Korean Adoptees Find Each Other

Adoptees from the small Ilmagwon Orphanage in Gunsan, South Korea, are connecting after almost forty years!

My two adopted daughters, Gina and Treasure, and I returned to Korea for the first time in 2012. I was in Korea from 1972 to 1974, living several months in the orphanage. We met the same woman, Mrs. Park, who ran the orphanage while we lived there. The one who cared for hundreds of babies and children is now 91 years old but she remembered us. This godly caretaker had prayed for her babies and their adopted families.

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I sat in the orphanage office and looked at a photo album with baby pictures. Each abandoned baby had been assigned a page and a number. I saw baby pictures of my girls on numbers 134 and 141. As I flipped through the pages, I saw babies/toddlers I remembered and I cried. I had spent many hours sitting on the floor holding those babies and hugging those toddlers. What had become of all those bundles I wanted to take home with me and couldn’t?


I wrote several blogs about the Korean trip and posted old pictures of the orphanage. My daughter, Treasure, even blogged about it.

Most Korean adoptees are from Seoul, so only a few were adopted in the 1970’s from Ilmagwon Orphanage in Gunsan. Men and women from the U.S. Kunsan Air Base “Wolfpack” still visit consistently and help the children. I’m so proud of them. It is not a babies home any more but I think about 70 children live in the orphanage now.

It was amazing, a dream of a lifetime to return to Korea, but the most amazing thing has happened since we returned. Angela from California, another adoptee, who lived in the orphanage at the same time as my daughters, contacted us. She had found us through my blog. She was number 140. She was in the orphanage at the same time as my daughters! She was one of those babies I held! My heart about flipped with joy when I met her for a few minutes in the airport when coming back.

Then another girl wrote, Nikki from Alabama, saying she was also from the same orphanage at the same time. Then Michelle, then Mindy, then another and another.

Eleven of the Korean Adoptees from the 1970’s have found us! They live across the U.S.—from Oklahoma, California, Alabama, Kansas, Texas, New Jersey, and Arkansas! If we had visited Korea ten years ago, this internet connection might never have occurred. Only God can do something like this!

Forty years after I left Korea with two precious little ones, we plan to have an Ilmagwon Sisters reunion – some time in 2014. Mrs. Park will be thrilled to find out these children of hers are connecting and I’ll be glad to give them all a big hug!

You are loved,


Korea: Orphanage Connection after 38 Years

Angela commented on my last blog about our coming trip to South Korea with my  daughters, in part, to visit the Il Mag Won Orphanage in Gunsan where they are from. She replied on Friday, May 11, 2012. Dear Kathryn, Would love to correspond with you. I am #140 from Il Mag Won Orphanage and just visited the past 2 days. I was adopted in 1973 and came to US with my dad who was at air base. Only 5 children were adopted directly from Il Mag Won. Please contact me at …

Hi Angela, I’m so happy to hear from you. I probably knew you in Korea when you were a baby! How exciting. I may have known the couple who adopted you also. What do you mean by #140? Please keep in touch, Kathryn

Dear Kathryn, When you visit Il Mag Won ask for the picture book. They will show you photos of your daughter. I so wish I had found you before my visit to Il Mag Won. I am identified as baby #140 (ie the 140th baby to come). I was adopted in 1973 but arrived there July 1972. My father’s name is Marvin Gieber. What is your ex-husband’s name? Mrs. Park is 91 years old and there are 70 children at Il Mag Won right now. We left Gunsan yesterday. Mr. Kim died in Oct 1997 but I had met him in Feb 1997. Mrs. Park is such an amazing woman. I want to tell you so much more but really can’t write a whole lot now. I am so happy to meet you. Angela

Angela, I would love to see your baby picture! (and adult pic). Was your father in the military? When did you come to the US? My daughter arrived at the orphanage as a newborn also in July 1972! She was found in front of the police station. I am looking forward to seeing Mrs. Park. Please, please, stay in touch.

