Tuesday, August 4, 2009
7:00 P.M. on Friday, August 21, 2009
R.S.V.P. by Tuesday, August 18
The Korean-American Educational Commission warmly welcomes you our eighth Fulbright Forum of the 2008-2009 program year with Fulbright Junior Researcher Misty Edgecomb.
"Small Fish: Searching for Wartime Seoul and the Birth of "
Open to all, the Fulbright Forum serves as a periodic gathering for the Fulbright Family at large, including past and present grantees and friends of Fulbright. Please reply to Emily Kim Goldsmith (email@example.com) by Tuesday, August 18 to confirm your attendance. Regrets do not need to RSVP. This month's Forum will be held at 7:00 PM sharp on Friday, August 21 in the 6th floor conference room at the KAEC Building in Mapo-gu, Seoul, with a snack reception to follow in the 3rd floor administrative offices. Please visit the KAEC website for maps and directions (http://www.fulbright.or.kr/en/kaec/map.php).
To respect both the audience and presenters, late arrivals will not be allowed to enter after 7:05 PM.
Tens of thousands of Korean children were orphaned or separated from their families when war gripped the peninsula in the early 1950s. Choi Kyung Hyun, born in Seoul in 1948, found himself among them, spending his days on the streets rather than in school, and sleeping at the home of a local prostitute. The child of a Korean mother and an American soldier father stationed in Korea following WWII, the boy who called himself "Jimmy" had no place in Korean society of the time. Without a father, he appeared on no family record, so legally speaking, this mixed-race boy did not exist. But Jimmy found a family in , a 24-year-old bachelor American soldier from rural South Dakota. Raynor violated direct orders, risking court martial, to sneak Jimmy into his billet and secretly adopt the boy under Korean law. Such adoptions were then banned by Army policy, and American family law had few provisions for single fathers. With Seoul in chaos just 50 or so kilometers from the front lines, and much of the nascent Republic of Korea government still being organized, navigating the Korean system wasn't much easier. At one point, Paul seriously considered just sneaking Jimmy home in his rucksack. Ultimately, his perseverance paid off, and Jimmy's was one of just four recognized by the American government in 1953. This historic adoption and its contemporaries paved the way for thousands of American families to adopt from overseas, prompting countless cultural and societal shifts (some good, some bad) and forever changing the practice of adoption and the definition of family.
Misty Ann Edgecomb is a journalist from Maine, who has spent the past three years researching and writing Small Fish: War, Fatherhood and the Birth of International Adoption, the story of her father-in-law's historic adoption from Korea. She heard the story of Jimmy's adoption from her husband, Caleb Raynor, on their first date 11 years ago, and has been fascinated with finding out the truth behind the family legend ever since.Edgecomb held staff reporting jobs at the Bangor Daily News and the Rochester Democrat & Chronicle before returning to graduate school at theUniversity of Oregon in 2006. Small Fish was begun as her graduate project, and has been expanded during her time as a Fulbright junior research grantee in Seoul. She hopes to find a publisher upon her return to the United States this fall. For more information, visithttp://smallfishbook.blogspot.com.
Sunday, August 2, 2009
Wednesday, July 15, 2009
Wednesday, June 24, 2009
I got up early this morning, 59 years — to the moment — since the start of the Korean War, the event which put everything about my husband's family's story in motion, to just look out my windows and think about what dawn on that rainy Sunday morning in 1950 must have been like. The attack was completely unexpected. In fact, many of the South Korean troops stationed near the 38th parallel were home on weekend passes, visiting their families, when heavy Soviet-made tanks crawled through flooded rice fields to invade what is now South Korea. I've stared into the gun barrel of one of these monsters at the National War Memorial here in Seoul, and I can imagine the horror of seeing it rise over a hill, bearing down on a soldier who expects a lazy, routine morning of guard duty.
Wednesday, May 27, 2009
Thursday, May 14, 2009
Wednesday, May 13, 2009
Thursday, April 23, 2009
There was nothing much special about Christmas in Seoul. No family dinner. No twinkle lights. No Hollywood starlet offering up holly-red kisses to GIs after a USO show, or pristine white snow to mask the haunted skyline of a ruined city.
