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Korea adoptees find each other

Korean culture came to my house in a big way – through my adopted daughters. My daughters are from Ilmagwon orphanage in Gunsan, Korea, which is far from Seoul. They were babies when I adopted them and I lived at the small orphanage for a few months. My daughters and I traveled back to Korea in 2012 for the first time in about 40 years. It was an amazing trip.

Now the most exciting news– after my daughters and I traveled to Korea I blogged about it and several adoptees from Ilmagwon contacted me through my blog. Sixteen Ilmagwon adoptees from the 1970’s and 80’s have connected. Sixteen! That is such sweet news after not being in contact for years. Every time we find another lost sister, my heart is blessed. The girls live all over the U.S., from Florida to New York to California.
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I feel like the godparent of these precious ones, some of whom lived in the orphanage the same time I did. A few girls got together in June 2014 for the first time. Rick Matthews, a GI who lived there and adopted a Korean baby too, came with his wife from Kansas.

We turned my house into a mini-Korean gajeong. We lowered the dining room table so we could sit on the floor. We tried on gorgeous hanbok dresses, watched an excellent tae kwon do performance (one of my Korean grandsons is a black belt) and catered in the most delicious Korea bulgogi and kimchi we could find. Then to top it off, we made homemade bimbops!

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All in all, it was a success and a whole lot of fun. I hope more of the Ilmagwon girls get to come next time!

Categories
International

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?

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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,
Kathryn

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International

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:

http://adventureontreasureisland.blogspot.com/search/label/korea%20trip%20of%20a%20lifetime

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International

Korea: Old Pictures of Ilmagwon Orphanage

While planning our trip to Korea, I found some old pictures of the orphanage – some 38 years ago no less, where my two Korean daughters were from  – and I lived for a short while. It was also called Il Maek Won.

It has moved locations and now has older children also. Notice the girls wore red sweats and the boys, brown.

When I walked in the front door, I took off my shoes and stepped up onto the wooden floor and kids surrounded me. Small rooms opened from the hallway, starting with the youngest babies in the first room. 

I almost didn’t include the orphan pictures – they make me cry. The faces still affect me 38 years later, they are so precious. But I must include at least a few pictures of kids. They are precious.

I know Ilmagwon Orphanage will be very different after this many years, but I will always remember and pray for the children I could not adopt – and I’m anxious to be in Korea again.