Archive for June 2009
So yesterday, the t.v. station sent me a still from the documentary.
This is the photo of me, Suh Yung Sook, on my log book entry, next to the photo of Kim Sook Ja. Both of us were recorded as coming from the same city, on the same day, and ATYPICALLY we were both entered on the same document. Holt Korea says we couldn’t possibly be sisters, because we have different family names – however, the document says our names were made up.
Holt Korea produced this photo of the other girl at our meeting in Seoul, presumably to prove to me that she was not my twin, because it says on that document we are the same age. (which I always thought had pretty low odds anyway) But instead of discouraging me, it made me think there was an even greater possibility we could be siblings. What do you think?
My daughter thinks there might also a resemblance between both of us and my son…
According to the birthdates Holt gave us, I am six months OLDER than Kim Sook Ja, so they say we “couldn’t possibly” be sisters, even though on the earliest document from Wonju, it says we are the same age. Upon closer inspection, my age appears to have been re-written/traced-over/changed. It is CLEAR from these photos that I “couldn’t possibly” be older than Kim Sook Ja! What is OBVIOUS, though, is that my birth date was grossly off target (probably a full year off), which is a ludicrous degree: a degree that would only be lost on some adopting parent ordering a child sight un-seen.
Holt has repeatedly tried to explain away the Wonju document and stood behind the log book entries’ data as written, even as it becomes revealed that the data has such serious and obvious discrepencies.
Holt tried NOT to help me search for Kim Sook Ja and only acquiesed under pressure from me about going public.
Holt, who says they found her and called her, says she has not replied and is therefore uninterested in finding out whether or not we are siblings.
Did Holt tell her about the discrepancies between the Wonju document and the log book entries? I bet they didn’t.
Did Holt pass along any information about me or that I merely wanted to know the truth? NO. And they wouldn’t even let me send her a brief note with my friendly sentiments.
On a cold March day in 1966, two little girls began a journey which would change their lives forever. That day was the day they were transferred to an orphanage to begin their life as orphans, to be adopted and sent away to foreign lands with foreign people.
You and I were together that day. You and I were together the next four days and possibly the next nine months. Were we together prior to that day? Only meeting can rule out the remote possibility of relations undocumented.
You are the only living person I know who has anything to do with my past and I would at the very least like to contact you, however you feel comfortable. We are sisters in solidarity, and I would be interested in hearing how you’ve fared in life.
Holt defines any self representation by me as CONTACT, even though I still don’t know her name or where she is. They merely told her some adoptee thought she was their sister, and left it to her to decide if she wanted CONTACT (i.e., viewing the above note), even though they failed to provide her with the full story. To me that note is an INVITATION to contact, handed off by a third party. These semantics have done possibly irreparable damage.
Holt did an excellent job scaring her away. This is how it is for us adoptees, being forced to have the same people who brokered our adoption be the only ones with access to our files and the only ones who can facilitate contact. Now tell me that isn’t a CONFLICT OF INTEREST?
They say this is to protect the other adoptee.
I say it is to protect themselves from being exposed as breaking up a sibling goup.
And you know what? After moving to Korea, I can tell you that all Asians do not look alike, and that if unrelated and the sharing of abandonment date, place, and documents were really as random as they say, one would expect the two children pictured above to look radically diffferent.
At this point, I of course don’t want to meet her if she doesn’t want to. But I would like to prove conclusively that we are or are not related, just so I know what’s true and not true about this chapter in my life. We can meet in a DNA testing lab – that’s all I need from her at this point. Of course I would be interested in hearing how she fared, but just the truth is enough. And Holt should have provided her with all the information they had, so she could have made an INFORMED decision about receiving contact from me.
Wouldn’t anybody in my circumstance want the truth? Does the way Holt has dealt with my case resemble the actions of people who purport to CARE ABOUT FAMILIES?
How many other Korean adoptees were split up for ease of sale and they are none the wiser? Holt says they have nothing to hide. But even if they don’t, I believe their actions speak louder than their words, and they are afraid that if I find Kim Sook Ja and we are sisters, then it will expose them as an organization that SEPARATES families in order to create new ones.
