Korea Notes : Week 7

A face familiar
with passing hands that held my soul.
Briefly, but ever steadfast.

like many others,
born from loss –
so displaced –
You were the first to say:
You belong, here. And there.
I wish you well. I hope you do well.
누구가 보석 입니다?
who will you be?

That name, unfamiliar to me
and only empty of a person I could have been.
But to you, I was.
I am.

Jan. 13, 2020

I wrote this shortly after I met my former foster mother at Eastern Child Welfare in Seoul. My birth parents had me for 16 days and then delivered me to the social service office where they placed me in foster care until my adoption in Dec. of 1995. From there, the next five months were spent in the loving care of Mrs. Kim, my foster mother.

I struggle answering the question: “How was it?” that my family and friends ask in response to my story. It was really unlike anything I have ever experienced.

Of course I cried during the meeting. Which elicited “Oh, no stop crying!” Responses from both the woman that translated (could have been a translation, or her own, ha) and Mrs. Kim. How could I really help myself though? I sat before a 70 year old woman that had fostered over 100 children in the 30+ years of foster care that she had dedicated her life to.

Much like one would expect, her first questions were “How are you eating?”, “Are you doing well in Korea?”, and “Do you have a girlfriend?” Even with my basic, elementary level Korean, I could pick out the words “여자 친구” (woman friend, literally) in the last one.

We chatted about school, learning Korean, places in Seoul that we enjoy, our families, and a bit about where we’ve been the last 24 years. I’ve never been close with my grandmas, and this is certainly very much like a grandma-relationship.

This was one of those times in life where I felt that the person sitting across from me is someone that knows me deeply. Or at least cares as so, without really knowing anything about me at all. The most striking thing for me is that Mrs. Kim doesn’t know me as “Karl Johnson” at all. She only knows me as “문보석” (bo seok translates to Jewel, incidentally). This struck me deeply, for until this point, my Korean name had carried empty meaning and was backloaded with grief, unknowing, and loss. In our context, I felt to her that it meant someone worth caring for, even for 5 months. A person very much worth time, energy, and the heart space. A person that is receiving love in times when he does not show it to himself. A person that carries meaningful experience and significant existence.

Restorative.

That’s how I would describe it. In many ways. Since our meeting, I’ve gotten in contact with her daughter and we’re going to all grab lunch in a couple weeks. Mrs. Kim told me that she wants to buy me a huge Korean meal. And if you know me, that’s most certainly the way to my heart, haha.


Beyond that, it’s been a big week in food. I’ve had boiled silk worms, braised pigs feet, a lot of raw seafood, and only some soju 😉 don’t worry, aunties, it’s the Korean experience. Unfortunately, not a single bloody Mary!

Thanks for reading, as always.

Much love,

Karl.

3 thoughts on “Korea Notes : Week 7

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