guri, located on the outskirts of Seoul. I have visited a couple times and would like to do more investigation with possibly some flyers.

I am unable to share my interview via YouTube due to copyright issues, however if you would like to watch them, I can email them to you, via DropBox. I have held on to these 3 short videos since 2012. I haven’t shared these to many but in lieu of watching “Closure” and “Little Fires Everywhere,” I wanted to share.

Chips.

“Why is your nose so flat?”

“You have a flat face!”

Look! I can have squinty eyes too!”

I grew up in private schools in the east end of Louisville, Kentucky. I was one of a couple minorities in my school, and I had four older [white] brothers that attended before me. I was held back in kindergarten, so I was a foot taller and a year older than everyone else in my class. I grew thick skin quickly, because it wasn’t that I noticed I was different. It was everyone else in my grade who noticed I was different. And as you know, kids are not the most tactful or mindful of your feelings. Thankfully, I was just plain bigger than all the other kids, so I did not get bullied or picked on too much. In fact, I think I immediately puffed up.

Honestly, I was a mean kid. I felt defensive. I felt offended. I felt embarrassed. I felt angry. I was a little overweight. I wore really baggy clothes (thank you, 90’s). I never got in trouble at school. Or at home, really. I had close friends but kept them at arm’s length. In the most pertinent milestones of my development, all I wanted to do was fit in.

Perhaps it was and is part of the depression, but often in social settings, I would feel this loneliness come over me. It would hit me right in the middle of hanging out with friends or dinner, or some kind of social setting. A zipped up emotional Katie that completely shut down. For most of my life, I never understood where it came from, why I felt it, or how to prevent it from happening, but then I started educating myself more about depression and realized it was just part of my process.

It took me a while to acknowledge the anger that lived inside me. From defending myself of things I could not change as a child to injustice toward people of color. It took even longer to figure out how to redirect it. And I am relearning how to deal with it as a married person, because it is different dealing with it alone. It is another thing when you have to deal with your anger with another human being.

I no longer walk in shame of what I look like and who I represent. I know my experiences have taught me to be an advocate for others who feel silenced and those who suffer from any kind of illness. I am slowly letting go of the chips off my shoulder.

Going “Home”

I was born at “Seoul Clinic” (the most vague name in the world), located in Kuri Town (구리), Namyangju County, Kyonggi Province. It takes about an hour and a half to get there by subway from Seoul Station in Seoul. My Korean name is Kang So Yung (강소영), however it is assumed my Korean name was given to me by an officer or someone at my adoption agency. This is actually a very common occurrence for adoptees – birthdays/date of birth were estimated or legal names were given by strangers. I was born 5 pounds and apparently loved taking baths (ironic, since I hate baths now).

A few days after I was born, my birth mother was no where to be found. She left me in the clinic. Alone. She did not register me. I was nameless and without my mother. Five days after I was born, I was taken to Namyangju County Office and then was taken to Holt Korea Reception Center, my adoption agency. I would love to know the strangers who transported me to each place. And I often wonder about my mother’s last thoughts as she left the hospital without me. What name did she have picked out for me?

Shortly after, I was placed with a foster family. These foster parents had four biological sons and had a good reputation of taking in many children preparing to be adopted. I was one of them. Ironic again, because unbeknownst to me, I would be adopted into a family with four biological sons to my adoptive parents as well.

I was going to be adopted quickly, however my eyelashes delayed my adoption – They were laying directly on my eyeball and there was much deliberation on whether or not I needed surgery. Thankfully, it worked itself out and after four months, I was flown to Memphis, TN along with other Korean adoptee babies.

My entire adoptive family was waiting for me in Memphis, TN. And then we drove home to Louisville, KY.