Yoon Seo Kim is a luxury real estate agent in San Diego California specializing in high profile and high net worth clients. Her articles have been published nationwide in over 358 newspapers, online news services, magazines, television stations and radio stations. Most notably the Wallstreet Journal Marketwatch, The Boston Globe, nationwide Business Journals, Reuters, The San Francisco Chronicle, CNBC, and The Houston Chronicle.
November 8th 2011 2:50 pm Yeonnam-dong Seoul South Korea
The door is open. I hear quiet voices. I’m trembling inside. While clenching my hands my mind concentrates on walking forward. I think to myself, this might be what it feels like to walk to your death. I know as soon as my body crosses the threshold of the room in front of me, my life will change forever. Suddenly I have a childlike longing to run and hide.
As I enter the room I look to the right and see a woman stumbling towards me. Her face crumples in anguish. We embrace. Time stops. Suddenly I have this repulsive urge to pull away, as shock threatens my ability to remain standing. The woman drops to her knees, wailing, and clutches my leg. I look to the right to see a man of small stature holding his head in his hands, weeping with regret and guilt. Directly in front of me there are 2 women crying yet maintaining their composure. I move forward towards them, searching their faces for recognition. I take turns hugging each one. I am offering comfort, “It’s okay, don’t cry, it’s okay”. The man then rises and I reluctantly embrace him to offer comfort. I gratefully accept the offer to sit.
My Childhood 1980’s Portage Michigan
My adoptive mother was a mentally deranged subhuman. I spent my childhood living in terror, alone, and in fear. The worst years were from ages 5-12 where my days were filled with persecution invented out of depravity.
I was forced to stand in either corner of my room around 8-10 hours a day. I had nothing to look at except the wallpaper and carpet. My legs and knees would ache with fatigue. I’d balance on one leg to alleviate the other. If my mother was not paying attention I could look to the left and watch TV backwards through the reflection in the window. The TV was on from 9am-9pm every day. Backwards TV was my sole childhood entertainment.
Food was purposely withheld. There was an antique salt and pepper set in the dining room on the hutch. If my mother went to the bathroom I could run quickly to the dining room and pour salt into my hand. I’d run back with my heart pounding to the corner before she returned. Licking the salt out of my hand abated my hunger. When we moved to Cincinnati at age 8, the salt shaker was empty. I will always wonder what the grocery store workers thought after our weekly shopping trip. Every Tuesday a bag of bread placed knee high had a small hole gouged out with a handful missing. If we passed down the aisle a 2nd time I could pinch a second handful.
When I got caught stealing food from our kitchen I had a different punishment than standing in the corner. I spent endless weeks writing thousands of times, in cursive, the same sentence, ‘I will never lie or steal again because lying and stealing are unacceptable and inexcusable and I promise never to do it again.’ I filled many entire notebooks and ran many pens dry. My fingers cramped with exhaustion, but it was better than standing in the corner.
School was a worse torment than home because mother purposely made me ugly. I wore the same hideous outfit everyday to school even though I had a closet full of clothing. My entire front tooth was black from an accident, and my hair was cut into a crooked bowl shape. I was the epitome of a freak and everyone at school despised me. The rejection of children my own age hurt worse than my mother’s abuse.
I wet myself every night because sleep was the only escape from terror. I was deprived anything to drink, so I drank from the dog’s water dish. She forced me to drink vinegar once to see if that would stop me from bed wetting. One day she decided the best way to teach me not to wet the bed was to forbid me from going to the bathroom during the day. I knew if I wet myself I would be beaten. I found a small plastic cup that I hid underneath the front left leg of my dresser. I would pee into the cup and dump it down the air vents in my floor. One time I was very desperate because I was standing in the corner and couldn’t get to my cup. I had to pee into the kitchen dish cloth, squeeze it out and run back into the corner.
The abuse was primarily mental so there were only a few episodes of physical abuse. One time I stole a handful of blueberries from the kitchen. I put them under my stuffed bear in my room to ration. My mother found the blueberries. Using one of those toy wooden paddles with the ball attached, she hit my back so hard that the paddle cracked in half. Another time she grabbed me by my hair and, with my feet dragging along the floor, ran around the house. Clumps of hair ripped out. Daily she would dig her fingernails into my arms, breaking skin, until I had half moon scars from her nails on my shoulders and arms. She chained smoked cigarettes and would hold my face into the ashtray until I’d start to choke and spasm.
There were sexual interactions with my mother as soon as I reached puberty. Reluctantly I admit that I welcomed those occurrences because that was the only time I felt loved.
My mother adored her biological daughter. My sister used her coveted position and found pleasure in tormenting me. My sister ate the food I was denied, becoming borderline obese.
My mother and sister slept together every night. From my bed I heard my sister say, “I love you mommy,” and my mother would answer, “I love you too”. I would close my eyes as tears silently escaped. “God, please send my mommy to get me.” I was sure she could hear me cry. I imagined she knew I was in the US and searching for me every day. My only dream as a child was that maybe one day mommy would rescue me and maybe I could be pretty again.
November 8th 2011 10:00 am Yeonnam-dong Seoul South Korea
Our group arrives by bus to Eastern Child Welfare Services, the international adoption agency, in Seoul, South Korea. (ECWS) My husband and I were chosen for the 2011 First Trip Home program to participate in a birth family search through Global Overseas Adoptee’s Link in Seoul, South Korea. (GOA’L) They are a non-profit organization assisting Korean adoptees throughout the world with birth family searches and post adoption reunions. When I was eighteen I had an inquiry processed through Children’s Home Society, my parent’s U.S. adoption agency. I had already learned my birth family could not be identified; therefore I had no expectations.
We stand up to leave for a meeting with the director of ECWS. The social worker stops me. “We have found your family. Your birth mom answered our telegram. Your family will be here at 3pm for a meeting with you,” he nonchalantly says as if he was telling me what’s for lunch. My face contorts into confusion. “My entire family? You mean just my birth mom?” “No”, he says, “Your mother, father, and you have four sisters and a brother.” I swallow, incapable of comprehension. “But my mother was a single mom. My mother gave me up because after she became pregnant she found out my father was already married with a family.”
I recite my existence as I know it, memorized from the worn pages of social history that I left Korea with. It is the story of my abandonment and the only remnant of my birth mom. I’ve read through it hundreds of times. I always held on to my story as tight as a young child clutches their blanket. It was the answer to the ‘why was I given away?’ that I could accept.
“No your parents are together. They are married. You have four sisters and a brother.” “But,” anger consumes me, “But I don’t understand‘” I struggle to maintain composure while my mind screams in agony. “You were the fourth daughter born,” the social worker continues. “Your family gave you up because they were very poor and wanted a son. You have a younger sister and a brother.”
“Do you want to meet them?” he asks me. “Ok.” I slowly nod and weakly say, “Thank you.” This gave answer to my only prayer, my little girl dream come true. Yet I have never felt this much fear in my entire life. I walk away, my face hard with anger, a mask of tears and confusion. I sit on the stairs wanting to scream, kick, punch, or hurt someone. I allow rage to replace my sadness. My husband sits down beside me. This is the beginning of my alienation from my husband. I withdraw into the lonely little girl compartment of my mind. I now escape to my own private world.
To be continued…