I’ve been up thinking about this number problem…
I’ve never been good at solving mysteries, and so this is keeping me awake.
- notice how my age is much heavier than all the other writing on this document, as if it has been written over and changed from a “2” to a “3.”
Also, Kim Sook Ja’s name is written in different handwriting.
WHY would someone add another child to my document and then CHANGE my age to something older? A whole year older?
The little square photo of me was taken at the same time as the photo of me and the nurse. However, all the Koreans here and most people in general say that even if that was taken soon after I was found, there is no way I am 3 years (2 years American) Korean in that photo. And if it was taken before I was found, then my family was one of the few rich families that could afford a camera. (Not likely. That is a statue of Jesus in the background, btw… )
I asked Mrs. Seol how she could know Kim Sook Ja was younger than me by 6 months, and she told us that children’s ages were estimated by their physical examination and usually the number of teeth they have.
It says in my medical report documents that I had 16 teeth. That would place me at 13 to 19 months age.
Clearly, with no Second Molar, I was probably not already two years old. So WHY would they list us as the same age? Kim Sook Ja’s photo clearly shows she is at least a year older than me. (if not older) A year’s difference between children at the time in development is HUGE.
It seems to me that the age discrepancy on the document was intentional.
In most cases I have heard of an orphan’s age being changed, it is changed to a younger date to make the child more desirable for adoption. So to change me to year older at such a young stage in development is bizarre, as more adoptive parents would rather have a 14-18 month old old than a 24+ month old child.
Unless perhaps there was some child identity swapping going on? AND, it is much easier to change a “2” to a “3” than it is to change Kim Sook Ja’s age “3” to another number.
Or maybe if I was stolen, or more likely – my abandonment might have been contested? (I’m sorry Mrs. ____ there are no 2 yr. olds here, and no sisters either. We only have 3 yr. olds from that week)
This little document just gets weirder and weirder every time I look at it.
Four days later, I am beginning to be able to gather the impressions people have had of the show.
It’s been very difficult to ascertain because of the communication gap that exists due to most people’s English speaking levels. Mostly, I hear how sad it was. But I am coming to believe that “sad” is a catch-all word, and that the impression is more nuanced than that.
At lunch my Korean friends told me they had never heard about the bad side of adoption before, and that this was important for them to hear: they had often said in the past that they wished they had been adopted to America. One of my adult students said he was in tears. Just now on the roof, a Korean English teacher, with an excellent command of English, told me he hadn’t realized how frustrating it was to be separated from ones identity. He opined that he felt it was the fault of the Korean government for sending children away with no regard to how it affects the children and separates them from their country and culture. He expressed how now he can see things from the adoptee perspective and his opinion was greatly changed. Many students in my classes mentioned the show and several of the boys wanted to talk to me about it. One offered to teach me Korean (maybe I should take him up on it) and another said, “my country is (makes crazy sign at his temples). Not me/us, but the country.” I asked him to help me change it, and he nodded his head.
I am, to say the least, very very ecstatic over this.
People are asking me about how the adoption fees are spent and where the money goes. Seven Star spoke again about the time he escorted children to Europe for Holt. There were two escorts, and each were in charge of three children. He said they were not paid for this. I told him how Holt charges the parents escort fees. I told him about Myung-Sook’s being forced to escort children to be adopted (for free while the adoptive parents presumably still paid for escorts) and how emotionally heartbreaking it was. Everyone was outraged and said that the Korean people need to know.
Yes, they do.
I told them how HOLT thinks its okay for them, a COMPANY to hold our information from us. I told them how it’s okay for HOLT to drop a bomb on girl #4709, but that it’s not okay for any of girl #4708’s sentiments to be passed along, because that constitutes CONTACT, even though only HOLT knows her identity and contact information. What would be more shocking, a phone call from Holt after 40 years out of the blue? Or a letter from Holt that included a friendly note from me with an explanation of why I was inquiring after her? Because of the way they handled this, they have scared her away and possibly ruined the only chance I have to learn the truth. I told them that there is a special place in Hell for HOLT, and they all agreed.
