Korean adoptee flyers Seoul in hope of finding birth parents

2013-11-26 20:03

Photos of Sarah Ishida when she was a baby in Korea and now.
A Korean adoptee looking for her birth parents has turned to flyers in Seoul after poor record-keeping and language issues have limited her search.

Sarah Ishida, 29, returned to Korea in 2012, but after several visits to the places where she was found and looked after, and to Korean organizations that help with birth family searches, she has been unable to discover much in her search.

Ishida has been told that an 18-year-old woman surnamed Ham found her in Changsin-dong, Seoul, shortly after she was born. She was taken to a police box in Mia-dong and eventually adopted by a Canadian family about nine months later.

But she says her visits to adoption agencies were more often disappointing than not, and that new documents often appeared for reasons she did not understand and they often cited new adoption rules when telling them she could not access information.

“The last time I went there were pictures I hadn’t seen before. And sometimes they would say. ‘You can’t see this study anymore because of the adoption law.’ But they don’t provide any extra explanation,” she said.

One agency told her it had tried unsuccessfully to look for the woman that found her, but she has since been told that this is not legal. While her social worker has been very helpful, she says her English was not good enough to explain the rule changes.

To make things harder, her orphanage no longer exists. Nor does the police box she was taken to, and the police officer listed as receiving her is not on any police records.

She has been advised to go on television to further her search, but says there is a lot of competition to get a spot, and feels that those with more information will be prioritized ahead of her.

But despite the disappointments, she says she is not ready to give up.

Now she is trying find her birth parents, or the woman who found her, by traveling to Seoul from her home in Daejeon to post flyers. She and friends posted flyers in Mia-dong last month, which yielded no new information, but got more exposure for her cause through local businessmen and politicians sharing her story on social media.

She plans to flyer in Seoul again, this time around Changsin-dong, on Dec. 7.

Ishida’s job contract ends in February, when she plans to return to Canada and consider her options.

“For a lot of adoptees like me it’s a really difficult decision to leave Korea, because it’s really far away and it’s expensive,” she said. “It’s difficult to leave and then not know if you will be able to come back.”

But leaving the country is not the only reason that time is an issue. Ishida said she used to have negative feelings about her situation when she was younger and only in her late 20s felt the need to explore it firsthand and understand the culture and what led to her being adopted.

“It has been 30 years since I was abandoned,” she said. “My family may have relocated or passed away.”

By Paul Kerry (paulkerry@heraldcorp.com)