Connecting with Our Korean Heritage

Among the legacies of the Korean War were thousands of children left orphaned in the 1950s, many adopted by families in the USA. In September 1999, nearly 400 of the first generation of Koreans adopted before 1978 met in Washington, D.C., for a three-day International Gathering of Korean Adoptees. Dottie Enrico, Parent Soup managing editor, was one of them.

NEW YORK - Long before I was a journalist, a Dodgers baseball fan, an Indiana Hoosier or an American known as "Dottie Enrico," I was Kim Hedy--Korean orphan #1371.

On May 23,1959, I was abandoned near the steps of Seoul city Hall, then taken by police officers to the Holt Adoption Program, where I was assigned a birth date of Feb. 19, 1959, issued a Korean last name and an American first name, and given little hope of surviving until June.

Malnutrition and a bacterial infection had drawn all but 8 pounds from my 24-inch frame. My thick black hair teemed with lice; my body glistened with circles of fresh infection created by oozing sores that covered 80% of my body. Yet somehow I survived.

Less than two months later, I was packed onto a shiny airliner with 96 other Korean children - four to a wicker basket - and carried to my adoptive parents, Dominic and Dorothy Enrico, in southern California.

At that moment, I suffered what now seem like incomprehensible losses for one so young: my birth family, my country and the comfortable anonymity of growing up among people of the same race. What I gained was the opportunity to participate in an international adoption revolution that continues to be a testimony to the human potential for love and acceptance regardless of blood ties, race or ethnicity.

Since 1955, an estimated 141,000 Korean children have been adopted and raised by mostly white families in North America, Europe and Australia. Two of these adoptees - my 40-year- old brother, David and my 13-month-old daughter, Eleanor Jee Yoon Dankert _ are members of my immediate American family even though we are not related by birth.

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