Korean birth family reunion

Meeting My Korean Birth Family

I arrived at our designated meeting place, KoRoot, early. It was a Sunday and Holt (adoption agency) was closed, so Pastor Kim (the owner of KoRoot) and his wife were kind enough to allow my two sisters to meet me at the adoptee guesthouse.

I requested the InKAS (Korean adoptee non-profit) volunteer translator arrive ten minutes earlier than my family’s arrival and that I’ll meet her at the alley off the main road to assist her to the hard-to-find house. For what seemed like the longest five minutes of my life, I paced back and forth, leaned against the wall, anxiously waiting for the translator.

Suddenly, I looked to my left and a group of people that looked like me came into view at the alley’s entrance. They stopped walking and talking, nearly running into each other, pointed to me, and commenced screaming.

I instantly recognized my birth family. They looked even more like me in person.

The first sister, Vora, ran into my arms, and I hugged her tightly as I looked at my four relatives standing behind her in tears. My mom hugged me next, nearly suffocating each other in tears and tight squeezes. It felt surreal to be hugging my birth mother.

My family then surrounded us, touching me everywhere, speaking in Korean. All I recognized was my name, Yoon Hee. Like out of a Korean drama, my mother fell to tears onto the ground and I went down with her. I hugged my appa and my sisters. I couldn’t really tell you what was going through my mind.

The translator (who turned out to be a wonderful girl) came a few minutes after we calmed down. It turned out well because we didn’t need a translator for that first moment after all. We understood each other’s overwhelming emotions. We realized that we were in public making a commotion. The pedestrians crossing our paths were probably thinking, “hm, filming for a drama”. I completely tuned out the surroundings for that moment. Nothing else existed but us.

We walked to the hostel where more crying and talking took place. I was so overwhelmed, I didn’t even know what to ask or say. Many of my questions were answered in our email exchanges during the month prior to our meeting. Some of the hostel guests walked by and I hope it didn’t make them feel awkward. I warned them that this would be happening. Actually I was under the impression that it would be just my sisters and that we would go to my parents that night, so I was not expecting the entire family at all.

Korean birth family reunion

First family photo at KoRoot

An hour and a handful of tissues later, we calmed down and went to eat. I could not stop staring at everybody around the table and they were all staring back at me and smiling. I feel uncomfortable being the center of attention, but I had to get used to it because I was in the spotlight during the days with them. Omma kept making lettuce wraps and stuffing them in my face, one after another. She was touchy feeling, smacking my butt if I said something funny. I put my kimchi in my rice and ate it that way, but everyone said that is a no-no. I learn something about Korean customs every day.

After filling up, we said goodbye to the translator and hopped in Appa’s Lexus for an adventurous three hour ride to Jeonju. I sat in the back with Omma and we held hands the whole ride and compared our body features. Our knees are the same and my wrist bones are smaller.

We talked with the little bit of Korean I knew and the decent English of my sisters. There was never an awkward moment. We were always laughing or making jokes and just enjoying each other’s company after all of these years.

We are positive people and want to avoid dwelling on the past.

Rather, we’ll focus on the future now that we have each other. Of course, it is not easy to just let something like this go, but we tried our best. There were a few moments that sorrow consumed me. I felt guilty because if I shed one tear, everybody else started crying. However, it is safe to say that the majority of the time spent together were positive. The negative feelings I experienced sunk in days after leaving them.

Read more about my time together after with my birth family.

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