Kathryn, My first visit to Il Mag Won was in February 1997. Mr. Kim seemed to be in excellent shape and well, although there is a lot I don’t remember because I was so overwhelmed with my emotions. I do remember how magnetic he was. I miss him and still want to cry after learning he died. His son, Mr. Kim, said he died of heart failure. His son is an amazing man and I am sure he will tell you his journey of how God led him to take over. He is not the director but leads the home. I could tell you so much more but I don’t want to spoil it for your talk with him and Mrs Park. I am now in Busan (previously known as Pusan). We spent 2 1/2 days in Gunsan. We went to the new town in Gunsan and the sea wall. Maybe take a tour bus through Gunsan which I kind of wish I had done? We took a taxi instead. The kids at Il Mag Won seem very happy and do not want to be adopted. In fact they are children of Mr Kim and seemed quite happy. I will forward you some emails. Angela

Angela, I remember when I first got to the orphanage. I sat in the babies room and tried to decide which baby to adopt. Such a hard decision because I wanted them all. There were 10 newborn. 2 boys (handicapped) the rest girls, one who cried if my husband didn’t hold her (She’s the one we adopted.) At least two babies died soon after. That leaves at least 5 baby girls. You were one of those! I prayed for those particular babies for years, which means I prayed for you. And so my heart is very moved for you to contact me. kathryn

Hi Kathryn I am very touched by your email. I do not know what else to say because frankly nothing else describes my feelings but being very touched. Thank you. I am not sure how your daughters feel about visiting Il Mag Won but my first visit was in my mid-20’s when I was trying to learn about my Korean side and overall going through an identity crisis. The 20’s are never easy for anyone. It wasn’t until this trip that I was able to soak it all in and feel like I got some closure for lack of better words. I might recommend writing down questions or thoughts ahead of time because when you meet them face to face it is so heavenly and you will feel like you are in another life. I am glad I could return another day. We had asked if we could help and particularly I wanted to be around the kids. We were to help prepare dinner and serve to the kids but our visit with Mrs Park lasted a long time so we couldn’t. Angela

Dear Angela, I was in a hurry to write you back. My ex-husband’s last name was Keith, stationed at Kunsan Air Force Base, so I was Kathryn Keith. Did you visit the babies home? Out of the orphanage children, how old were the kids? Do they need anything I can bring them? Kathryn

Hi Kathryn, I will ask my dad if he remembers you and your husband. By now from my recently sent emails you know I did visit Il Mag Won. I think they dropped the “babies” because they no longer take in babies. The babies go to a different place in Gunsan now. They asked me for vitamins which I went to Costco in Seoul to purchase but they are almost twice the price as the Costco in US. Still very small price to pay for something so important. I also gave them a cash donation in US dollars. I don’t think you should feel obligated though if you can’t. I also brought a lot of candy and I think kids like US stuff so US candy should be fun. They like candy. I will say Koreans are big in gift giving. Angela

Angela, I’d love to see your baby picture! (and adult picture). I also foster parented a baby while I lived in Korea. Okay this is strange, but my daughter was found in Jul 1972 also. As a newborn. When did you return to the US? Was your father in the military? Where do you live in the US when you came back and now? I am looking forward to meeting Mrs. Park! Please, please write more. Kathryn

Hi Kathryn My name was Park Tae-Ok given to me by Mrs Park because she is the one who accepted me into Il Mag Won. See attachment which is a scan from their photo book.Will write more in another email. Angela

Hi Kathryn, You sound like an amazing woman and I hope one day we can meet. My parents live in Kansas which is not too far from you I think. I live in San Francisco, Ca. I was found in a dumpster at Kunsan (they now call it Gunsan mainly) police station. When I came to Il Mag Won, it was July 31, 1972. They think I was about a month and a half old so they gave me birth date of June 12, 1972. How about your daughters? My parents had some trouble getting my visa so I came little while later to US but need to ask my dad when. October 31, was when my adoption was finalized. I will send you the info on me from Il Mag Won. It is in Korean so probably need a translator but if you want to know I can ask my friend Maria who I am traveling with and is Korean-American and speaks and writes Korean.