I am, to say the least, feeling very very good that I’m not the only one that thinks so.
Some more information has come to light about my search that I’m not at liberty to publish, since Holt is reading my blog now, but I guess I can say that this chapter is not quite yet closed.
It was a mistake for HOLT to treat me so callously. It was a mistake for HOLT to lie to me. It is a mistake that HOLT continues to put policy over human decency. They say they are protecting girl 4709, but really, what are they really protecting?
Answer: their own self worth.
So I asked my adult Korean teacher student what Holt said in the documentary, and he said Mrs. Seol blamed their poor record of helping adoptees on the Korean government, that they needed financial help and the Korean government didn’t give it to them. Not true, said my student, they give some money towards Post Adoption Services, just not a lot.
Well, I don’t think the government should give Holt ANY money, as it won’t be accounted for. It only takes a couple seconds to photocopy their skinny records. It does, however, take half a day to defend your lame excuses for NOT being helpful to t.v. stations once you’ve made a big mess and are trying to get out of it.
I don’t have the raw footage, but I know it exists and so I can paraphrase what transpired in my meeting with Holt Korea and know that none of it is slander or libel. It’s recorded on film, these are my impressions of what was said, and the footage on file will corroborate it.
* At the beginning of our meeting, prior to my even asking these questions, Mrs. Seol began by saying all these problems were not Holt Korea’s fault because I had never spoken with Holt Korea directly. I told her Holt International told me they would talk with Holt Korea, and that it was they who offered to be my liason.
* When asked why Holt Korea said there was “nothing important” as an excuse not to send me my documents, Mrs. Seol defended Holt for keeping records when nobody else bothered. (I will concede this point) She also said that nobody ever imagined adoptees would return wanting to find out about themselves, so nobody bothered to take a lot of information. (again, this may be true, but that does not exonerate them from not providing the information they have to the adoptees upon request) I countered that what little information was there was MINE and ABOUT ME and shouldn’t be controlled by some company.
* When asked why there weren’t copies of these documents with my Holt International child records, Mrs. Seol said that documents include contracts between relinquishing parents and therefore they are confidential. I told her of course, and they still would be at Holt International, but it is a false claim if Holt International says they have all of our documents or that Holt Korea has, “nothing important.” There is no good reason a copy can not exist at Holt International, especially since they also have total control over what we adoptees can and can’t see.
* When asked why confidentiality about relinquishing parents made any difference in the case of an abandoned child, there was no answer.
* When asked why they couldn’t photocopy the contractural documents and white out any identifying information, there was no answer.
* When asked for more information about girl #4709, they said they could not do that because there was no way she could be my sister because of our age difference. I pointed out that they had my age wrong, that our names were made up, and that it was highly unusual for two girls to be on one document from the same place on the same day. Mrs. Seol claimed this was not unusual and flipped through the book for that year and showed us a couple documents that had lists of many orphans on them, with no specific information. However, these documents were clearly designed to list multiple children. Mine was very specific and asked specific information and was designed for one person. I challenged her to show me another document of the same format as mine from Wonju that listed multiple children. We flipped through the entire book, isolating each of the documents from Wonju that were of the same format, and NOT ONE of them had two children on the same document.
* When asked where Holt Korea ended and Holt International began, and why there had to be two separate companys, she said something like it became too difficult for Holt to coordinate what was going on in Korea. (which causes me to question their management skills, and why make it separate corporations unless there are financial reasons? To me, this was the end of transparency – yet another reason)
* When asked why their policy was different from Holt International’s, Mrs. Seol told me it “wasn’t my place” to ask about their operations. Mrs. Seol is younger than I am, so Confuscian respect standards have nothing to do with this, and asking about their operations is very much my place, since I am a pawn of their operations.