The news reports said that Billy Graham was at the front, singing hymns and talking about peaceful nights and the birth of Christ; but this place was never silent and it sure as hell wasn’t holy. Every few days, the Reds ensconced at the front just 35 miles to the north dropped leaflets over the city or sent messages out over the airwaves, threatening the battered survivors of two previous sieges that they would be back on Christmas morning. In place of fat white flakes, propaganda fluttered down on the rooftops. “Mr. Moneybags is in Florida this Christmas. Where are you? In Korea! You risk your life, big business rakes in the dough,” argued one flyer with a portly, leering man brandishing his cigar at all-American bikini beauties.
Seoul City Command paid the political bombardment little mind and hummed its normal routine all day, but when the soldiers headed out for a night of decidedly secular celebration in the bars and the brothels of the city, Paul went to get the boy. He hadn’t intentionally scheduled it for Christmas — he’d planned to spend the night playing cards with his buddies — but the woman who was keeping him, Lieutenant Farber's woman, had said to come tonight. This might be his only chance.
It was only a couple blocks to the dark little corner shop where Jimmy slept in a small room hidden behind a hodge-podge of dusty meaningless goods stacked up in the window to mask what his guardian was really offering for sale behind a ragged curtain. Paul finished his dinner and headed out, walking briskly through the enforced darkness of a city at war.
Paul knocked on the door, stepped inside, and greeted the girl. She was small and dark; not too old and not too young. She was someone’s daughter, he thought, probably raised to be a virtuous woman who would faithfully serve her husband and give him sons. Somehow, she had ended up in this dingy backstreet shop, offering herself in exchange for the only thing that mattered after years of war — the security of a few American dollars tucked away in a cupboard. To Paul, she was indistinguishable from any of the hundreds of other camp followers who walked the streets in tight American skirts and fluffy Western-style hair, looking for rescue in the arms of a soldier or sailor. She must have picked up some English, if only enough to entice her clients, but she wasn’t interested in talking to Paul.
Maybe she was never much of a mother to the kid and she was relieved to be rid of him. Maybe it broke her heart to let him go, but she couldn't afford to say no. Spend a night with Farber every now and then, and she didn’t have to worry about the authorities shutting her down. The lieutenant was a big burly MP from Kansas who made a killing off the black market when he wasn’t enforcing the regulations that banned it. Good man to have on your side, but not a man you’d chose for your friend. She didn’t care about Farber, and he didn’t care about her. But she needed him. Maybe he had paid her off, and she considered the whole mess a successful transaction. She was just a mercenary whore who had taken the kid in to use him as bait, to attract American soldiers with his round little GI baby face; but she’d kept him reasonably well-fed and given him a warm place to sleep. It was better than the street, or the corner of the train station where clutches of orphans huddled together for warmth like litters of puppies.
Had she loved him? Would she miss him? Her face betrayed no emotion ...
Copyright Misty Ann Edgecomb, April 2009
*Note: The names of some secondary characters have been changed.
Wednesday, April 15, 2009
Thursday, April 2, 2009
Wednesday, April 1, 2009
Good morning everyone! I was just typing up some excerpts from few of the articles published about the Raynor adoption in 1953, for a presentation I'll be making at the Fulbright Junior Researcher Conference on Jeju Island next week, and thought you might find them interesting:
The Huronite and the Daily Plainsman, Huron, South Dakota
ST PAUL - It looks like “Jimmy,” the five-year-old Korean orphan who helplessly watched the Chinese Communists behead his mother, may soon cross the Pacific Ocean for a new life with an ex-Army Sergeant in South Dakota.
A 25-year-old bachelor, Sgt. 1-c Paul Raynor of Huron, S.D., legally adopted Choi Kyung Hyun - now named Jimmy P. Raynor - as his son while he was with the Seoul City Command in Korea on May 22, 1953.
But the lanky soldier didn’t calculate that Army regulations and America’s immigration and naturalization laws might set up barriers to his plan to take Jimmy home with him ...”
The Morning World-Herald, Omaha, Nebraska
A 5-year-old Korean War refugee and the only daddy he has ever known met for the first time in five months at Omaha Union Train Station Depot Sunday at 4 a.m. Clutching a fire engine, two cowboy pistols and candy, the youngster had eyes only for Paul Raynor, Huron, S.D., GI who adopted him while with the Army in Korea.
There was no hint in the reunion of the red tape that for months separated the orphan, named Jimmy, and his father, who was granted an unprecedented ruling by the Attorney General of South Dakota before the boy could be brought from Seoul, Korea, to the United States.
When Mr. Raynor and Jimmy saw each other they embraced, exchanged greetings and the ex-GI remarked, “Boy, does he look good ...”