According to Holt’s FAQ page, the adoption records that they have are the same ones that my adoptive parents received.
That may sound strange because after all, everyone has someone who created them. However, when you know nothing about those fundamental people, it’s extremely difficult to actually imagine them. But with the information in my adoption file, albeit little, I was able to finally feel like I have parents. That’s huge, in so many ways.
Upon reading this, my heart starting beating unusually fast and getting a good breath in felt next to impossible. The fact that they were unmarried means that the chances that I’ll be able to find them are slim, due to the cultural stigma toward single women. When all you want out of life is to find your parents and be able to feel that love and connection, the prospect of never being able to is nothing short of heartbreaking.
My emotions rushed from surprised (because remember, this should have all been old information…) to disappointed to really upset.
I was upset with my adoptive parents for never making this information available to me and I was upset with my biological parents for giving me up in the first place, thinking “no ability to bring up a baby?! There’s always an ability, but you didn’t even try to make it work!”
After trying to calm myself down failed, I went out for a walk and ended up collapsing under a tree in exhaustion and sadness. I remember sitting under the tree, not caring that I was sitting on snow and ice, and staring out into space in some weird daze. A good amount of time later, I heard honking horns in the distance and realized I had somehow fallen asleep. Fighting the urge to just stay under the tree, I eventually managed to convince myself to get up and go home.
The next day I was able to look at everything more objectively and gained clarity from a friend who had already begun researching what life would have been like for them, as factory workers. What he found, and what I’m now diving head-first into researching, is that the structural conditions in South Korea in 1986 and the years surrounding were ones that deeply oppressed its citizens.
In fact, the factory conditions at that time were some of the worst in history, with the workers constantly making pleas such as this:
Boss, please, our work is too hard. It’s too cold in our workplace. The machine is running too fast and I’m afraid of getting hurt. Please treat us like human beings rather than always trying to watch over us. […] Dark murky blood comes out of my throat. My arms ache so painfully as if they are being cut off from my body. The smell of poisonous gas gives me a headache. My feet are swollen. I cannot endure it anymore. I’d like to rest. I’d like to rest (Kim Kyong-sook et al. 1986, 183-84).
Instead of wanting higher wages, the Korean factory workers merely wanted to be treated humanely and with justice; many noted how it would be better to be a machine or animal because they got to rest.
After reading Korean Workers: The Culture and Politics of Class Formation by Hagen Koo, I’ve been able to learn a lot about the structural conditions of South Korea during this rapid period of industrialization. Although it’s painful to imagine what my parents must have gone through so that we could drive Hyundais and possess other unnecessary conveniences in the name of globalization, I’ve arrived at a deeper understanding as to who (I imagine) they were and why they gave me up.
Their structure made their choice for them, leaving behind many victims of structural violence.
Given this, I hope they realize that they’re strong, brave people. I also hope that they’re okay with who they are and that they’ve made peace with everything.
And of course, I hope that they can sense that their daughter on the other side of the world loves them and gets it (or at least is doing her best to) and is desperately searching for them.