* When asked why they didn’t just give me my documents freely, Mrs. Seol said that Holt Korea is happy to give out documents when they are asked for, and that it was my fault because I didn’t ask her for that specific document by name. I told her I didn’t know there were more documents to begin with and how could I possibly ask for a document I didn’t know existed and, even more impossibly, ask for it by name. (I still don’t know the proper name of that document)
* When asked why I never got a translation of my documents as requested, Mrs. Seol produced a translation sent to Holt International, which I had never received. She said it should be up to me to get a translation where I lived, and that I didn’t ask for it when I asked for my documents.
* When asked why Mrs. Seol could not provide a list of orphanges near Wonju, Mrs. Seol said nobody had asked her for that. I told her I had emails from Holt International and INKAS saying they had asked her for that, and they told me she had said it was, “not possible.” She maintained that she never heard this request and that it was my fault because I didn’t contact her directly. (OK. Somebody here is lying, is it Holt International, INKAS, or Holt Korea?)
* “Can you imagine how it feels?” I asked her, going through this process? I told her that I lived in America, that I didn’t even KNOW there were multiple Holts at the time, that Holt International said they would contact Holt Korea, which is appropriate since I DON’T KNOW HOW TO SPEAK KOREAN, and that of course I needed a translation of any document from Korea, since I DON’T KNOW HOW TO READ KOREAN EITHER. Why does this have to be so hard?
Mrs. Seol was silent after this. Which was a pleasant change, because she didn’t allow me to get a word in edge-wise, and even though I repeatedly asked her to give me equal time or to break up her talking so I could get a proper translation, she barreled on. So for every five minutes of her talking, I would get a two sentence synopsis, and it was nearly impossible to get my questions inserted. Nearly every question I asked was met with a nasty attitude and on several occasions, eye rolls. She repeatedly said she didn’t have time for all this, and that if I didn’t have any questions about personal history, then she would have to leave. And I hear she even said she didn’t have time for abuse from an adoptee.
Abuse from an adoptee.
In my later conversation with Steve Kalb, when I asked him why Holt couldn’t get me a list of orphanages near Wonju, there was a long pause and then he said, “yes it is true that Holt doesn’t have a comprehensive list of orphanages.” I didn’t ask for a comprehensive list. I only asked for help with the names of orphanages near where I was abandoned, so I could begin a search in person. I told him that by searching on the internet I had found a couple myself, but why is it that Holt Korea says it’s “not possible”? I asked him, “Doesn’t Holt know where it gets its human bodies from? How is it Holt doesn’t know which orphanges they work with? Or isn’t Holt in the orphan business?” Silence on the other end.
These are the kinds of questions I and anybody in my situation would ask. And these are the kind of lame answers we get in response. Again, the lack of responsibility on Holt’s part was criminal. The history of abandonment and relinquishment in Korea was soul crushing. The lack of information was understandable. But to continue in this practice and to make it so difficult for adoptees in search to get information about themselves is NOT ACCEPTABLE. The past was the past, but the creation of orphans and sending them out of the country, as well as this continuing injustice and maltreatment of adoptees HAS TO END NOW.
All of the above begs the question, Why does the adoption agency act this way if there is nothing to hide?
What kind of people are they? What kind of ethics do they have – not yesterday, but today?
The SBS documentary crew and I paid a visit to Holt Korea last Tuesday. Unbeknownst to us, Holt has a couple of buildings. The first building we went to didn’t house Post Adoption “Services” but did include a HOLT TRAVEL AGENCY.
My goodness, what other business ventures does Holt Korea have? It must also have offices where, apparently, Foster Moms come with the babies prior to dropping them off at the airport, as we met a foster mom with a six or seven month old baby on her way to take a little boy to his flight to America…
The SBS producer wanted to know if I wanted to talk with the foster mom or see the baby, and no: I did not. I won’t tell you what I wanted to do, but it might have involved me getting arrested, so I thought it best to just stand and watch them drive off.
And so, we got back in the van and drove to their other building.
Now, I have no idea what their definition of a healthy family “support” center is. Or even what their definition of “family” is in this case. But it seems kind of ironic to me that it’s on the same sign as Post Adoption “Services.” It’s also kind of sick to me that they have a guest house, because the baby’s new owners don’t live in this country, because they’re foreigners. All three items on that sign seem like one-stop shopping, a multi-plex of services all centered around an anonymous child whose fate is in question. This process of theirs doesn’t stop. It just becomes more sophisticated.