My father was stationed at Kunsan Air Base; he was TDY at the time. He tried to adopt a baby before me and gave her name of Christina but she died. Then my mom came to Kunsan and she and my dad picked me. My mom said she wanted a baby that was chubby and had just arrived but my dad wanted me because I had big eyes (which I don’t really). Haha When I first came to US I lived in New Mexico where my dad was stationed. Then he got stationed to Beale AFB in California when I was 4. I have spent most of my life in CA except we did live in Alabama for couple years when I was about 14-15. Kind regards, Angela

Angela, This brings back a lot of memories! Here is one special story I’ve told before. I went to the orphanage for the first time in December 1972 to pick out a baby. Of the ten babies, I chose one, an angelic tiny girl, and my husband chose Treasure because she had to be held all day or she would cry. We took Treasure home but I found a family to adopt the angel – a military man. That tiny angel died before his wife, the mother, could arrive. I was heartbroken, but then if I had adopted the baby and she died, I might not have been emotionally able to adopt another one. The military man (maybe your father) chose another baby girl. Maybe that was you. (I was there when the mother arrived and came to see her baby for the first time.) God certainly arranged it all! Your story is so closely tied to mine. Do you have a picture of your parents back then? I might recognize them. I know God must have had us meet now. It will be an important trip for my daughters too. Kathryn

Angela, Another message! I reread some of the letters I received from Mrs. Park in 1973. One dated Sept 12, 1973, had these remarks. “As you know, S/gt and Mrs Price returned already with their child. Last 8th Sep. Mrs. Giber returned with her adopted child and tomorrow (13th) will return S/gt. Giber (F.M.S)” Perhaps this Giber was your parents. If so, I assume your mother was also in Korea. kathryn

Dear Kathryn, This is just such a miracle our paths have crossed. Yes the “Giber” is highly likely my father Marvin Gieber. And as you know from my previous emails that my mom did join later. Angela

Hi Kathryn, I do have photos of my parents back then but will have to send to you after I return back to states on may 15. I love your story and am so touched and quite frankly in little shock. I am quite certain your story is about me and my parents, Marvin and Linda. Of course you may post on your blog about meeting me. I would be flattered. It is 8:42 am here in Korea so I must get my day started. Looking forward to talking more. When you go to Gunsan go to Lee Sung Dong bakery very famous in Gunsan and try their shaved iced. Yummy! Angela

This is an amazing connection to a baby from Il Mag Won Orphanage, Gunsan, Korea, abandoned about the same time as my daughter.


Our Trip to Korea

I’m excited for my 3 daughters and I to be going to Korea, me – after 38 years.  

When I was 19 years old, I left Oklahoma to live in Korea, because my husband at the time was stationed at Kunsan Air Force Base. While there, we adopted two baby girls. He left and I stayed in the orphanage for a while. If you know me, you know it was hard to leave Korea without a dozen more children! I came back to the US, had a baby girl and my husband and I divorced. How God took care of me and my three children during the next twenty some years is another story, but He did – in amazing ways.

My three daughters grew up, graduated from college, married wonderful guys, and gave me beautiful grandchildren. After they were grown, God blessed me with Bill, a godly husband, and three step children. Our heavenly Father has been so good!

Through helping International students at UCO, Bill and I have met many wonderful young people over the years, and grown to love them. Many times, Korean students have invited us to visit. I want to see them again, face to face, and encourage them in their walk with the Lord.

I contacted the orphanage, Il Mag Won Babies Home, the one where my daughters lived, and it is still there. About 35 children live in the orphanage today. The Orphanage Director is the son of the couple I knew before. In fact, his mother who ran the orphanage is now ninety years old and, hopefully, we’ll see her.

So for the first time since 1974, on May 24th, 2012, my three daughters and I will travel to South Korea and spend 12 days. I remember the old Korea, but I’ve been assured it has changed a lot. Just like I have.

Ilmagwon Orphanage and loved Korean students, here we come – we will never be the same, well, actually, Korean orphans changed my life many years ago!