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Learning to Trust

The odyssey of an adopted Korean, ending in her own back yard

by Jamie Kemp

Learning to trust is a very hard thing to do whether you are adopted or not. In my case, I am adopted, and adoptees, I believe, have a more difficult challenge to face. This is the story of the challenges I faced, and the reasons why.

I was left by my birth mother at the age of two and a half, and was then shuffled around to various homes until the age of three and a half, when I was finally placed with my adoptive family. From the information available to me, I estimate that I stayed in seven or eight homes in that one year.

Consequently, I apparently learned at a very young and crucial age, that people left me without any reason. These feelings of rejection were re-enforced each time I moved to another home, and with the rejection came feelings of mistrust. Subconciously, I carried those feelings with me and brought them into my childhood and adult relationships, especially with my adoptive family. In addition to the burden of mistrust, I grew up always wondering about my 'ghost' past and my 'ghost' country of Korea.

When I volunteered at Children's Home Society of Minnesota for a Korean adoptee panel this past spring, Jeff Mondloh (in post-placement services) asked me if I had been back to Korea yet, and if I wanted to go.

My response was "I would love to go, but it is so expensive to do it and I don't have a thousand dollars to burn right now." He then explained to me about the Holt Korean Adoptee Summer School which costs only $200 for three weeks, everything included, plus $300 of your airfare.

Within the next week I applied for the program via e-mail. Then, about a month later, I received a phone call that I had been accepted. Even though I wanted to go to Korea more than anything, I was a little undecided. I had some fears about going, the cost was still high for me, I would need to take time off work, and arrange for care for my three-year-old daughter. Jeff took the time to talk to me more about going, and within the next week I had made up my mind, and made all the arrangements to make it possible.

So now I was left with the question, " What is my main purpose for going?"

At first my main purpose was to go and learn about Korea with my own two eyes. Not just from books or the stories all of my adopted Korean friends told me. I had always had the burning ambition to experience Korea for myself and to walk away with a better understanding of what happened 23 years ago.

But something happened inside me as I let it all sink in that I was actually going to Korea. I thought to myself 'Why not try to find this person listed in your file since you're going to Korea anyway?" Every year since I was maybe 13, I re-read my file from top to bottom. In it, there was one intriguing piece of information. The name and address of a woman, Mrs. Kim, 315-Sassamoon 2 Dong, Dobong Ku, Seoul, S. Korea. She was named as the woman who cared for me for a two-month period, the person who was asked by my birth mother to care for me. The information I had was that my birth mother never came back so I was then regarded as abandoned.

Immediately, I started my own search for her, contacting Catholic Charities to send me more information regarding my adoption. I then contacted Social Welfare Society to set up a date to meet to review my file and to visit the address and the police box where I was left.

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