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A Letter To Mrs. Hyun Sook Han, Adoption Pioneer, Reformer, and Advocate

Dear Mrs. Han:

I’m not sure if this letter will make it to you, but I thought I would blast it out to the world in case there’s a chance. Additionally, I’m not sure if you’ll agree with any of what I have to say, but I think some of the thoughts below are worth expressing.

As many in the adoption community know, you’ve impacted the lives of well over a thousand adoptees. I’m one of those individuals. In March of 1984, I, as a seven year old, got off of my flight from Korea to Minneapolis/St. Paul and was greeted by you. You introduced me to my new adoptive family. A few weeks later, you came to visit me on our family farm outside of Wheaton, MN. You said to me, “Listen to your new parents now. This is your new home . . . They have blue eyes. In America blue eyes are considered beautiful.” A few months later, I sat with Jeff Mondloh, my adoptive parents, and you in a conference room at the old Children’s Home Society & Family Services (CHSFS) building. You asked me, jumping between Korean and English, whether or not I remembered how to speak my native tongue. I had already forgotten.

As folks at CHSFS know, many past and current employees have great respect for you. You did so much while you worked there and you continue to be a strong presence at the agency. I’m one of those past employees who admire you. You visited with me at my cube once, letting me know that you appreciated seeing adult adoptees like me giving back to the cause that gave me so much. Your sentiments meant a lot to me at the time.

As many in the adoption community know, you’re an adoption pioneer, adoption reformer, and an advocate for adoptees. So, I was taken aback when I heard murmurings of you confronting an adult adoptee one-on-one, publicly trying to shame her at a recent University of Minnesota event. From what I understand, you vociferously questioned the facts and critical opinions this adoptee shared in regards to unwed Korean mothers and Korean adoption in general. I thought, “Why would Mrs. Han, being who she is, do this to an adult adoptee who is walking the path of the adoption pioneer and reformer?”

As a former staff member of CHSFS, I understand your impulses to protect the Korean adoption program here in Minnesota. Believe me. I was in full agreement when you attempted to marginalize the adult adoptees involved in Adoptee Solidarity Korea (ASK) and Truth and Reconciliation for the Adoption Community of Korea (TRACK). I, too, once referred to these adoptees as “angry adoptees,” “unhappy adoptees,” “a small group of adoptees not worth the time,” etc.

However, now as a member of the Korean adoptee community who has allowed himself to really see the true facts, I don’t understand why you continue to chastise adult adoptees who legitimately question the practice and business of adoption. You, as a pioneer and reformer, questioned the status quo throughout your life. You, as an advocate for adoptees, have celebrated us, encouraged us to grow up and become our own persons.

As a member of the Korean community at large, I don’t understand why, despite evidence to the contrary, you continue to advocate for international Korean adoption as it stands. The facts show that it’s in Korea’s best interest to listen to the “on-the-ground” Korean adoptees, unwed Korean mothers, and the organization’s that support them. The facts show that it’s in our homeland’s best interest to put into place strong adoption reform.

Mrs. Han, there’s no question that your legacy is intact. However, I personally encourage you to consider expanding it. Please use the clout that you have with Korean child welfare agencies, Korean government officials, and CHSFS. Please support the movement started by Korean adoptees and unwed Korean mothers and work with them in bringing systematic change.

Humbly yours,

Kevin Ost-Vollmers
Land of Gazillion Adoptees

2 Comments on A Letter To Mrs. Hyun Sook Han, Adoption Pioneer, Reformer, and Advocate

  1. I think you have spoken for many adoptees and the biological mothers who’s voices have not been heard!!!!! i hope this helps!

  2. well put, I can relate on how you feel and the journey on how you changed your views as you learned the facts. Bravo!

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