Finding Seoul

Finding Seoul: Twenty-Four

July 30, 2017
a korean adoptee story
Korean Adoptee Story – Finding Seoul

Friday, June 30th

I walked into the meeting at Eastern not knowing if I’d ever see my birth parents again. Unbeknownst to me, this couldn’t have been further from the truth. But how could I have known? I’d fallen victim to subconsciously creating my own narrative before, so I couldn’t let that happen again. It was best to withdrawal my own desires from reality, tread lightly, and most of all…expect nothing.

I was shaking as I walked into Eastern; I was nervous this would be the last time I’d see them.

It took a while for my birth dad to find parking, so my birth mom came in first. She kindly offered to get me something from the cafe, so I waited while she got her americano and my vanilla latte. When she sat down she immediately went into explaining that my brother is still in the midst of studying for the extremely difficult public service exam. He’s very anxious and depressed, especially because on top of the exam, the job market in Korea isn’t looking too promising. They still want to tell him (and eventually my sister), but are waiting until he has completed the exam and gets a job.

So not much has changed, it’s the same update I got back in January.

In the past, my insecurities have convinced me that maybe my parents won’t end up following through with their word, but something within me felt different this time. Something changed. I’m no longer concerned. Their words have always remained sincere, so nothing has changed in that regard. But perhaps it’s our trust and respect for each other that’s growing stronger?

Anyway, I believe with all of my heart that they fully intend to tell my siblings. I actually believe that they’ve always intended to tell my siblings, but at the same time, I understand that things are subject to change. I knew it wasn’t set in stone. And ultimately, I knew that they needed to do what was best for everybody involved. And if for some reason they chose to not tell, I would need to honor and accept their decision. At the end of the day, whatever happens, happens. I have faith it’ll unfold exactly how it needs to, whatever that may be. In the meantime, all I can do is wait.

When my birth dad came in, he mentioned my upcoming (at the time) birthday. He explained that they want to see me on my birthday and that they will drive to where I am (about 2 hours from where they live), pick me up from work, and take me out to dinner. When I heard this, my reaction was speechlessness. Words could not form. I was shocked, but elated.. Out of pure joy came tears.

The rest of the meeting consisted of normal chit chat and updates.

Interesting things to share:

1 | I learned that I inherited my arm hair from my birth dad.

2 | I learned that I inherited my poor vision (also) from my birth dad.

3 | Both 1 & 2 prompted the response, “I’m sorry,” from my birth dad.

4 | My birth mom gave me advice about finding a suitable husband. It’s safe to say she doesn’t live by the motto “opposites attract.”

Wednesday, July 5th

I was bubbling with excitement. The anticipation of celebrating this day with the individuals who gave me life felt magical. I don’t want to trivialize past birthdays I’ve had, but there’s no denying that this one would be significant.

And it was. It was profoundly meaningful and filled a void I didn’t even entirely realize I was missing.

It surprisingly wasn’t awkward. In fact, I actually felt very comfortable with them. It’d be our first time together in an informal setting and without a translator, so I was concerned there may be some awkwardness. I’ve since theorized that the language barrier, which is intrinsically awkward, acts as a buffer against anything else that may be perceived as “awkward” in normal social circumstances.

At a stoplight on our way to dinner, my dad sweetly turned around and just looked at me. He smiled tenderly, then turned around and kept driving. In this moment, his warmth and love penetrated my heart and I could inexplicably feel everything that he was feeling.

Dinner was lovely. I found myself being excited about the silliest things. For example, showing them how I’ve mastered the art of chopsticks and simply enjoying a meal together.

Without a translator, I finally got to gauge exactly how much they know. My dad’s understanding of the English language really is quite impressive. We only had to use Google Translate and Papago a couple of times. Pretty cool, right?!

8 noteworthy moments from dinner:

1 | Fish in Korea generally comes the way it is, head and bones and all. Deboning is rare and fillets of fish are, well, nonexistent. I’m good at using chopsticks for most things, but when it comes to fish…I suck. My mom quickly realized this and skillfully picked chunks of fish for me. I found great comfort in this.

2 | In addition to inheriting hairy arms and poor vision from my dad, I learned that I also inherited the Asian flush from him too.

3 | I realized that in previous meetings, I had never asked whether or not my mom or dad held me when I was born, so I did. Tears formed in my dad’s eyes as he responded, “of course.”

4 | My birth dad has mentioned my eyes a couple times now and I’ve wrote about it previously. On my birthday, he brought it up a third time. He looked me square in the eyes and said, “I have never forgotten your eyes. Not then, not now, not ever. Forever. I will remember forever.” In this moment, he wasn’t even looking at my eyes anymore, he was gazing into my soul. The immensity of our bond became very clear to me; we are connected on a much deeper level.

5 | They bought me a birthday cake and candles (the whole shabang). They even sang Happy Birthday to me…IN ENGLISH! And when it came time to replace “you” with my name, my dad triumphantly sang, “Happy Birthday to my daughter!” It was a very sweet moment.

6 | I asked if it would be okay if I called them 엄마 (eomma) and 아빠 (appa), mom and dad respectively, and they said yes.

7 | My appa asked if I get red when drinking alcohol, also known as the Asian flush. I said yes. He laughed and said, “me too!” Yet another thing I got from my appa!

8 | They presented me with an envelope. On the front they wrote, “To Ka Yoon. Happy Birthday to you! We are sorry we have done you wrong. Please forgive us. From Dad & Mom.” I opened the envelope and found a pretty hefty amount of money. I’ve heard this is fairly common, for birth parents to gift their adopted child with something nice.


I miss them every second of every day.

There is good news. I’ll be seeing them one last time before I leave. They day I leave Korea, actually. On June 30th, they asked me when I was leaving. In that moment, I had a gut feeling they may try to meet me at the airport for final (for now) goodbyes and my intuition was right. August 26th is the big day. Considering my emotions are already intense, I can’t even fathom how I’ll be feeling the day of.

A year ago (August 2016), my mom and dad were at the airport to send me off on my way. A year later (now), my eomma and appa will be at Incheon to say goodbye and send me on my way. And in September when I arrive home (after traveling Thailand), my mom and dad will be waiting for me in arrivals. It’s symbolically coming full circle and I must say, it’s pretty cool the way it has all worked out.

As the days come and go and time unforgivingly and relentlessly pushes forward, I can only hold onto the fragments of time I’ve had with them. These precious moments that have been filled with many, many tears and boundless love. The kinds of moments that transcend time.

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