I didn’t take a photo of the big multi-story banner Holt put up on the building behind the sign, but basically it is a photo of a young man in traditional Korean garb sitting on the floor at a table dining in a traditional setting, and it is celebrating Korean culture. Again, disturbingly ironic to me as an adoptee that they sell the adoptive parents on Korean culture, when the babies will soon be stripped of it as soon as they get on the airplane. Inside the Holt offices as well, are little artifacts of Korean culture everywhere. Things that will delight the adoptive parents but be forever lost for the children. Things that will be totally meaningless to the children unless they come back here to live. Even then, they will be academic concepts. A souvenir shop is not necessary I guess, since they’re coming home with the ultimate souvenir.
Even more sick is that Holt is blind to the fact that international adoption hurts those babies/little people. They are so damned convinced by their own arguments that they are saviors doing God’s work, they think they are above reproach. May they all be orphans in their next life, since that’s what it seems it will take for them to see anyone’s perspective other than their own.
When (if) you see Holt defend themselves in the documentary, I think their patriarchal attitude will be evident. They have historically offered, “we have nothing to hide” even prior to anyone accusing them of that. And I don’t believe they DO have anything to hide. But they DO have a culture of paranoia and non-transparency, presenting theories as facts, being arbiters of what is and isn’t important, obfuscation of the facts, protectionist policies, and stone-walling attempts to gather information: so that tells me they have a conscience, they know they have things to answer for, and they are ashamed of themselves.
They are like children caught in a lie. It’s easy to rationalize ones actions. It’s easy to act in the name of God. It’s easy to tell less than the whole truth. (otherwise known as a lie) And once you have lied, you have to support that lie at all costs. Until your life has become so complicated by the lie and you’ve invested so heavily in obscuring the lie that to confess would destroy your life as you know it. And so the lie never existed. But your entire life becomes tainted by the lie that never existed. And it doesn’t matter who you hurt by denying the lie, because it’s better 200,000 children feel a loss of identity and culture than it is to admit you’ve done something bad. Even if it weighs heavy on your heart.
Again, Holt, you say you are Christians. What would Jesus do? What did Mary do? What did the Innkeeper do? Did he try and convince Mary that giving Jesus up would be better for her in the long run? Did he try and convince Mary that giving Jesus up would be better for Jesus? Did he offer to broker a new family for Jesus? No. He offered to let them stay out of the cold for free.
And do you know why my family felt secure leaving my possible sister and me alone in the market? Because the whole country knew that Holt took babies and sent them to what was supposedly a better life in other countries. That’s the only reason. HOLT’s PRESENCE is what made my abandonment an option. And do you know what would have happened if you weren’t there? I might have been malnourished, I might have had a hard life for a very long time, it’s true. But without that option, my parents would have had no choice but to keep me or find someone in Korea who would. Basically, HOLT’s PRESENCE was the catalyst for abandonment.
1. Chemistry. a substance that causes or accelerates a chemical reaction without itself being affected.
2. something that causes activity between two or more persons or forces without itself being affected.
3. a person or thing that precipitates an event or change: His imprisonment by the government served as the catalyst that helped transform social unrest into revolution.
4. a person whose talk, enthusiasm, or energy causes others to be more friendly, enthusiastic, or energetic.
It’s true I might have become malnourished and lead a hard life. But I would have known my parents, my country, my culture my language, and somebody here would have loved me. You took advantage of a nation during times of hardship. You really should feel a deep deep sense of shame for this.
As catalysts, you’ve managed to live unharmed and even put a spin on the mass scale separation and dislocation of thousands of children into a saint-like activity. But the chickens are coming home to roost. The time for making excuses is over. The apologies are long overdue. The time for restitution is now, and you can start by making it easier for adoptees to find out ALL the information about themselves. And please put an end to giving this gift that keeps on hurting. Please stop exporting babies.