When children are taken away from their country

Should children be removed from their culture, adopted, and taken to another country, thereby losing their heritage?ry=480[3] (3) I recently encountered this question and wanted to add my tidbit, because, certainly, there are plus and minuses.

I lived in an orphanage in South Korea when I was twenty-one and adopted two baby girls. In the 1970’s I brought them back to Oklahoma, USA, where they grew up.

My daughters lost the ability to speak (or write) their native language; even if they learned it, they would have an accent. They never heard the stories that cultures pass down to the next generation; and they lost their history, their biological families, and a proud devotion to their country. They lost the taste for their native food – although it was acquired, it won’t be eaten on a daily basis. They lost so much. So, the question is: should we uproot children and take them away from their bloodlines?

Let’s look at the other side. What did the children gain?

Mixed race children were not accepted in Korea, so some children would be outcasts. Ten girls were abandoned to every boy, leaving many abandoned girls. Many of the abandoned boys were handicapped in some way. Adoption was not accepted in Korean culture. Admittedly, the culture should be changed, but at that time, South Korea was unable to take care of all the children being abandoned. Simply put, the orphanages were full. And the same can be true of babies in other cultures at different times throughout their history. Nations go through difficult days when they can’t care for their own. Should we ignore that?

So, should a child be left to grow up in an orphanage, or placed with a family who will treat them as their own? You know my opinion. I adopted the babies, rather than leave them to lie on the floor and cry without parents around them. For me, it was not a choice I considered. Babies in need touched my maternal instinct and I responded without considering what they were losing. I only knew that they needed love. Would it have been right to close my heart, neglect the innocent ones, and walk away from sorrow and suffering when I could do something? Would Christ like that response? My only regret is that I could not adopt more babies at the time, because I tried.

I agree that every effort should be made to tell adopted children their story, introduce them to their native culture, help them learn the language if possible (for us it was not), and teach them to be secure with the beautiful way God made them. But if the question is whether to bring a child home to love him, or let him languish in an orphanage, then I have no alternative but to love them.








Mrs. Park: A Saint Who Loves Children

I think her birthday is May 19, 1922. That makes her Korean age 92 this year.  Korean age accounts for the time a baby is in the mother’s womb. She came from a well to do family, I seem to recall, but they lost their money/fortune.

Park Kung-Hee worked for the Salvation Army (SA) and was a vice-chair of women’s side at the time.  She gave speeches and visited Los Angeles as a Korean ambassador for a sports event, also visiting San Franciso about that time. She met her husband, whose family were farmers, at the SA because he also worked there.

In 1965, she and her husband were asked by SA to start an orphanage in Kunsan, Korea, which they did.  When the Salvation Army wanted to move them to another position/work, they felt God’s calling them to continue to work for the orphanage, so they retired in order to stay there.  It was a difficult time in Korea, with many babies being abandoned.

The two babies I adopted.
After Mrs. Park retired from SA, she used some of her financial assets and all of her retirement funds to buy more land for the orphanage as well as more goats.  The facility was too small for the number of babies at the time.

I visited the Ilmagwon Orphanage ( or Il Maek Won)  for the first time in 1972 where about 100 babies, children under 5 years old, lived. I met Mrs. Park and her family who lived above the orphanage. I arrogantly thought she was old back then, but I was barely twenty, so that can be excused. Her sweet spirit was evident even then, when I took home two of her babies as my own. She has kept records of each child who has lived with them.

Mrs. Park is a godly, Christian woman, and I am sure no one can count the number of people she has touched through 92 years.

After almost 40 years, I went back to the Korean orphanage and visited her in June of 2012. Her gentle spirit welcomed my grown daughters and I. Treasure, one of my Korean daughters, said, “Mom, I think I would have known about God even if I had stayed in Korea.” I agree, because Mrs. Park would have made sure of that, just like she did the other orphans.

When I told Mrs. Park that my husband had left me soon after adopting the two babies, she said, “It must have been hard for you to raise daughters by yourself.” Such graciousness from a woman who literally raised hundreds of children herself!

Meeting Mrs. Park was the highlight of my trip to Korea. God reminds me that He has placed saints in strategic places all around the world to glorify Him and to do His work.

You can see details of our trip on my daughter’s website:


Korea: Time to Leave on Trip

We leave for Korea today, and while packing, I found that my favorite black pants needed hemming. Ducked taped it and then remembered Mrs. McDonald, my high school home-ec teacher who never approved of my methods. So I found a needle and thread, but only found brown, so I sewed the hem and it looked worse than the duck tape, so I went back to the duck tape. Fellow classmates please don’t sigh.

My new wood floor looks great. I know it’s a crazy thing to do just before our trip, but the trim still needs re-done and the walls painted where I used the wrong color. I made 4 trips to the store to try to match the paint. No luck. Guess Bill will have something to do while I’m gone. 🙂

Anyway, I’m almost packed and looking forward to seeing many former students, lovely young men and women who visited our home in Edmond for Bible studies, a meal, or simply a chat. Please pray for our time with them. Here’s part of our schedule. We’ll spend 3 to 4 days in three different cities.

In Seoul, we’ll meet Seung Heon Daniel, who will take us to the hotel. We’ll see Jung Hwa, (our shopping tour guide) her son Minsu, HD, HongKun with his children Ruth and Joseph, JongChae, SungEun, Song Hee, and Victoria. We’ll see lots of sights because it is Buddha’s birthday.

Then we’ll travel to Daejeon and have lunch with Solji before going on to Gunsan to visit the orphanage.

Lastly, we’ll go to Pusan and visit Yeong Eun, Jiin, JongHoon, BoMi, SoonMi. Also, Jessica Lough, who is teaching English there, will come sometime that weekend. What a wonderful time we will have.

If any other friends are in Korea, please contact me. We don’t want to miss seeing you!

We can still get texts and facebook (hold the phone calls because they cost $2.59 a minute).Gotta go finish rolling up shirts. We’re meeting at my daughter’s house tonight to drive to Dallas and then at 5 am, we fly to San Fran before leaving the good old USA. See you in a few weeks!


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.


Orphanage – The Value of Touch

I took off my shoes and stepped up into the orphanage. About 20  little dark-headed toddlers surrounded me, each child begging to be picked up. The Korean babies home in 1972 held over one hundred children up to the age of five.  At six, the children were relocated to a home where they could attend school.

For several months, I slept above the children and during the days, I spent hours with them. All the babies slept on the floor. Some developed boils on their backs from not being turned over.  Others were touched only when a diaper was changed or bottle put into their mouth. Two of the smallest babies lay still most of the time. Since they were so quiet, no one ever picked them up.

Measles came to the babies home. A few days later, I entered the room and the two smallest were missing. I asked where they had gone. My heart broke when I heard the babies had died.  Later I learned that when sickness rampages through the orphanage, the ones who don’t get affection die first. Touching and holding are vital to a baby’s survival.

I would have taken every one of those babies home with me, given them all the affection I could, but I could only bring two to the U.S. at the time. Two very special Korean babies became my daughters.

Appropriate touch is important to all of us. So, remember to touch someone on the shoulder today or give them a hug. Let your children feel the warmth of a touch. Hold that baby!

Jesus knew touch was a unique way to show someone love.

Then Jesus put out his hand and touched him…  Matthew 8:3